Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

Composition of New Working Committee, Statement

About a week ago, after the Tripuri Congress was over, am agitation was started against me to the effect that I was not announcing the formation of the new Working Committee and that I was responsible for causing a stalemate in the affairs of the Congress. No such agitation was started, I believe, against the members of the previous Working Committee, when they created a crisis in the Congress affairs lasting about a fortnight (till the All-India Congress met at Tripuri) by suddenly resigning in a body. The Tripuri Congress passed Pandit Pant's resolution knowing full well that I was seriously ill, that Mahatma Gandhi had not come to Tripuri, and that there were difficulties in the way of my meeting Mahatmaji in the immediate future. If the frankly unconstitutional and ultra vires clause in Pandit Pant's resolution regarding the formation of the Working Committee had not been passed by the Tripuri Congress, I would, in accordance with the Congress Constitution, have announced the personnel of the New Working Committee on March 13, 1939.

I have not been able to announce the new Working Committee yet for the simple reason that under the Tripuri Congress resolution, Mahatma Gandhi's wishes will determine the composition of that Committee. It is impossible for me to travel to Mahatma Gandhi and I cannot expect him to come and visit me in the present state of his health. I consider it necessary that we should meet and have a long talk on general problems before tackling specific problems, such as the composition of the new Working Committee, because the latter cannot be solved without reference to the former.

I shall explain what I mean:
(1)    I shall have to ascertain from Mahatma Gandhi what he considers to be the Congress programme of work for the current Congress year.
(2)    We shall have to decide if, after all that has happened since the presidential election and particularly at Tripuri Congress, there is still room for cooperation between the two main parties or blocs in the Congress.
(3)    I shall have to ascertain from Mahatma Gandhi what his present conception of the Working Committee is. Does he maintain the view that the Working Committee must be homogeneous in character and be drawn from one party: or will he accept our view that the Working Committee should reflect, as far as possible the composition of the general body of the Congress? If he maintains the first view, then obviously there is no room for cooperation on the same Committee between people like myself and the other members of the previous Working Committee.
(4)    I shall have to find out what Mahatma Gandhi's interpretation of Pandit Pant's resolution is. Does he regard it as a resolution of non-confidence and would he like me to resign the presidentship in consequence thereof? Or does he uphold the opinion expressed by some leaders that Pandit Pant's resolution has brought about a rapproachment between Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress President? (I must state here that there has been no breach with Mahatma Gandhi from my side).

In the light of these and similar problems, the specific problems of the new Working Committee are to be solved, particularly when there is a feeling among a certain section of the Congressmen that Tripuri has brought us to the parting of the ways, as Gaya did in 1922.

Further, in settling the personnel of the new Working Committee we shall have to decide what should be the representation of different groups, if it is agreed that the composition need not be homogeneous in character. To settle such a complicated affair requires long talk with Mahatma Gandhi. I had hoped that those who did not see eye to eye with me politically would have the fairness and consideration to give me a breathing time before I could proceed to meet Mahatma Gandhi. I believe that Mahatma Gandhi himself was prepared to do that, for I have before me a telegram in which he rebukes me for not implicitly following the doctors' advice regarding rest.

It appears, however, that in politics one cannot always expect fairness or consideration even from members of the same organisation. I have, therefore, in defiance of medical advice and in disregard of its consequences been attending to urgent Congress work during the last few days and I also commenced correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi with a view to settle the problem, which I had once thought would have been better solved at an interview.

Before I close, I cannot help referring to some of the arguments that are being hurled at me by some of my political opponents. I can, of course, understand the inconvenience caused to the Congress work owing to the absence of the Working Committee, though here also I may mention that last year after Haripura, the new Working Committee did not meet till after about six weeks. But it amuses me to find that people, who usually have no interest in international affairs and who have no intention whatsoever of utilising the international situation to India's advantage, have suddenly developed such an international frame that they are now proclaiming from house-tops that in view of what has happened in Bohemia and Slovakia, the Congress Working Committee should come into existence at once.

I should now repeat what has already been communicated to the press, namely, that if Mahatma Gandhi finds it possible to travel to his place in spite of his weak condition, my doctors will not have the slightest objection whatsoever to his visiting me, but will rather be glad since it will help to solve the great national problem. But I shall be the last person to suggest this, knowing the value of his health to the nation.

In conclusion, I should like to state clearly that as matters stand today, Mahatma Gandhi alone can lead the Congress out of the present morass and restore unity within our ranks and it is our misfortune that he could not come to Tripuri, otherwise the situation would not have worsened so much. This is no doubt a Herculean task and if he were to fail, God forbid, I shudder to think of the immediate future of the Congress. So far as I am concerned, though I am not able always to accept unquestioningly all of Mahatma Gandhi's ideas and plans, as perhaps others can, I shall continue to strive to win his confidence-