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>>

Statement in the United Press

On the eve of Sunday's Presidential election I desire to say a few words through the press in order to explain why I have agreed to be put up as a candidate. It will be remembered that during the last four or five months Congressmen in different parts of the country have, individually and collectively, publicly advocated my reelection. When my name was formally proposed as a candidate from several Provinces it was done without my knowledge or consent. Rightly or wrongly, a very large body of opinion within the Congress wanted me to be elected for another term. It now appears that some important members of the Working Committee, for reasons which it is difficult to comprehend, did not approve of the idea. It cannot be doubted that my re-election would have been virtually unanimous if they had not sent out a mandate to vote against me. It now appears that they would rather have anybody else than my humble self.

Since the Haripura Congress my relations with the other members of the Congress Working Committee have been cordial and on the whole our work in the Committee has been conducted very smoothly. In the circumstances one may endeavour to infer why some important members of the Working Committee are so much against me, though there was a general desire in the Congress ranks for my re-election. Do they object to me because I would not be a tool in their hands? Or do they object to me because of my ideas and principles? The arguments so far put forward are not in the least degree convincing. It is said that re-election is an exceptional event. The obvious reply to that is that there is nothing in the constitution to prevent re-election; that several ex-presidents of the Congress have held that office for more than one term; that the coming year is going to be an exceptional and momentous one and that there was a general desire for my reelection.

Another argument put forward by Sardar Patel in his telegram to Mr Sarat Chandra Bose is that re-election will be harmful to the country's cause. This argument is such an astounding one that it hardly needs any refutation. If the above leaders had not thrown all the weight of their influence against me and issued a mandate opposing my candidature, we would have known the real opinion of the Congress delegates and I have no doubt that opinion would have come as an utter surprise to the Sardar.

It is erroneously urged in certain quarters that an election contest is going to take place for the first time this year. It is true that during the last few years there has been no contest. It is also true that this year the contest is going to be a spectacular one. But it would be a mistake to forget that previously election contests did take place, though not in such a spectacular manner as appears inevitable this year. It is, therefore, too much for a group within the Working Committee to claim that they will dictate the selection of the President every time. If we are to have a proper election by the delegates and not nomination by a group within the Working Committee, then it is essential that the delegates should have a free and unfettered choice. At the present moment not only has the mandate gone out but moral pressure is being brought to bear on the delegates in order to make them vote in accordance with it.

Sardar Patel has said in his statement that the procedure adopted last year is precisely the same as this year. This is far from true. If the ruling group within the Working Committee had made a happy choice, no contest would have taken place this year either. But if their choice or suggestion does not meet with popular approval, should not the delegates be free to exercise their vote as they think best? If this freedom is not guaranteed to them, then the constitution of the Congress will cease to be a democratic one. It is no use having a democratic constitution for the Congress, if the delegates do not have the freedom to think and vote as they like.

Besides the issue of democracy there are other issues and more important ones too involved in the present election. If we are to maintain unity and solidarity within the Congress and if the right- and left-wings are to work hand in hand for the attainment of India's independence, it is essential that the President of the Congress should command the confidence of both the wings. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru fulfilled this role in a magnificent manner. And perhaps, I may humbly claim that I did so though to a much lesser degree. That is why, along with a large body of Congressmen, I insist that for the coming year we should have as President a person who will be anti-Federationist to the core of his heart; a person who will command the respect and confidence of not merely the right-wing, but also of the Left. This is all the more necessary not merely because of the coming fight against Federation but also because there is a widespread apprehension in the public mind as to the intentions of certain right-wing leaders. To sum up, the two important issues involved in the present election are those of democracy and uncompromising opposition to the Federal Scheme. There is nothing personal in this contest and I would beg my fellow delegates to forget or ignore altogether all personal questions. I am a candidate by mere accident, simply because nobody else from the Left came forward to contest the election. And as I have already stated more than once it is still possible to avoid a contest if the right-wing will accept as President somebody who will command the confidence of the Left. If a contest does take place, as it appears inevitable at the moment of writing, the responsibility for dividing the Congress will devolve entirely on the right-wing. Will they shoulder that responsibility or even at this late hour, will they decide to stand for national unity and solidarity on the basis of a progressive programme?