New Delhi: A book on Congress has blamed former prime minister Indira Gandhi for the damage to its electoral base in Hindi heartland, particularly Uttar Pradesh, where Rahul Gandhi is now trying to rebuild the party ahead of
the Assembly polls next year.
"She (Gandhi) attempted to reach down to the bottom level and restructure the party from the top into an `oligarchy` controlled with the help of her close aides. This led to the breakdown of the `machine` character of Congress, which had been the strength of the party in some states.
By the mid-1980s, considerable damage had occurred to the organisation and electoral base of the party from which it has not yet fully recovered. Her attempt to control the party led to absence of internal democracy leading to collapse of branches of the party in key states such as UP," the fifth
volume of the series `A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress` said.
The volume brought out by a group of editors, headed by senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee, to commemorate 125 years of the organisation narrates and analyses a wide variety of issues which affected the Congress party and in turn
impinged on the national issues.
In the preface to the book, Mukherjee noted that Congress desired the volume to be edited and contributed by experts in order to generate an "objective and scholarly perspective for the period under review and "not necessarily
have a party perspective".
The views expressed by the authors in the volume, therefore do not reflect the views of the Congress party. It is not an official history of the Congress between 1964 and 1984, according to Mukherjee.
The book that delves deep into some of unpleasant chapters in the Congress history, including Emergency, covers the period from 1964 to 1984 in this volume of which a fairly large portion is focussed on late Indira Gandhi.
"Paradoxically just when the conditions in the country and the party were ripe for achieving Gandhi`s vision of change, she got pushed into personality-oriented politics that resulted in centralisation and personalisation of power in her
hands," it says in an article written by Sudha Pai tracing the political and social trends in six elections that took place during the period.
It says that Gandhi adopted "personality based politics" rather than a "consensual style of leadership".
"She dismantled the party, removed the intermediate leadership and the process of the consultative decision-making and re-built it without a democratic structure with
office-bearers personally responsible to her.
"Gandhi had inherited a fairly well-organised party machine with several capable leaders in the states across the country. But her by-passing of the party machinery inaugurated the decline of single party dominance, and a process of long
term decay of the party organisation, particularly in north India," it said.
Noting that while the impact of these developments was not immediately felt, the book says "they contributed to the virtual collapse of the party in the 1990s...these
developments cumulatively impacted on the social and regional base of the party and its electoral fortunes."