The “great democrat” Nehru, who had most undemocratically become the first PM (Blunder#6), manoeuvred for a complete domination over the party in 1950, just before Patel’s demise, by having a Congress President of his choice elected. Nehru unilaterally declared the socialist JB Kripalani as the presidential candidate, even though he and Patel had earlier agreed not to support Kripalani. Patel was hurt and said: “I have been shaken to bones. How low he [Nehru] has stooped.”

Patel gave full support to Purshottamdas Tandon for the presidentship. Tandon, a respected leader, was well-known for his simplicity, uprightness and fearlessness, and as someone who could not be pushed around—a trait that perhaps rankled with Nehru. However, to undermine his candidature, the pseudo-secular Nehru tried to project Tandon as communal, and as a revivalist—the old Marxist-Communist-Nehruvian-Socialist trick. This branding business started with Nehru. You brand and defame a person as fascist, communal, conservative, non-modern, revivalist, and so on, and get rid of him. As per Nehru’s definition, the conceited crypto-communists like Krishna Menon and KM Panikkar who caused indescribable harm to India were good and deserving of high public positions, but not people like Tandon.

In this context it is worth noting that Tandon was among the topmost freedom fighters who had made tremendous sacrifice for the nation. He had also vociferously opposed partition. He had opposed t he AICC Resolution of 14 June 1947 moved by GB Pant on partition, and had voted against it. He had stated he was prepared to suffer the British rule a little longer than pay the heavy price of partition. He claimed the Nehru government had been intimidated by the Muslim League. He got a huge applause when at the end of his speech he said: “Let us fight both the British and the [Muslim] League.”

Nehru’s objections included Tandon attending a Refugees’ Conference, and so on—that didn’t make sense. The arrogant Nehru even wrote these intemperate, holier-than-thou words to patriotic Tandon: “Your election would mean great encouragement to certain forces in India which I consider harmful.” Wrote Brig. BN Sharma: “Nehru had a known dislike for anyone who stood staunchly for his Indian identity or philosophy, based on our rich cultural heritage, preservation of Hindi language and best of our old traditions…” 

In sharp contrast to Nehru’s crude and accusive remarks, Tandon, in his elegant letter to Nehru of 12 August 1950, wrote:
“…You seem to connect me with narrow communalism and what you call revivalism. …there have been some matters on which you and I have not seen eye to eye—the adoption of Hindi as national language and the partition [Tandon had opposed it] of the country with its consequential issues being the chief among them. It is a failing even with great persons to take their own geese for swans, their own aptitudes for fundamental principles. But I ask you to look at the matter with some detachment. In any case why should it be necessary to attribute narrowness to others who differ from you?… Revivalism is a confusing expression. It may mean renaissance and it may mean reactionarism. I would revive today some of the great spiritual standards that our country stood for in the past. I regard them as precious legacies. At the same time I reject strongly the irrational dogmas that surround both Hinduism and Islam in action… I hold that all religious precepts have to be weighed by the intellect and not one of them can be accepted merely by the authority of a book…”

Nehru threatened to resign if Tandon was elected President. Nehru wrote to Patel on 25 August 1950:
“I am absolutely clear in my mind that, in the event of Tandon’s election, I should treat this as a vote of no-confidence in me by Congressmen or at any rate by those who vote in the presidential election. As a result of this, I cannot function in the Congress Working Committee or other executives. As a further consequence, I cannot continue as Prime Minister.”

Despite the threat and manoeuvres of Nehru, Tandon won with 1306 votes against Kriplani’s 1092. Nehru, the power-hungry person, of course, didn’t resign. On the next day of the election results, when Rajaji came to meet Patel, Patel asked him jocularly: “Have you brought Jawaharlal’s resignation?” Incidentally, just a day before the elections, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai [Nehru’s confidante) had told Rajaji: “If Tandon succeeds and he [Nehru] does not resign, I will say publicly that he is an opportunist.”

However, soon after Patel’s death on 15 December 1950 Nehru began his manoeuvrings to get Tandon out. Nehru threatened to withdraw from the CWC unless it was reconstituted as per his wishes—an improper demand considering it was the Congress President’s prerogative.

After Patel’s death, it was not difficult for Nehru to exert pressure given that he was the PM, who was in a position to distribute largesse and throw crumbs; and would be the key-person in the distribution of tickets for the forthcoming 1952 elections. Tandon tried to resist Nehru’s moves, but given the immense pressure brought upon him by various quarters at the instance of Nehru, he finally succumbed, and resigned on 9 September 1951. Nehru promptly took over as the President of the Congress, in addition to being the PM, disregarding the Congress principle of one-person-one-post. In sharp contrast, during Gandhi’s time, when Nehru as President of the Congress became the PM of the Interim Government in 1946, he had to vacate the post of Party President. Further, rather than being the President for one year as was the norm, he continued as the Party President for three years from 1951 to 1954, and left it only after he could install the obedient and loyal UN Dhebar as President, and keep him in that position from 1954 to 1958, to be followed by Indira Gandhi as the President. Indira was followed by another Nehru loyalist Sanjiva Reddy who remained the Congress President during 1960–63. Of course, Reddy later complained that he was treated “as Mrs Gandhi’s chaprasi [peon]”. Nehru sought not only his own dominance, but also his dynasty’s dominance! The Congress veteran DP Mishra resigned in protest observing: “The last straw has been our Prime Minister becoming a full-fledged dictator by contriving the ejection of Mr. P.D. Tandon from the Presidentship of the Congress and himself taking his place. I regard it as treachery to the nation to continue in the Congress in the face of this last development… A political murder committed yesterday is a murder of democracy in the Congress. This is merely the beginning of the slaughter of democracy in India.”

After the above unfortunate event of usurping the Congress Presidentship from Tandon, Nehru became the uncrowned king, for he headed both the government (as PM) and the party (as President), and could play the political game as he chose. No body dared to oppose Nehru thereafter.

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