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A Family Tree And History’s Leaves

It’s a legacy that occupies all of 110 years—in short, a brute majority of the Congress party’s whole 133-year history. The first Nehru clansman to be a fellow traveller of the early Congress was Motilal Nehru (1861-1931). From his first dalliance in 1907, through to his son, grand-daughter, great grandson and now one on whom greatness is being thrust, the association evolved into something definitive: where the family became the road, the direction, the milestones—as well as the destination.

A Family Tree And History’s Leaves
  • 1907 Motilal Nehru, a lawyer of Kashmiri descent, enters politics, presiding over a provincial meeting of the Indian ­National Congress in Allahabad
  • 1916 Jawaharlal Nehru got married to Kamala Kaul, a girl from a Kashmiri Pandit family, four years after returning from the UK as a lawyer and began working with his father
  • 1917 Indira was born and ­father Jawaharlal’s involvement in politics deepened after Theosophist Annie Besant’s arrest for participating in the Indian freedom struggle
  • 1922 Mahatma Gandhi ­suspends the non-cooperation movement after clashes with police at Chauri-Chaura
  • 1923 Motilal joins C.R. Das to lead the Swaraj Party, which wins most seats in the Bengal Legislative Council election
  • 1924 Motilal and Das elected to the Central L­­egislative Council against Gandhi’s wishes
  • 1928 Motilal submits the Nehru report prepared by All Parties’ Conference, demanding dominion status for India within the British Commonwealth. Report opposes state religion and proposes a federal structure.
  • 1929 The Congress meets at Lah­ore under Jawahar­lal’s leadership during Christmas week, declares complete independence as the party’s goal hoists the Indian flag. Gandhi asks the people to observe January 26 as Poorna Swaraj Day.
  • 1930 Gandhi’s salt march to Dandi
  • 1937 The Congress led by ­Jawaharlal wins in almost all the ­provinces, trouncing the Muslim League, in elections held under the ­Government of India Act, 1935
  • 1939 World War II begins
  • 1942 Gandhi asks the British to ‘Quit India’ at the Bombay session of the Congress in August and gives the ‘Do or die’ slogan. A vicious crackdown follows, along with the Cripps Declaration.
  • 1942 Feroze Gandhi, a Parsi, marries Indira despite Jawaharlal’s opposition. Maha­tma Gandhi, enlisted by Jawaharlal, refuses to prevent the ­marriage.
  • 1944 Rajiv Gandhi is born. All-white Simon Commission is opposed and rejected by the Congress.
  • 1946 British prime minister Clement Attlee brings Cabinet Mission to India. It fails. Sanjay Gandhi is born to Indira and Feroze.
  • 1947 Viceroy Lord Mountbatten convinces Nehru, Sardar Patel and C. Rajagopalachari to accept Partition. Jawaharlal bec­omes India’s first prime minister. India and Pakistan fight their first war over Kashmir.
  • 1959 Jawaharlal appoints Indira Congress president, inviting sharp ­criticism, but doesn’t give her a cabinet position.
  • 1962 Nehru leads the Congress to victory in another general election, but the loss in the war with China provokes criticism.
  • 1963 K. Kamaraj resigns as Tamil Nadu CM and proposes that others follow suit to rebuild the Congress from scratch. Six other leaders resign, inc­luding Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Jagjivan Ram and Biju Pat­naik. Kamaraj made Congress chief.
  • 1964 Nehru dies. Shastri becomes PM. In 1965, when  another war with Pakistan breaks out, he says force will be met with force and coins the slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’.
  • 1966 After signing the Tashkent Declaration with Pakistan, Shastri suffers a massive heart attack and dies. Indira becomes prime minister with Kamaraj facilitating her rise to the top post.
  • 1967 Congress loses over 50 per cent states, but Indira manages to consolidate her position and isolate the syndicate with help from the party’s “young Turks”. She nationalised the banks two years later.
  • 1971 The Indira government derecognises the princes and the ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan appears
  • 1971 After another Indo-­Pak war, the biggest surrender since WWII takes place as Pakistani forces lay down arms and ­Bangladesh is born
  • 1974 India conducts its first nuclear test ­under Indira’s leadership and a year later Sikkim is annexed. Growing economic crisis leads to unrest, including a countrywide railway strike.
  • 1975 Indira loses a court case and imposes Emergency. ‘Indira is India’, coined by party leader D.K. Baruah, becomes prominent and Indira’s son Sanjay gains notoriety.
  • 1980 Indira returns to power. The looming Punjab crisis and Sanjay’s death in a plane crash leave her shattered, but pave the way for Rajiv, the elder son, to join politics.
  • 1984 Indira is assassinated by her Sikh guards. Rajiv leads the Congress to a 400-plus majority in the Lok Sabha and introduces the 52nd Amendment—anti-defection law—to prevent horse-­trading.
  • 1987 Rajiv’s popularity and support within his party is hit badly by the Bofors scandal, leading to large-scale defection. Two years later, a V.P. Singh-led non-Congress coalition comes to power.
  • 1991 Rajiv is assassinated by the LTTE during the poll campaign. P.V. Narasimha Rao is appointed PM and party president. He  announces a new economic policy—‘liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation’.
  • 1996 Congress is ­voted out and Rao is replaced by Sitaram Kesri as ­party chief. Sonia Gandhi makes Kesri a key poll campaigner after his role in trying to make the H.D. Deve Gowda–led United Front government fall.
  • 1997 The Congress supports I.K. Gujral as PM until the Jain Commission report on the ­Rajiv assassination, and then withdraws support.
  • 1999 Sonia Gandhi, who became Congress president the previous year, makes an ­abortive attempt to form the government. Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP becomes PM, riding on the ­Kargil victory.
  • 2004 Sonia makes a successful bid of forming a non-BJP coalition and leads the Congress to victory, but nominates Manmohan Singh as PM. He is returned to power in 2009, but a series of corruption scandals erode the credibility of the party.
  • 2017 Sonia, keeping indifferent health, decides to step down, ending a year-long speculation and paving the way for Rahul to take over as party president.

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