Since the freedom struggle, the Indian National Congress has played a crucial role. Under the flag of the Congress and the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the people from all states, regions, religions and communities of India were freed from British rule, the same Congress also presided over the tragedy of the partition of India. Notwithstanding the assumption of India-Pakistan partition as religion based, the leaders of the Congress, showing their magnanimity, succeeded in maintaining the secular character of the nation as it was before partition. The secular credentials of the Congress established by Mahatma Gandhi were carried on by Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and other Congress leaders.
Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India was so much influenced by the principles of secularism and communal harmony of Gandhi, that belonging to a high caste Brahmin family, the former had full faith in all the religions. He used to go to Temples, Mosques, Gurudwaras, and Churches etc. He had interest in studying the sacred texts of all the religions. An Islamic scholar used to visit Anand Bhawan, his Allahabad situated home, to teach him Arabic and Persian. His father, Pundit Motilal Nehru named his house Anand Bhawan, in consultation with the famous poet Akbar Allahabadi. The secular credentials of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru are evident from the fact that he got married his only daughter Indira Nehru to a Zoroastrian Feroz Gandhi.
Born in a Zoroastrian family in 1912, Feroz Gandhi was married to Indira Nehru in 1942. Since then, she was called Indira Gandhi. They had two children. Rajiv Gandhi, the elder son was born in 1944 and after two years, in 1946, Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son was born. Notwithstanding being son-in-law of the first Prime Minister, Feroz Gandhi had independent thoughts. He was a journalist, writer and a social worker. In 1952, in the first general elections, Feroz Gandhi contested Raebareli (Uttar Pradesh) and won. He even criticized the government on issues he didn’t agree with. After his death in 1960, Indira Gandhi took over her husband’s election constituency and maintained it.
As Pandit Nehru, showing his secular credentials, got his only daughter married into a Zoroastrian family, following the same tradition, Indira Gandhi married her both sons according to their wishes. The elder son, Rajiv Gandhi was married to Edvige Antonia Albina Maino (Sonia Gandhi), an Italian born Roman Catholic. The younger Son, Sanjay Gandhi was married to Maneka Anand, a Sikh girl. Time passed, and once again putting aside the hurdles of caste and religion, Sonia Gandhi got her daughter Priyanka Gandhi married to Robert Vadra, a Punjabi boy. Robert’s mother is a Christian, and his father a Punjabi.
If we attempt to analyse any member of the Nehru-Gandhi family on the basis of caste or religion, we would not be able to draw any conclusions. The larger fact is that even today most of the Indian people are supporters and well wishers of this family and this family enjoys great respect and affection. On one hand, some communal organizations continuously try to divide the nation on the basis of caste and religion; on the other hand, notwithstanding the assassinations of the Prime Ministers like Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the same family is continuously engaged in promoting secularism and brotherhood. Though after the death of Rajiv Gandhi, the Congress received a huge setback, but by the entry of Sonia Gandhi, the Congress has been revitalised.
Indeed in the 2004 general elections, the Congress party returned to power. Besides hard work, Sonia Gandhi had to face the low grade accusations from her opponents. The whole world witnessed that when after 2004 general elections, the Congress elected her as the leader of the Congress Parliament Party and none of the allies had any objection of her becoming the Prime Minister, at the same time, some leaders of the opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised the issue of her foreign origin and as a result, she had to reject the post of Prime Minister. This was the first incidence in Indian politics, when a person is first called by the President to form the government and the same person, instead of becoming the Prime Minister, recommends the name of some other person for the post of Prime Minister. She recommended Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister and he became the Prime Minister of India in 2004.
The good thing in the last decade is that both children of Sonia Gandhi; Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have become mature enough in politics. In fact, Rahul Gandhi was elected a Member of Parliament in 2004 from his father’s constituency Amethi. This time Rahul is to contest the second election of his life. The Congress, which has been weakened over the past two decades, has much hope from these two young faces. Rahul Gandhi wants to carry on the science and technology revolution, started by his father. He has a team of young Members of Parliament, who are fully devoted to the overall development of the nation.
Priyanka Gandhi, who always denied active participation in politics, has also indicated her entry into active politics. Time will tell whether in the wake of repeated targeting of the Nehru-Gandhi family by fundamentalist forces, the Congress would be able to get back its lost entity.
One thing is clear that the work done by this family in presenting the secular and vibrant image of India at the international level is indeed incomparable. Perhaps this is the reason that when any person of this family goes to any part of the country, a crowd of thousands of people gathers, just to get a glimpse or touch. It can be said that if the tradition of secularism and communal harmony is the hallmark of the Nehru-Gandhi family and it is being followed generation to generation.