Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. October 13, 1906
The Coming Congress
With the usual practice of frail humanity to give a dog a bad name, and then hang him, some of our up-country contemporaries, of the so-called Moderate Party, have been trying to make it out that the New Party is responsible for all the sins of omission and commission that are found in this part of the country in regard to the work of the coming session of the Congress. A Reception Committee was organised many months ago, but no meeting of it has as yet been held, and the New Party must be responsible for it, even if it be a fact that not one of the Secretaries of the Committee, who alone are competent to convene a meeting of that body, belongs to their ranks. The Executive Committee of the Reception Committee have not yet been elected, and who must be blamed for this except the dreadful Extremists? The work of the Congress, the construction of the Pandal, the raising of funds, and a thousand other things upon which the success of the show will depend, and which require timely preparation, have not yet been taken in hand; and for this also, these mischievous men are responsible. This is the summary verdict of our honourable friends both here and elsewhere.
And in one sense, and only in one, they are right. The difficulty is due to us, – to our presence in the country, even though it may not be to our interference or obstruction. The old leaders would like to do everything according to their sweet will and pleasure, outraging at every point whatever constitution the Congress has. But the New Party will not be likely to permit these autocratic ways even in the Congress; and that is the difficulty. The Executive Committee has not been formed because of the fear lest any strong complement of these “Extremists” should get in there. No meeting of the Reception Committee has been called, lest the New Party get a chance of having their views and ideas inconveniently impressed upon the sacred functions of the Congress. They are not wanted: but they cannot by a mere pious wish, be got rid of either. Hence all this trouble.
And this being so, what, we ask, would the Hindu or the Madras Standard, or even the Indian Mirror want us to do? Do our contemporaries want us to commit hara-kiri so that their Moderate friends might be in undisputed possession of the Congress and arrange its work and programme, in accordance with their sweet will and pleasure? They might consider this act of suicide on our part as a noble sacrifice for the country's cause. But we have not, unfortunately, risen as yet to that height of theosophic unity, where Babus Bhupendranath and Surendranath might symbolise Bengal, Messrs. Mehta and Watcha Bombay, and about half a dozen Moderates and Loyal Patriots India.
The fact, really, is that not the New Party but the old one is responsible for the confusion in which Congress-matters seem to stand just now in Calcutta. All that we want is that the constitution of the Congress, its unwritten laws and traditions, should be faithfully observed and obeyed. If this is done, there will be no difficulty, even if we should fail to carry our particular views or programme through the Reception Committee. We have repeatedly said this from the press and the platform alike. But some people have a wonderful knack of not understanding things that place them in awkward positions.
The Madras Standard does us scant justice when it puts into our mouth that “if any man of whose nomination to the Congress Presidency” we “cannot approve is chosen for the office,” our Party will signify “their disapproval of the same in the form of an amendment to the resolution formally voting the President to the chair.” This is not our position. Whomsoever the Reception Committee may, in consultation with the Congress Committees of the other presidencies, where such Committees really exist, elect, will be accepted by us, if the election is properly and constitutionally made. If, however, any attempt is made to spring an Anglo-Indian or British President on the Reception Committee at the last moment, and the nomination is carried by any coup d'état, then, we shall have to reserve to ourselves the right of moving an amendment, upon a question of principle, even as we shall be bound to do, if the Subjects Committee should accept any Resolution against which we may have any fundamental objection.
But why, indeed, should it be thought so outrageous on the part of a delegate to move such an amendment, when any popular man is kept, – by a small cabal – out of the Presidential Chair? Mr. Tilak's name has been presented to the Reception Committee: if the Reception Committee reject it, on the ground that Bombay, i.e., Mr. Mehta and Mr. Watcha and Mr. Gokhale do not wish to have him, or that Bengal, i.e., Babus Surendranath and Bhupendranath and Krishnakumar consider him to be unsafe, or that a few Moderates in Madras feel nervous about him, – then, why should it be so wrong for those who are not within the charmed circle of Mr. Gokhale's “responsible leaders”, to demand an open poll at the Congress itself? That the President-elect is formally proposed and seconded and elected by a vote of the delegates, gives itself the right to any delegate to oppose the motion or move an amendment to it. If such a thing has not yet happened in the Congress, it is because so long there were not two Parties in the Congress with two distinct policies and programmes. There has, of late grown two such Parties at least, and if not this year, the next, or the year after, some day – either of them will seek to make the Congress an organ of their own opinions. Politics and patriotism have ceased to be pastimes with us; and the amenities of the playground cannot be expected in the field of vital conflicts and competitions. But the possibility of such conflicts need cause no nervousness in any quarter, for these will not kill, but rather breathe life and reality into the movement.
We want Mr. Tilak, as any other Congress-man or any other section or party of the Congress might desire to have another person for the Congress Presidency. Babus Bhupendranath and Surendranath stole a march upon us by asking Mr. Naoroji if he would come, in case he was duly elected by the Reception Committee. They did not play fair, but still if Dadabhai Naoroji comes, we will raise no difficulty, provided the Reception Committee formally elects him. Our attitude will be the same with regard to any other man also. But if any name is suddenly sprung upon us at the last moment, if the opinions of the other Provinces are taken in an underhand way, if names are passed at meetings due notice of which was not given – then every delegate will have just grounds to publicly oppose such an unauthorised and unconstitutional nomination for the Congress Presidency. Will the Hindu or the Standard refuse him this right?
But, after all, we still think there is no cause for anxiety. It does not take long to make such preparations as may have to be made for the Congress, in a City like Calcutta, and everything will be all right in due time, whatever the Indian Mirror, when sorely pressed for “copy” might write or print on the subject.
This work was not reprinted in the CWSA and it was not compared with other editions.