DVG's Critique of the Congress High Command and Nehru's Five-year Plans

This article is part 32 of 57 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

The swift emergence of the High Command culture, which spawned the aforementioned dwarfs at many key-points revealed perhaps its most ugly face in the form of perpetually warring factions both in the Government and Party. One of the most high-profile victims of this culture of coteries was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who mentions it explicitly in his resignation speech[1] on the floor of the Parliament on 10 October 1951.

The House has no opportunity to know how the Cabinet works from within, whether there is harmony or whether there is a conflict… we have our newspapers. They have their age-old bias in favour of some and against others. Their judgements are seldom based on merits…. It is now 4 years, 1 month and 26 days since I was called by the Prime Minister to accept the office of Law Minister in his Cabinet. The offer came as a great surprise to me.  I was in the opposite camp and had already been condemned as unworthy of association… It is difficult to understand what is the principle underlying the distribution of Government work among Ministers which the Prime Minister follows.  Is it capacity? Is it trust? Is it friendship? Is it pliability? … I have never been a party to the game of power politics inside the cabinet or the game of snatching portfolios… The same old tyranny, the same old oppression, the same old discrimination which existed before, exists now, and perhaps in a worst form… Compare the concern the Government shows over safeguarding the Muslims.  The Prime Minister’s whole time and attention is devoted for the protection of the Muslims… The Cabinet has become a merely recording and registration office of decisions already arrived at by Committees… They work behind an iron curtain. Others who are not members have only to take joint responsibility without any opportunity of taking part in the shaping of policy.  This is an impossible position… I have never seen a case of a Chief Whip so disloyal to the Prime Minister and a Prime Minister so loyal to a disloyal Whip… If I did not think that there could be a difference between the promises and performances of the Prime Minister the fault is certainly not mine.

The existence of coteries within the Congress was as old as the Party itself. As DVG notes, they had not shown their ugly side because freedom struggle necessitated putting up a show of unity. For example, Motilal Nehru financed and founded the Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party with Chittaranjan Das as its President in 1922 while being a Congressman. More than a decade later, Jawaharlal Nehru became one of the most prominent supporters of the Congress Socialist Party crystallised for the explicit purpose of spreading the Communist ideology within the Congress itself. Then there was the so-called “Rightist” faction led by Sardar Patel. Small wonder that the Party after independence was essentially a party of coteries and conspiracies which obviously had national interest as a secondary objective. This is how DVG describes[2] the situation:

The present pressure-group-appeasement policy of the Congress High Command is conducive neither to the growth of sound parliamentarism nor to the establishment of harmonious and efficient ministries…A patriotic party will take care not to seek strength for itself at the cost of the health of the country.

Elsewhere, DVG gives us another portrait of this High Command culture. Commenting on the nature of the ministry[3] formed for reorganizing the country after the Princely States merged with the new Indian Union he says,

The States Ministry’s proposal smacks of the old imperialist suzerainty, with its system of Residents and Political Agents playing the part of policemen…He must eat the salt of the Rajpramukh…but take orders from the Ministry of the Sardar in Delhi…And the worst of the Adviser system is that it tends to kill local initiative.

We shall examine this aspect in some detail in a later chapter.


By mid-1950s, DVG was convinced that the Congress was fast becoming a force for messing up the newly-independent nation and internal reform was impossible. Like other stalwarts of his time, DVG repeatedly called for the emergence of a strong alternative and urged men of public eminence not to be disheartened by the looming stature of Mohandas Gandhi whose legacy Congress had so skillfully appropriated. He also considered the prospect of the Congress itself splitting into two where one faction holds office and the other sits as a formidable Opposition. And then he brilliantly ridicules[4] the very prospect as impossible by providing a fitting analogy.

We must not suppose that our politics will become better if the Congress itself splits. If a piece of dried cow dung is cut into two, will either part automatically become fragrant?

Analysing the roots of this shocking state of affairs post-Independence, DVG correctly says that the pre-Independence politics of the Congress was fundamentally the politics of propaganda. After Independence, the selfsame propaganda was substituted for governance and administration. A highly representative sample of how this propaganda worked can be gleaned from the newspaper reports of the time. It was said that one of Prime Minister Nehru’s “splendid victories” was to put capitalist America in its place by securing a large loan for India from the world’s most powerful country! DVG punctures such propaganda in his inimitable style. He examines Nehru’s “first priorities:” introduction of the disastrous Hindu Code Bill and Communal Harmony and concludes that these should not be our first priorities. He also condemns the image that Nehru built up for himself as being the sole repository of communal harmony, nationalistic and scientific spirit. DVG [5]says, “I can boldly say that there are countless men and women in India today whose love for this nation and whose ethical sense is no less than Nehru.”

A related critique is DVG’s brilliant analysis of Nehru’s pet project of Soviet-style five-year plans. The essay[6] titled Namma Prajarajyada Pragati (Progress of our Democracy) is a valuable literature on the subject. This is akin to a companion of P.V. Kane’s far more detailed and equally brilliant analysis[7] of the subject. Both DVG and Kane approach the problem from their original geniuses and reach pretty much the same conclusion. Both are alarmed at the enormity of these grand five-year plans and the scope for large-scale wastage inherent in these projects. DVG notes that there are “countless medium and small tasks along with these five-year plans.” This sort of concentration of a bulk of national resources on five-year plans have occurred because there is no decisiveness in the Government’s economic policy, which has in turn, discouraged private capital and enterprise. Further, the “Government must discard its notion that only it has to do every work” of national importance. In turn, this attitude[8] was rooted in a dangerous mind set.

Delhi’s eyes are firmly set on the clouds…it forgets the minor details while thinking about grand plans…in its endeavor of manufacturing fashionable clothes, it forgets the threads and buttons.

DVG concludes his essay with a stinging slap: “till the time Congress leaders remain unafraid of the people, this country cannot expect any great change for the good.” And when we realise that DVG uttered these words in 1954, we also realise that this is beyond both comment and contempt.

To be continued


[1] Books and Writings of Ambedkar: Vol. 14, Part 2: https://www.mea.gov.in/Images/attach/amb/Volume_14_02.pdf. Emphasis added.  

[2] D.V. Gundappa: Congress and Parties, Public Affairs, May 1949, Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore pp 41-42

[3] D.V. Gundappa: Working of the States Ministry, Public Affairs, April 1949, p 27. Emphasis added.

[4] D V Gundappa: Congress Sarakaragalu, Rajyashastra, Rajyanga, DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013), pp 528-9  

[5] D V Gundappa: Republic, Congress Mattu Praje, Rajyashastra, Rajyanga, DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013), pp 588-9  

[6] D V Gundappa: Namma Prajarajyada Pragati, Rajyashastra, Rajyanga, DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013), pp 592-8

[7] P.V. Kane: History of the Dharmasastra, Vol 5, Sec X, Ch.XXXVII, pp 1677-1699

[8] D V Gundappa: Namma Prajarajyada Pragati, Rajyashastra, Rajyanga, DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013), pp 594




Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

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