Congress party has been known for keeping the line between party and the government very thin. Party politicians including former PM Jawaharlal Nehru have been accused of using state resources for family vacations and the party often kept the separation of government and the party blur.
In the first term, the Modi government had taken many steps to eliminate the historical inaccuracies and distortion of constitutional values by the Congress party. In the second term, one of the first legislations set to be introduced by the Modi government in the budget session is the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill. In 1951. Nehru had passed the legislation which automatically nominates Congress president to the Jallianwala Bagh Trust, the managing authority of Jallianwala Bagh.
The amendment Bill proposes to replace the position of Congress president with the leader of the largest opposition party. The Bill also has provision to empower the central government to terminate the term of eminent nominated trustees before completion of the term. So far Congress leaders like Ambika Soni have been repeatedly nominated as eminent members. The government introduced this Bill in Lok Sabha in early 2019 and successfully passed but in Rajya Sabha, the Congress party opposed the Bill and therefore the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of 16th Lok Sabha.
The Bill seeks to depoliticize the trust as the position of Congress president is being replaced with the leader of the opposition party if there is one or leader of the single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha. Both of these are constitutionally part of democratic structure unlike the position of Congress party president.
As per a report by Economic Times, currently “the Trust is chaired by the Prime Minister and has on board president of the Congress party, the culture minister, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Governor and Chief Minister of Punjab. There are also three eminent persons nominated on the Trust — mostly Congress persons so far including the likes of Ambika Soni and former LG Virendra Kataria, among others.”
The story of Jallianwala Bagh –
On 13 April 1919, a crowd had gathered from places around Amritsar to celebrate the day of Baisakhi, an important festival in the region of Punjab and peacefully protest the arrest and deportation of two national leaders. However, Colonel Dyer (he was a temporary Brigadier General, even though popular as General Dyer), with his 50 men surrounded the only major exit in the Jallianwala Bagh and fired at the crowd killing the unarmed civilians.
The Congress party often tries to put the historical narrative that the gathering in the Bagh was at the behest of Congress leaders to oppose the previous legislation introduced by the British government. However, it was largely a religious celebration and Congress through its stooges in history writing made it a political gathering.
The party further politicized the event by making the Congress president’s nomination to the Jallianwala Bagh Trust. Modi government has taken an important step to depoliticize one of the most important events in the Indian freedom struggle.