The Sonpur national conference of the All India Samyukta Socialist Party had been specially called to discuss the policy of non-Congressism in the light of post-Congress split era.
The socialist party was the first one to work in Indian villages. In the remote villages of Bihar and UP you can even now find the fruits of the trees whose roots were planted by Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia.
The SSP has been among the least disciplined political organisations in the country. The open war of polemics among its top leaders and the individualistic postures adopted by its district level leaders have deepened the confusion.
The acute crisis in the name of ideology has been brewing in the party since the death of Dr Lohia three years ago. As long as Dr Lohia dominated the party, no one dared to challenge his supreme leadership.
Former President SM Joshi, President Karpoori Thakur , General Secretary George Fernandes, astute parliamentarian Madhu Limaye and the boss of UP unit, Raj Narain have different viewpoints on non-Congressism.
SM Joshi feels that since Indira Gandhi was following progressive policies, she should be given a chance to implement people’s wishes. Non-Congressism is dead; the SSP should choose friends and work with them on the basis of a long-term radical programme.
Madhu Limaye also thinks that after the split of the Congress, non-Congressism has ceased to be relevant. But he finds no difference between Syndicate and Indicate Congress.
Rajnarain thinks that the party should go all out to dislodge Indira Gandhi and cooperate with Syndicate Congress for this purpose.
Karpoori Thakur and George Fernandes have taken vague position. They are of the view – ‘topple everyone’. A new socialist party can emerge between right reaction and extreme left, which can draw people like Jayaprakash Narayan – something like the old Congress Socialist Party.
Lack of decorum at meetings
Since the socialists are traditionally used to strong language, there is little politeness or decorum at discussions at local meeting and wider conferences.
Sonpur was no exception. During the 14-hour marathon debate in which about 140 amendments were moved, heckling started right from the start. The whole deliberation was punctured with noisy scenes, jeering and slogan-shouting.
On 9th January the night session turned so ugly that in the scuffle one member fainted and was removed to hospital. 55 anti-UF workers from West Bengal picked up a fist fight when the President of their state unit rose to speak.
Be it inside or outside the parliament, shoe-hurling is a speciality of SSP members. In the closing session when RN Jha, MP, alleged former Bihar minister SK Singh, with practicing casteism, the honourable members indulged in fist fighting and threw shoes and chappals at one another.
Tailpiece: And the other day, a SSP workers remarked that the party should be liquidated as it had achieved its goal – a split in the Congress.
Excerpts from Gujarat Herald 17 January 1970