It is important to understand the background of Congress party’s overtures to the progressive and socialist elements in Indian politics. Nehru’s idea of relaunching ‘Congress with socialist characteristics’ did not materialize out of thin air; rather, it was shaped through some fortuitous circumstances and perspectives of certain individuals. The idealism nurtured during the independence movement had brought new vision, vigour, verve and valour to the country in the immediate aftermath of independence. This idea of rejuvenation within politics and society gradually began to fade.
The loss to China in 1962 impacted domestic politics. Nehru was a shattered man. The other Congress leaders realized that they needed to revitalize the party by transforming themselves and the party programmes. Congress seemed like a defunct saviour and Nehru’s aura diminished post the Sino-Indian War. The party was in desperate need of some new vigour and new energy. In this scenario, the Congress party revived its goal of working towards a socialistic society that was adopted in the Avadi session in 1955 and extended an invitation to all those who believed in the socialist ideology to join hands with the Congress.
In the aftermath of the 1962 military debacle at the hands of China, May of 1963 witnessed three of the fiercest critics of Nehru getting elected to the Lok Sabha in the by-polls—Minoo Masani from Rajkot, Acharya Kriplani from Amroha and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia from Farrukhabad. In this backdrop, it was a good strategy for the Congress to attract progressive forces from other political outfits. The coming together of some of the PSP leaders and the Congress party should be studied in this context.