Nehru had no faults. Those trying to erase him from history will themselves be erased from history

Nehru had no faults. Those trying to erase him from history will themselves be erased from history
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a pet peeve: Nehru. In the Modi-Shah regime in which we live, disrespecting the first prime minister of the republic has become habitual. And we are supposed to become timorous if we point out the obvious.

Nehru never inspired fear, only love. No leader in Indian history (other than Gandhi and Bose) can even aspire to do what he has done. He had the love of both the majority Hindu community as well as the minority Muslim community until the end of his days.

Nehru was known as the great protector of Muslims but Hindus never hated him for it. In the climate of Hindu supremacy in which we live, Muslims are being lynched and beaten everyday for farcical reasons and the ruler of the land utters nary a word.

People like Veer Savarkar are now being glorified at the expense of Nehru. Winston Churchill was an out and out bigot. He hated Indians but called Nehru the Light of Asia.

Lord Mountbatten said that had 1962 not happened, Nehru would have been regarded as the greatest leader of the 20th century. Yes, even greater than Gandhi, although how anyone can be greater than Gandhi is simply unfathomable. Gandhi himself called Nehru a jewel without flaw.

What did Nehru do? Why is he inciting so much hate today? My father and my aunt used to tell me that at the time of Independence, the common man in Delhi used to roam around in unwashed, torn clothes. They would ask, do you see anyone in Delhi, at least the common man, roam around in unwashed, torn clothes today?

That is what Nehru did. He inherited a poverty-stricken nation and set it on the path of prosperity. Had he been alive today, India would have been a China or a South Korea. Instead, we are flailing haplessly. Our current rulers cannot pull us out of our economic quagmire. All they seem to indulge in is empty sloganeering. Nobody falls for it.

What else did Nehru do? He brought back Homi Bhabha to build India’s nuke programme, and Vikram Sarabhai to build India’s space programme. Thanks to Bhabha’s nukes, we sleep easy at night. Sarabhai’s space programme is widely acknowledged as the best in the world.

Today, even when NRIs want to return to India to contribute, local Indians won’t let them. Once expatriate Indians who returned to India were respected (much because of Nehru), today they are resented, much because of the climate of nationalism that pervades the country. Indian industrialists are mostly closet nationalists pandering to a captive domestic market. That’s why other than Bollywood, no other Indian product is known anywhere in the world.

Nehru had a fine cabinet—Patel, Azad, Rajaji, TT Krishnamachari, the list is endless, which he empowered and allowed to function. Today, the PMO rules the roost completely. The cabinet is devoid of talent. India has lost the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan, but the ruler will not make any changes to his national security team.

The economy has been in a rut for over seven years, but the ruler will not install a renowned economist as finance minister. The foreign minister is getting too close to the US but the ruler will not stop him from antagonizing China. Soon we’ll have the largest number of people in the world. We have a strong military. Our economy has grown considerably since Independence.

Nehru had none of these advantages. He had fewer people. His military was weak. The economy was ravaged. Yet people hailed him the world over for who he was. Even Jackie Kennedy’s sister, Lee Radziwill, was bewitched by him. He looked like Adonis; he was a bachelor. He was free to do what he wanted to do. Today’s rulers exemplify the life of sanyas. They too are free to lead the life that they want to.

Nehru won three general elections, all by a landslide, without ever playing the communal card. Today every party in India — faith-based or secular — plays the communal card freely to win power. Nehru did not have a blemish of corruption on him. Not only was he corruption-free, India under him was relatively corruption-free. We have had rulers, including the current one, who have been personally corruption-free, but corruption has become a blight upon India, a canker on its body politic. Corruption is actually extolled. If corruption could be controlled, where would India be?

Yes, of course, in such a long rule, some mistakes will obviously be made. Not everyone can be as flawless as Gandhi. Taking the Kashmir issue to the UN? Perhaps, yes, but without doing so, would Kashmir have been as ensconced within India as it is now? And of course 1962. Nehru supposedly irritated China by providing succour to the Dalai Lama, and the Chinese decided to teach Nehru a lesson. But by being part of the Quad military alliance against China, are we not irritating the Chinese again. Sounds like déjà-vu.

Nehru groomed Indira Gandhi to be PM, but he never had her installed as PM right after his death. She got the prime ministership because of Kamaraj, and that too only because Shastri died an unexpected death. So spare calling Nehru as an out-and-out dynast. The real dynast in the Gandhi family was Indira.

So you can go about effacing Nehru from all kinds of charts and graphs, but you can never make him disappear from the history of India. By trying to wipe out Nehru, our current rulers are only making a mockery of themselves. Instead they should be holding him up as an exemplar of how every Indian leader needs to be.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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