Nehru’s death anniversary – May 27. I recall going, like so many others, to Teen Murty.
An opportunity to reflect on Nehru’s achievements and failures. Acknowledging several failures, I see his overall contributions as positive, importantly positive.
Today, ‘Nehru ke Aulaad’ has become an abuse. This is tragic. He is accused of awarding himself the Bharat Ratna. No one remembers that Rajendra Prasad, then President, who had many differences with Nehru, decided to award it and without Cabinet advise, and he openly said that he was violating constitutional propriety.
When India was irrationally partitioned in 1947, there were multiple crises to deal with. There was the enormous tragedy of refugees and the violence that partition unleashed.
Gandhi was assassinated shortly after by a Hindu zealot. Today, we have parliamentarians who laud Godse.
There were over 500 princely States that had to be assimilated into India or Pakistan.
The Constituent Assembly in this turmoil was working on the Constitution. It was simultaneously the Parliament of the day.
The freedom struggle had thrown up an enormous leadership across the country. Many of these leaders were equal in stature to Nehru: Rajendra Prasad, B.C. Roy, Rajaji, Ambedkar, and a host of others. That they chose universal suffrage, a welfare State, affirmative action long before that phrase was known is a remarkable collective achievement of that generation.
The Nehru Cabinet was truly one of equals. There were many there both qualified, and politically strong who could be PM.
Today, anything Nehruvian is derided. We forget that many of the decisions that were taken then by the Cabinet were against Nehru’s personal views. He had to, and did accept that the Cabinet was more than the PM. One example is the linguistic division of states.
That we built functioning institutions of democracy in that chaos is no mean feat. I credit Nehru for much, if not all of it.
We must look back critically at the contributions of the stalwarts of the independence movement. No one is only good or only bad. Today’s repudiation of the Nehruvian contribution has become irrational. We must acknowledge and learn from the mistakes made. In this process, genuine contributions must also be acknowledged.
Looking back after 55 years, I salute Jawaharlal Nehru, proud son of India.
President of CBPS Governing Board and Research Mentor, CBPS
[Disclaimer: Views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CBPS]