The deification of Nehru was a function of the Congress’ vote politics, but none of his ideas ever worked.
A visionary who envisioned a powerful India, JAWAHARLAL NEHRU. Ironically, though, his party, or rather the current generation leader of his family, has devalued his legacy by bragging that the Prime Minister was not invited to his birth anniversary festivities, reducing his stature to that of a city’s Imam. Democrats do have grace!
That is the tragedy of those whose magnetism shows through the socialist façade. While this cannot be said about Subhas Bose, Sardar Patel, or Lal Bahadur Shastri—the “non-family” Congress stalwarts who have been adopted by the masses and rejected by the Congress family—few people would observe his birthday if the government stopped funding the celebrations.
The worship of Nehru was a political demand made to Congress. Roses, Soviet-style planning, socialism, large dams, a government-run economy, secularism, Children’s Day, weaving an Asian dream with Panchsheel, having coffee with Tito, Suharto, and Nasser, Hindi-Cheeni Bhai Bhai, and an odd possessiveness towards Sheikh Abdullah were some of the elements that made up his aura. In 1962, all of that build-up came crashing down, which was disastrous to his health.
Nehru wrote to the Pakistani Prime Minister after the country’s attack on Kashmir, which was carried out under the cover of tribal marauders, but instead of criticising him and demanding the portion of Kashmir that Pakistan had illegally and forcibly taken, Nehru instead wrote:
While the Indian Prime Minister was here fighting his own armed forces, the Indian Army had just vanquished the Pakistanis.
He was so enraged with Sardar Patel, the most capable senior member of the Cabinet, on the Kashmir problem that Patel nearly quit. “In any case, your letter makes it clear to me that I must not, or at least cannot, continue as a Member of Government, and therefore I am hereby tendering my resignation,” Sardar wrote. Sardar Patel’s letter was written but never sent since he ultimately decided to revoke his resignation.
The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister did not get along well, despite Pakistan dealing Kashmir a brutal blow and Pakistan still trying to cultivate its fledgling independence.
A powerful symbol of the Indian people’s collective conscience to emerge from the ashes, the temple of Somnath, was to be restored as soon as India was freed from centuries of collective resistance to foreign invaders. Sardar Patel had made a commitment. And Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the Indian republic, the head of state, was headed to the ceremony of installation. At any costs, Nehru sought to stop him. The restoration of the Somnath temple was, in his eyes, a collective endeavour. “Communalism has invaded the minds and hearts of those who were the pillars of the Congress in the past,” he remarked (in a letter to Govind Ballabh Pant).
When it came to the Deputy Prime Minister, he lost all tolerance and became hostile.
When Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, his first Industry Minister and a highly esteemed Cabinet colleague, noticed his ingrained indifference to the plight of Hindus, he resigned from the Cabinet. He desired a “permit raj”-free, full and absolute admittance for Kashmir. In those days, a special permit was required for everyone entering Jammu and Kashmir. Wazir-e-Azam played the Chief Minister, and Sadre Riyasat the Governor.
With the slogan “One nation, one tricolour, one law and no to special permit system, two flags, two constitutions for J&K,” Mookerjee travelled to Jammu and Kashmir as the leader of a newly formed political party with a resounding presence in Parliament and to challenge the obnoxious permit system. He was treated as a minor offender, and he passed away in captivity in Srinagar, where Sheikh Abdullah had placed him under house arrest, in strange circumstances.
Nehru declined to launch an investigation. Jogmaya Devi, Mookerjee’s mother, demanded a judicial investigation in multiple letters to him. Nehru, though, made no comment. The entire country suspected foul play in Mookerjee’s demise. Then-Jana Sangh leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared: “It’s murder most foul, hatched under a Nehru-Abdullah conspiracy.” Because he did not own these people, Nehru was unable to sense their suffering.
All of Nehru’s words and writings following the 1947 Pakistani invasion of Kashmir lead in one direction only: that he was willing to allow Kashmir to leave India. He also harboured sympathy for the Nizam of Hyderabad, who resisted being annexed by India and intended to turn Hyderabad into a Pakistani province. Nehru’s stunning demeanour, which K.M. Munshi clearly depicts in his book Pilgrimage to Freedom, is still a mystery.
In order to understand Nehru’s actions, I must paraphrase the pertinent passages from his speech: “My [K.M. Munshi’s] situation in Hyderabad was most embarrassing to me because of the simultaneous approaches to the Hyderabad problem by people in authority in New Delhi. Through me, Sardar and V.P. Menon were handling the matter to ensure that the State would be admitted on the same conditions as other States. The Nizam’s Prime Minister, Laik Ali, was negotiating with Lord Mountbatten, the Governor-General, who had Sir Walter Monckton’s backing. Lord Mountbatten was willing to give Hyderabad a significant amount of autonomy in exchange for the Nizam signing a treaty to join the Union.
“Sardar thought it prudent to make it clear to the Nizam’s cabinet that the cabinet of India’s tolerance was quickly running out as the Hyderabad crisis was inevitably racing towards a climax owing to the Nizam and his advisers’ stubbornness. As a result, V.P. Menon sent a message from the States Ministry to that effect.
“Jawaharlal Nehru was furious when he learned about this. He convened a special meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet without the three Chiefs of Staff the day before our Army was to march into Hyderabad. Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar, Maulana Azad, the then-Defense and Finance Ministers, the State Secretary, and the Vice President all attended the meeting, which took place in the Prime Minister’s chamber. V.P. Menon and the Defence Secretary H.M. Patel.
Jawaharlal Nehru scolded Sardar for his behaviour and attitude towards Hyderabad just as the conversation was getting started. He also targeted V.P. Menon with his fury. He said that going forward, he will handle all affairs connected to Hyderabad himself as a way to cap off his rant. Everyone in attendance was astonished by his attack’s vehemence and timing. Sardar remained silent and quiet during the eruption. He then got up and walked out of the meeting with V.P. Menon. Without doing business, the meeting broke up.
“The British army leader tried to put off the police operation even a little while before zero hour, but Sardar kept to the schedule and our soldiers marched into Hyderabad.
“The Army’s Operation Polo got under way on September 13. The operation came to a conclusion on September 17, and Laik Ali and his Cabinet submitted their resignations. The Nizam ordered his forces to surrender to the Indian Armed Forces on the same day. In the entire nation, there was not a single incidence involving the community.
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Nehru remained an Anglophile all his life, and once reportedly described himself as the last Englishman to rule India. He loved India, but his India was tinged with an imperial touch. His great quotations on Indian culture are appreciable in the way one would appreciate the comments of a Cambridge professor who returns to London after a tour of the wonders of Madurai, Agra and Jodhpur. He was tolerant to those who agreed with him. He loved India the way the British loved the Jaipur column and his scientific attitude did create marvels of knowledge hubs. Yet, his economic vision achieved everything that needed to be undone by his own party people. India lost 1.25 lakh square kilometres of Indian territory to Pakistan and China under the Nehru regime.
The country lost precious initial years that could have powered Indian engines of growth. Nehru’s self-defeating socialism kept the Indian story shackled and institutionalised corruption. It was left to the reformist Dr Manmohan Singh, working under another “non-family” Congressman, P.V. Narasimha Rao, to undo what Nehru did in the economic sector.
His Panchsheel, utopia of a non-military state, non-alignment movement, planned economic model, UFO kind of socialism—nothing ever worked. And if he was a democrat, look at his party—democracy deified, indeed! Nehru needed to be undone, to let India find its soul and speed.