Right then, so here we go…
“The most effective pose is one in which there seems to be the least of posing, and Jawahar had learned well to act without the paint and powder of an actor … What is behind that mask of his? … what will to power? … He has the power in him to do great good for India or great injury … Men like Jawaharlal, with all their capacity for great and good work, are unsafe in a democracy.
He calls himself a democrat and a socialist, and no doubt he does so in all earnestness, but every psychologist knows that the mind is ultimately slave to the heart … Jawahar has all the makings of a dictator in him — vast popularity, a strong will, ability, hardness, an intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient … In this revolutionary epoch, Caesarism is always at the door. Is it not possible that Jawahar might fancy himself as a Caesar? … He must be checked. We want no Caesars.”
There are so many facets to Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru’s character that I risk being at a loss of words to capture them all. So how do we describe him? The statesman who gave a newly liberated nation recognition at world stage? The visionary who initiated the revival of a country depleted by centuries of hostile foreign rule? The intellectual who can talk with authority on plethora of topics? The nationalist for whom it was always country first? The leader who made mistakes we even today feel compelled to discuss? Well, we can discuss each of them at length but I begin with something less discussed.
Nehru, the man…
Nehru was walking pluralism, a blend of the best of British and Indian culture, he was as grounded as any of the Indian leaders that walked with him, engaging in every community work at the 1st need, but he also brought an aura of sophistication with him. He was a prince who chose to walk than ride and that was something that always stayed with him, and this very quality made him unarguably the best Prime Minister India ever had. This connect with both worlds that he never let go. He was the bridge that connected poor, famine- struck , depleted India to the industrialized west
They say words delude you when you have to assess a person, but if you really want to understand Nehru then starting points are his books. The trio of Discovery of India, Glimpses of world History and Towards Freedom, apart from acquainting you with History of world and India specifically, tell you a lot about the man, his thoughts, how he interpreted the world around him and how informed he was when he was making a decision.
An atheist who respected religions:
This seems like an oxymoron, but is it? Well it is for many who term Nehru as pseudo secular and what not. But it does make sense, this question, isn’t an atheist supposed to be against religious doctrines? If he accepts the faith of others as respectable, why won’t he follow them? Or was he just faking it all the way?
Right here, you get a glimpse of Nehru’s thought process…
Nehru being the scholar that he was, understood religion to its core before becoming an atheist. He understood that religion has two aspects: Philosophy and practice. Having gone through the doctrines of major world religions, he knew that in their core, all the philosophies made sense, but the practices don’t. You read discovery of India and you sense the excitement of a child when he educates us about Upanishads. But you will find an unmoving opposition when it came to the ill=practices in the religion. He abhorred casteism like his mentor Mahatma Gandhi, but he was the 1st to argue that rigidity is it’s bane, and to began with, it actually gave structure to the early Aryan society.
Everything had to go through the spectacle of logic…
Nehru the visionary:
Pandit Nehru laid the brick and mortar of science in newly independent India. Nehru’s enormous contributions to the establishment of the IITs, of the large network of research laboratories of the CSIR and DRDO and of the atomic energy establishment are all well known. To accomplish his dream of making these institutions world class centers of research and learning, Pandit Nehru invited and encouraged a number of renowned scientists and academicians like Homi Bhaba, J.B.S. Haldane, Sir C.V. Raman, Satish Dhavan, Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, J.C. Ghosh, Humayun Kabir and many others. It was Nehru’s sustained and spontaneous political support that translated the idea into a reality. Over 45 Central laboratories in different fields of science were launched during his time. He was also responsible for initiating the first steps to launch India into the electronics and space era. But more so, he promoted the spirit of scientific enquiry into the masses, making them trust their judgments and thoughts and enabling them to understand things before accepting them as facts.
Nehru’s vision for the world were unprecedented too. He empowered the countries that were newly independent, gave them a voice at international level and together with Marshal Tito and Gamal Abdel Nasser led the Non-Alignment Movement. The merits were more than we see, apart from giving India respect as a responsible member of the world community, it also diluted the bi-furcation of the world and stopped unreasonable strengthening of any particular block.
A major criticism of Nehru’s regime is the apparent “slow growth”. I mean, you got to be kidding me if you are expecting a nation, that has woken up from slumbers to simply start showing you dividends when the citizens had a life expectancy of 38 years, growth rate was close to zero and famines weren’t actually a news…the only way possible was a state-supported savings oriented growth model to provide infrastructure for future development. ( Which was supported by 23 of 24 economists that were consulted)True, the policy brought us to forced liberalization ,but those who actually warrant the blame are the future leaders who never looked to promote the free market mechanism, which was the logical end. This prolonged continuation of a stop gap policy led to unequal depletion of resources that led to some mineral-rich states losing their resources without comparative development.
No person is of course, a mirror of perfection, Nehru too had his shortfalls. He was a visionary who trusted others to reciprocate, unfortunately, it wasn’t so. He had a vision of cooperative development of two of the oldest civilizations, India and China, but the element of realism, was missing. A strong China has traditionally been an expansionist power. Nehru believed the Chinese conviction towards cooperative development and adherence to Panchsheel, only to be deceived. Another shortcoming was the nepotism he had, though it can be argued that one’s he promoted definitely had ability on their own to have proceeded, but overlooking senior officers to promote General Kaul (who, it’s said, formulated the idea of forward policy on his own, that gave China an excuse) can’t be justified, but then, it happened again during promotion of our current army chief and welcome to Kashmir…And while on the note of nepotism, his 1st cabint also had Shyama Prasad Mukeerji and Baba Saheb Ambedkar…nepotism???
Another drawback was his excessive dependence on institutional structures, but then again, he was a visionary who believed in them. He is often criticized for taking Kashmir to United Nations, and it should have been avoided for sure, but a man who believed in institutions did that, you may however , interpret it as you like.
The clarity in the thought process he had was amazing, and what a knowledge base he had.He made his mistakes, and mistakes we all make, the stature of the office we have amplifies our achievements and mistakes, but none can suspect his love for India. India was truly blessed to have him as our 1st Prime Minister. If not for a tinge of nepotism, he was near perfect…but then, the greatest nepotist was Napoleon, and they adore him in France, it’s not desirable but its only human.
It only deems fit that his last wish was that his ashes should be scattered all over India and the life line of India, Ganga…he belonged to whole of India, and he made sure it will stay that way till eternity.
So, what’s your answer ? Should I provide you?
Pandit Nehru, under the pseudo name “Chanakya”, criticizing himself and enhancing belief of Indian public in democratic institutions and warning them against despotism.
And that defined him…