Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A Bunch of Bewildering Questions, Part-II

Blog-Series: Bewildering Questions, Part-2 (Nehru)

A Bunch of Bewildering Questions


Bewildering Questions (1) : Freedom, Partition, Socialism, Dynacracy
Bewildering Questions (2) : Nehru's "Exemplary" Score-Card
Bewildering Questions (3) : Indira Gandhi
Bewildering Questions (3) : Sanjay Gandhi

Nehru’s “Exemplary” Score-card


Are these assessments justified: “Nehru was a great leader and statesman…” Are they backed by facts and concrete achievements on the ground? Should eulogy and flattery substitute fair assessment? What about the following?


Most of the major problems that India is still grappling with are Nehru’s legacy to India:

(1)Nehruvian poverty-perpetuating, prosperity-preventing, misery-multiplying socialism.

(2)Authoritarian, arrogant, callous, debilitating, heartless, ill-mannered, indifferent, incompetent, inefficient, ineffective, nepotistic, sloppy, sluggish, self-seeking and shamelessly corrupt babudom.

(3)Millions in heart-rending pathetic poverty.

(4)J&K mess, continuing to bleed India heavily in terms of men, money and materials since independence, and with no resolution in foreseeable future.

(5)Unwise, intransigent, unprofessional, irresponsible, arrogant external security policies of Nehru that failed to resolve the India-China boundary dispute, which was eminently solvable in the fifties.

(6)Indifference to the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils, with no steps taken to nip the problem in the bud, leading Walter Crocker, who was then the Australian ambassador to India, to comment in his book, “Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate”, that while India and Nehru spoke against the treatment of Africans in the European colonies, and justifiably so; in contrast, with regard to the ill treatment of Tamils in Ceylon, they did precious little: ‘...and with little done to save Indians in Ceylon from treatment which was worse than the treatment meted out to Africans in European colonies in Africa...’.

(7)Totally ignoring India’s own strategic interests, Nehru’s NO in 1955 to India's UNSC Membership, something which we have been desperately seeking for decades, leading Shashi Tharoor to write in his book ‘Nehru: The Invention of India’: “Indian diplomats who have seen the files swear that at about the same time Jawaharlal also declined a US offer to take the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council then held, with scant credibility, by Taiwan, urging that it be offered to Beijing instead...But it was one thing to fulminate against Great Power machinations, another to run a national foreign policy with little regard to the imperatives of power or the need of a country to bargain from a position of strength…”.

(8)India-Pakistan Indus Water Treaty of 1960, which like the India-China Panchsheel agreement of 1954, had generous “give away” but no reciprocal “take”.

(9)Mishandling of Northeast; turning it into a perennial problem.

(10)Leaving large areas ungoverned, or deficitly governed, or ill-governed, or brutally governed, leading ultimately to large red corridor.

(11)Politics of using minorities as vote-banks.

(12)Rather than firmly stamping out dalit and caste-based exploitation, allowed Congress to play caste-politics for votes.

(13)Promoting one’s own, nepotism and dynastic politics.

(14)Messing up of the language issue.

(15)Distortion of Indian history.

(16)Mental and cultural slavery, and brown-sahib culture.


Add to the above the following major blunders:

(1)Erasure of Tibet as a nation, thereby substituting an unfriendly and dangerous China for a friendly neighbour and close cultural associate of centuries, culminating in India-China boundary dispute.

(2)Panchsheel 1954, the worst ever international agreement, which Acharya Kripalani termed as: “This great doctrine was born in sin, because it was enunciated to put the seal of our approval upon the destruction of an ancient nation which was associated with us spiritually and culturally...It was a nation which wanted to live its own life and it sought to have been allowed to live its own life...”.

(3)Ill-conceived, hare-brained, tactless and reckless Forward Policy, which was  actually a “bluff” masquerading as a military strategy, that contributed to provoking the 1962 India-China War.

(4)Unbelievable and unpardonable neglect of military requirements leading to India’s utter rout in 1962 India-China War, prompting S Gopal, Nehru's official biographer, to write: “Things went so wrong that had they not happened it would have been difficult to believe them…”.

(5)Despite the “Glimpses of World History” and the “Discovery of India”, Nehru failed to discover that India suffered slavery for over a thousand years on account of its weakness to defend itself; yet, he neglected modernisation of the army, strengthening of defence, and pacts with powerful nations to ensure India’s security.

(6)Politicisation of the Army, well-captured by GS Bhargava in his book ‘The Battle of NEFA’: “...a new class of Army Officer who could collude with politicians to land the country in straits in which it found itself in September-October 1962. Since qualities of heart and head ceased to be a passport to promotion for military officers...the more ambitious among them started currying favour with the politicians…”.

(7)Advocating UN membership for China in all fora, and for the UNSC permanent seat, not for India, but for China—China is now the beigest opposer of India’s entry into the UNSC.

(8)Neglect of agriculture.

(9)Neglect of infrastructure.

(10)Gross under-industrialisation by severely limiting private sector.

(11)Neglect of primary education.

(12)Condoning of corruption.


Suppression of truth:

(1)Not ordering comprehensive enquiry into 1962 debacle.

(2)Pushing under the carpet report of even a limited enquiry—Henderson-Brooks-Bhagat (HB) report on 1962 debacle.

(3)Doing everything possible to ensure the truth on Netaji Subhas’s death doesn’t see the light of the day.

(4)So managing the media and the academia that by and large all remain positive on Nehru, and those who dared to question were treated as outcastes.


And, but for Sardar Patel, what might have been unforgivable disasters thanks to Nehru:
(1)Junagadh as part of Pakistan.
(2)Hyderabad as Pakistan-II.

The above is only a partial list. It’s NOT an exhaustive list.


“Nehru was the great moderniser of India…”
But, then what about the following?

Many countries, including those in SE Asia, which were nowhere near India or were much behind India at the time India got independence have marched far ahead of India. When you look at their airports, their roads, their metros, their city-buses, their well laid-out cities, their infra-structure, their cleanliness, their everything, you wonder why you have remained a country of crumbling roads, overcrowded locals, overhanging scary ugly mess of mesh of electrical, TV and internet cables blotting the skyline and brutally assaulting even the “chalta hai” sense of terribly intolerable tolerance of the “have given up” generations; a country of absent pavements or encroached pavements or pavements that stink from the use they are not meant for, and where mercifully for the walkers this is not so, they are but patches of broken down pavers, punctuated by uncovered, or partially covered, or precariously or deceptively covered man-holes, awaiting their catch; a nation of stinking slums and impoverished villages, open drains and sewers, rotting garbage, squalor and stink all around, children and men defecating by the road-side—all testimony to criminal absence of the very basics of being civilised...

Most of the Indian towns, cities and metros are dirty, foul smelling and hideous. They look like a defacement of spaces and a blot on the landscape. Cities in the West, SE-Asia, China and elsewhere get better, cleaner, smarter and spiffier year after year, while ours get worse, more congested, more difficult to live in and more squalid.

How's it that we got so left behind? What is it that we did, or did not do, after independence, that everything is so abysmal and pathetic? Why an overwhelming majority in India is condemned to continue in abysmal misery? What are the foundations of this misery?

And all this unmitigated misery despite the overwhelming advantage of India as a nation with first-rate people,  plentiful natural resources, relatively better position in all fields—infrastructure, trained manpower, bureaucracy, army—at the time of independence compared to all other nations who have since overtaken us, grand civilisational heritage, rich culture and languages, and unmatched ethical and spiritual traditions.

Why did we fail to leverage such rich assets of a gifted country?


Wasn't Nehru an expert in international affairs? Didn't he formulate India’s great foreign policy? Wasn't he the founder of India's policy on external security and foreign affairs? Was he not the last word on the subject? Could any one match up to him?

Foreign to Foreign Policy?
Jeopardised External Security

Founder of foreign policy Nehru was, but were the foundations solid? Or, were they rickety? Or, were there no foundations at all—was it all airy ad-hocism, and one-man’s-pontifications? Crucially, was it a foreign policy that benefited India? Or, was it merely a device for Nehru for self-posturing and to project himself internationally?

How come all our major neighbours became our enemies? And, a friendly neighbour, Tibet, disappeared as an independent nation? How was it that our foreign policy turned India into a country no one took seriously? You evaluate a policy by its results, not by its verbosity and pompousness.

Nehru’s policy and strategy in J&K—part of the Foreign Policy, in a way—actually gave birth to the Kashmir Problem. He failed to solve the problem he had himself created, and actually made it more complicated. He failed to mend fences with Pakistan.

Nehru allowed Tibet—that ensured India never had to worry about its northern borders—to be erased as a nation. Nehru focussed on the Korean conflict happening far away from India, while soft-peddling the Tibet invasion next door, even though Tibet was so critical to our national security interests.

It was highly hypocritical for a country like India to shout against colonisation in world forums and preach on world peace and security, and take active role in distant Korea, when it was not bothered about its own peaceful neighbour, Tibet, getting colonised!

Other countries, watching India’s foreign policy in practice, would have been either laughing at its naivety, or sniggering at its hypocrisy, or pitying it for not being alive to its own interests.

Wasn’t it ironic that Nehru internationalised a matter he should not have, while he refused to internationalise a matter that he should have. He referred J&K—an internal, domestic matter—to the UN, which he should not have internationalised; while he refused to refer the Tibet-issue—a serious, external security matter—to the UN, which he should have.

Nehru, thanks to his inexplicably adamant and unreasonable approach, ended up creating and complicating India-China border problem and allowed it to drift into an unfortunate war.

Through his inaction and indifference, Nehru allowed the Sri Lankan Tamil problem to fester and grow. Its consequences have been terrible both for the Tamils and the Sinhalas—and for India too: it has led to bad blood with yet another neighbour, and allowed other countries to fish in the troubled waters.

He could have and should have settled the India-China border issue and the J&K issue—both his creations, in a way—and the Sri Lankan Tamil problem during his life time, but he utterly failed to do so, allowing the problems to become even more unsolvable and leaving severe headaches for subsequent generations.

There is a right time for everything; and if matters are not tackled when they ought to be, they get worse, and even turn into never-ending nightmares. Like Brutus says in Julius Caesar: “There is a tide in the affairs of men; which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries...”

In the India-China War, when India’s condition was so pitiable, no nation came forward to support. USSR supported China. The non-aligned nations, you thought you were leaders of, did not support you. Only the nation towards whom you had always been critical or abusive came to your rescue—the US. Nehru and Krishna Menon used to unnecessarily rub the US and other western nations the wrong way.

Nehru ended up having no significant neighbour as a friend.

Nehru neglected the Southeast Asian countries in our international relations.

Nehru campaigned for China’s entry in the UN, and for making it a member of the UN Security Council! And, let go our own chance of becoming a member of the UN Security Council!! He thus jeopardised our critical national security interests.

No country with a mature and prudent foreign policy wedded to its self-interest would engage in a massive give-away like India did under Panchsheel in 1954 without getting anything in return—like settling the border-issue with China.

Success of a foreign policy and its by-products like finalisation of borders and other issues are a function of a country’s economic and military strength, alliances with other countries, well-formulated foreign policies and wise diplomacy. It can’t be steered to success merely on the gas of lofty pronunciations, verbosity, hubris, holier-than-thou attitude and a single-man’s “pearls of wisdom” pronounced from time to time in lieu of a well thought-out policy. India was neither economically strong, nor militarily mighty, nor was it part of any powerful alliance—it prided itself on being neutral and non-aligned—nor did it have a well laid-out foreign policy. Yet it flaunted its foreign policy and expected success through it. What could be more infantile!! Nehru was in the habit of using that term and the term “childish” while snubbing those who opposed him either in the parliament or outside—regarding himself to be the most mature and wise person around. "Non-infantile" Nehru was not even willing to discuss and negotiate, and yet he expected success on India’s border-policy with China!

Going by what India did or did not do during the Nehru years, it seems there was a lack of culture of strategic thinking, and measures to counter threats to both the internal and the external security were largely neglected.

Fareed Zakaria writes in The Post-American World: “Nehru rooted India’s foreign policy in abstract ideas rather than a strategic conception of national interests. He disdained alliances, pacts, and treaties, seeing them as part of the old rules of realpolitik, and was uninterested in military matters...For much of Nehru’s tenure, his defence minister was a close political confidant, V.K. Krishna Menon, who was even less interested in military matters, much preferring long-winded ideological combat in parliament to strategic planning…Indian foreign policy in its early decades had an airy quality, full of rhetoric about peace and goodwill…In many of his dealings, Nehru tended to put hope above calculation. When he was warned that Communist China would probably seek to annex Tibet, for example, he doubted it, arguing that it would be foolish and impractical adventure. And even after Beijing did annex Tibet in 1951, Nehru would not reassess the nature of Chinese interests along India’s northern border…”

Not seldom did Nehru ignore the Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Affairs when taking important foreign policy decisions. The Cabinet, the Parliament, the media and the people at large should have been kept aware of the facts of the northern borders right after independence and should have been updated from time to time, but it was not done. How could vital issues be hidden away from the public and the Parliament in a democracy?

Indian foreign services were not well-staffed and there was no effort to evolve a well-structured foreign policy by involving all stakeholders. There was no coherent, well-formulated foreign policy during Nehru’s time. Whatever he articulated in speeches or otherwise became foreign policy. IFS and the External Affairs Establishment, true to their babu-mentality, considered it safe to just follow him, contributing little new, different or original. If Nehru ignored certain areas or was indifferent to them, they too ignored them, even if they were of vital importance, like Latin America, Africa and, particularly, Southeast Asia, from which India had much to learn and much to gain.

Nehru seemed to be conducting foreign policy more for asserting India as an independent nation, and for self-posturing, than for the purpose it is supposed to serve—a country’s economic and security interests—giving overmuch time to issues that did not affect India directly, like Korea, Suez-canal, and so on; unnecessarily rubbing many important countries the wrong way; and ignoring or inadequately dealing or improperly handling issues most critical to India such as Tibet, Kashmir, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India-China Boundary Problem.

Ambedkar criticised Nehru’s foreign policy for trying to “solve the problems of other countries and not [exerting] to solve the problems of our own country!

Nehru’s non-aligned policy fetched no gains for India, except allowing Nehru to project himself. Without going against any nation or any group of nations, India should have aligned itself with the West. Had it done so, India would have gained in various ways. Economically, India would have been far better off. Militarily, it would have been much stronger. Britain and USA would not have favoured Pakistan over India on Kashmir; and the Kashmir issue would have been solved in India’s favour long ago. China would not have dared to attack India. So also Pakistan: there would perhaps have been no Indo-Pak war.

Nehru made repeated mistakes despite enough sane counsels. Incidentally, Nehru himself had this to admit:We were getting out of touch with reality in the modern world and we were living in an artificial atmosphere of our creation.”

Inexplicably Irresponsible Ideas

Reportedly, shortly after independence, General Lockhart, as the Army chief (India and Pakistan had British Chiefs initially), took a strategic defence plan for India to Nehru, seeking a Government directive in the matter. Apparently, Lockhart returned shell-shocked at Nehru’s response: “The PM took one look at my paper and blew his top. ‘Rubbish! Total rubbish! We don’t need a defence plan. Our policy is ahimsa [non-violence]. We foresee no military threats. Scrap the army! The police are good enough to meet our security needs’, shouted Nehru.


Not seldom are those who tend to be critical of Nehru reminded by his eulogizers: "It is thanks to Nehru India is a democracy, whose fruits all Indians are enjoying—including you, who are freely criticising him. But for Nehru, India would long since have been a fascist state, or would have gone to dogs like Pakistan!"

Does the contention hold?

Elections were conducted in India during the British times too. Congress had not only won the 1937-elections and  formed ministries in many states; post elections, with power in their hands, they had already become so corrupt that Gandhi had desired disbanding of Congress after independence. The last pre-independence elections were held in 1946. Independent India inherited many democratic institutions, including election machinery—only it needed a boost to handle universal suffrage.

It was, in fact, the Constitution of India framed under Dr Ambedkar, and passed by the Constituent Assembly comprising scores of worthies and headed by Dr Rajendra Prasad, which had provided for universal adult franchise and democratic setup. So, how can the credit be given to Nehru? True, elections were held in 1952 and it was a massive affair, with universal adult franchise, the main credit for which goes to Sukumar Sen, India's first Chief Election Commissioner.

Nehru's Own Undemocratic Anointment

Nehru’s own election as the president of Congress in 1946, that led to his becoming India's first prime minister upon independence, was undemocratic. In 1946, Azad’s successor as the Congress President was to be chosen. The choice was critical then because whoever became the Congress President would also have become the head of the Interim Government and the first prime minister of independent India.

12 of the 15 (80%) PCCs nominated Sardar Patel. 3 PCCs of the 15 (20%) did not nominate anyone. Although Mahatma Gandhi had made his choice clear in favour of Nehru, and it was known to Congress persons and PCCs, yet not a single PCC nominated Nehru. As such, Nehru should have been totally out of the race. It was a non-contest. Sardar Patel was the only choice, and an undisputed choice, with not a single opposition. But, was Sardar Patel chosen?

Reportedly, Gandhi did tell Nehru that no one had nominated him, expecting him to go by the majority; but, Nehru let it be understood that he would not play second fiddle to anybody. A disappointed Gandhi apparently gave into Nehru's obduracy and prevailed upon Sardar Patel to step down in favour of Nehru. This is how Nehru became the Congress President, and thereafter the head of the Interim Government, and later the first PM. If Nehru were genuinely a democrat, he should have refused the position and prevailed upon Gandhi to go by the wishes of the overwhelming majority.

Dr Rajendra Prasad had stated: “Gandhi has once again sacrificed his trusted lieutenant for the sake of the glamorous Nehru.” 1946 was not the first time Gandhi had ridden rough shod over Sardar to promote Nehru. It was a case of déjà vu—there was a similar case in the thirties. On account of differences between Nehru and Patel on the issue of socialism, the selection of the Congress president for the next annual session had assumed critical importance. Incidentally, Patel, Rajagopalachari and Rajendra Prasad were opposed to socialism. If only they had led India after Independence, rather than Nehru, India would have been a prosperous first-world country long ago. That time too Patel had a majority backing, but Gandhi intervened to accord another term to Nehru, and persuaded Patel to withdraw in his favour. That was yet another example of the "great democrat" Nehru getting undemocratically elected—knowing very well what the wish of the majority was.

Writes Maulana Azad in his autobiography, India Wins Freedom:  “...[then] it seemed to me that Jawaharlal should be the new President [of Congress in 1946—and hence PM] ...I acted according to my best judgement but the way things have shaped since then has made me to realise that this was perhaps the greatest blunder of my political life...My second mistake was that when I decided not to stand myself, I did not support Sardar Patel.

This is what Rajaji, who had then been pro-Nehru and anti-Patel, had to say two decades after the death of Patel: “Undoubtedly it would have been better if Nehru had been asked to be the Foreign Minister and Patel made the Prime Minister. I too fell into the error of believing that Jawaharlal was the more enlightened person of the two.” It is another matter that Nehru greatly blundered on the foreign policy too.

Not Democracy, But Dynasty First

Dynastic politics was not started by Jawaharlal, he only carried it forward. It was actually started by his father—Motilal. When Motilal Nehru retired as the Congress president in 1929, he made sure, with Gandhiji’s backing, that his son, Jawaharlal, ascended the gaddi, over the heads of people much more senior and capable than him.

Earlier, in order to neutralise Motilal Nehru’s dissent from the Gandhian approach to freedom struggle, Gandhi shrewdly picked up Jawaharlal Nehru in 1924 to be his principal aide as General Secretary of the Congress, thereby unjustly ignoring many senior and more competent congressmen.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s dynastic tendencies were apparent in the 1930s. After the 1937 elections when the ministry was being formed in UP, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and Govind Ballabh Pant, who became the Chief Minister, proposed to Nehru inclusion of Mrs Vijaylakshmi Pandit [Nehru’s sister] in the ministry, which he readily agreed. Why did they do it? Not because they considered  Vijaylakshmi competent! But, by doing so, they hoped to receive Nehru’s favour, and hoped to save themselves from unnecessary interference and outbursts of Nehru!

On Vijaylakshmi Pandit, there is an episode of the time Nehru was head of the Interim Government in 1946, as written by Stanley Wolpert in his book, Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny, “Liaquat Ali Khan and Nehru almost came to blows in the interim government’s cabinet, when Nehru named his sister Nan [Vijaylakshmi Pandit] as India’s first ambassador to Moscow. Liaquat was livid at such autocratic blatant nepotism, but his protests fell on deaf ears. Nehru yelled louder and threatened to resign immediately if Dickie [Mountbatten] supported Liaquat in the matter.”

Writes S. Nijalingappa in My Life and Politics: “Another such instance I remember was when Dr. S. Radhakrishnan was president of India...I used to call on him whenever I was in Delhi...In his talks with me, as I believe with others too, he was very frank and open. One day, when I went to him he said, ‘Nijalingappa, today I put my foot down. Do you know why?’ He then continued, ‘Pandit Nehru comes to me and wants me to make his sister, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, vice-president of India. I had to tell him, “You are the prime minister of India, your daughter is the president of Indian National Congress and you want your sister to be vice-president. What would people say? I cannot have it.” I put my foot down and sent him away.’

I think Nehru had promised his sister the post and when she could not get it, she was very angry with her brother. She complained to me about it when she came to my house for breakfast, and said that her brother did not keep his promise. I did not tell her what Dr S. Radhakrishnan had told me.”

Incidentally, this is what a piece by GS Ujjanappa states in The Time of India of 12 June 2013 about Nijalingappa: “The grand old man of Chitradurga [Nijalingappa] was known for his Gandhian ideology and had an unblemished innings of more than six decades in politics. While most ministers take months together to vacate their official residences and continue to enjoy the benefits even after demitting office, Nijalingappa was a class apart. The veteran Congressman politely declined the offer of free government accommodation in Bangalore after his wife passed away in 1989, and moved to his house in Chitradurga. He had built the house in 1932 from his earnings as a practicing lawyer.”

Durga Das writes in his book that in 1957 in his weekly column in Hindustan Times he wrote Nehru was building up his daughter for succession. He says he had checked with Maulana Azad before writing the column, and Azad had said he too had independently reached the same conclusion. Even Govind Ballabh Pant had the same opinion. Later, when Nehru remonstrated with Durga Das on the column, to mollify Nehru, Durga Das assured him that what he had written would bring good publicity to Indira and would stand her in good stead—at which Nehru felt happy and smiled.

Although Indira Gandhi had done little work for the Congress, she was made a member of the Congress Working Committee—entry directly from the top, rather than rising from the bottom. There were many seniors in the Congress who felt unhappy and commented, “We are not dead yet.” She was then made President of the Congress, to the astonishment of all, after an intense behind the scenes drama, managed through others by Nehru. Nehru had also started developing her as a public figure, which included giving her exposure to foreign dignitaries and guests. Kamraj Plan was also used to clear the way for Indira from the seniors. Acharya Kripalani believed that the evils in the country emanated from the top and that Nehru was the pace-setter in abusing patronage and power.

Rajmohan Gandhi writes in Rajaji: A Life, “Suddenly, at this juncture, Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal’s daughter, was named party president. Her talents were yet a secret, and she had no experience of party work. Several of Nehru’s colleagues were offended by the choice but said nothing. C.R. [Rajagopalachari] was outraged.”

Writes Kuldip Nayar in Beyond the Lines: “This was where I first heard that Congress President V.N. Dhebar was resigning and Indira Gandhi was taking over. Pant had supported Nehru at Vinobha’s ashram but not at the CWC when Indira Gandhi was nominated as the party president. He was careful not to oppose Nehru’s daughter directly but argued that her frail health would come in the way of the extensive travels the Congress president was required to undertake. Raising his voice, Nehru told Pant that ‘she was healthier than both of us’ and could put in longer hours of work. The subsequent discussions, as I noted, were to fix the date on which she would assume charge. This was the first time that dynastic politics came to the fore, and the Congress since then has been following the practice of invariably having a member of Nehru family at the helm of affairs...Left to Nehru, he would have liked Indira to succeed him as prime minister, but too many Congress leaders, with a long stint of sacrifice and struggle for the country’s freedom, were still on the scene at the time.

One may say that Nehru did not make Indira Gandhi the PM. But, he was working towards it. However, before he could fulfil his mission he passed away. Though he had done the ground work—given the necessary visibility to her. Lal Bahadur Shastri had himself told that “in Panditji’s mind is his daughter”.

Writes Kuldip Nayar in Beyond the Lines: “I ventured to ask Shastri one day: ‘Who do you think Nehru has in mind as his successor?’ ‘Unke dil main to unki saputri hai [In his heart is his daughter],’ said Shastri...Nijalingappa said he was pretty sure that Nehru had his daughter in mind as his successor. In his diary, he wrote on 15 July 1969 that Nehru ‘was always grooming her for the prime-ministership obviously and patently’.

Taken Shame Out of Dynacracy

Democracy grafted on a nation with a strong feudal mindset is likely to degenerate into dynacracy, unless the leaders who matter consciously devote themselves to ensuring it does not happen, both by setting an example themselves and by putting in place appropriate systems. Nehrus did the reverse. The dynastic politics that Nehru started and thus sanctified, and what was even more shamelessly promoted by his daughter, has now vitiated and poisoned our whole democratic system. Following in the footsteps of Motilal, Jawaharlal and Indira, now most leaders promote their own dynasty in politics. We are now already in the era of blooming dynacracy! It has become all pervasive and has vitiated and poisoned our democratic system. The whole democratic process would soon get reduced to jockeying for power among select dynasties!

Nehru: NOT Limiting the Term of the PM

If Nehru was a true democrat, he should have taken a page out of the US Constitution, and limited the term of a prime minister to just two terms—like the President of the US. Not only that, on completion of two terms passing on the baton to one’s kin should also have been prohibited, to ensure dynasties did not take over politics. Dynasties have a vested interest in continuance at the expense of the nation. They also have a vested interest in covering up all the wrong doings of the dynasty.

Following Nehru’s footsteps, you find a strange spectacle of people—whether young or old, and whether in a political position or a bureaucratic position or a position in a sports body—not wanting to ever quit. Where extension is not possible, bureaucrats would seek some position or the other, post retirement. Officials of sports bodies—whether a politician or a retired-IPS or a businessman or any other—wish to continue for life!

The Example of the US in Sharp Contrast to that of Nehru

Contrast the above with George Washington, co-founder of the USA. He was proclaimed the “Father of the Country” and was elected the first president of USA in 1789 with virtually no opposition. Washington retired in 1797, firmly declining to serve for more than eight years—two terms—despite requests to continue. His tremendous role in creating and running America notwithstanding, he didn’t harbour or propagate self-serving notions of indispensability. The 22nd amendment to the US constitution setting a maximum of only two terms for the president came only in 1947. Prior to that it was only an observed good practice for over a century.

Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President and one of the founding fathers of the US, famous for his many achievements and for having originally drafted the Declaration of Independence of the US in 1776, was also requested,  pressurised and persuaded to consider continuing as President after completion of two terms in 1808, on account of his excellent performance on multiple counts—during his tenure the geographical area of the USA almost doubled, upon purchase of Louisiana from the French, which in turn ended the dispute about the navigation of the Mississippi. However, stressing the democratic and republican ideals, he refused, even though there was no legal bar then, and people would have loved him to continue. 

Irresponsible Act: Not Appointing a Successor, Deliberately

Writes Perry Anderson, Professor of History and Sociology at UCLA: “For the rest of the union, the lasting affliction of Nehru’s rule has been the dynastic system he left it. He claimed to reject any dynastic principle, and his capacity for self-deception was perhaps great enough for him to believe he was doing so. But his refusal to indicate any colleague as a successor, and complaisance in the elevation of his daughter—with no qualifications other than her birth for the post—to the presidency of Congress, where Gandhi had once placed him for his own trampoline to power, speak for themselves.”

He did not appoint a senior cabinet minister or a deputy prime minister to function in his absence when he went abroad. A responsible prime minister would have done so, and would have scotched all speculations on “After Nehru, who?” But he deliberately did not do so both to show to the world how indispensable and irreplaceable he was, and to make way for his daughter. Nehru thus sacrificed national interests for personal dynastic interests.

Wrote Walter Crocker, who was then the Australian ambassador to India, in his book, Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate: “It is no less strange that Nehru clung to office for so long. It would have been of help to the cause of parliamentary democracy in India if he had stood down...This is what Kemal Ataturk did...For one thing his long domination sapped the opposition; the opposition is an essential part of parliamentary democracy...”

Nehru's mentor, Gandhi, took care to appoint him as PM, and never promoted his own progeny. Nehru, despite having ruled too long, did not think it fit to pass the baton to anyone, even though it was not as if the country was doing great during his time, and his not being there would have adversely affected the nation. On the contrary, with him not there, things might have improved, provided, of course, the baton had not been passed to his daughter!

Contrast Nehru with Sardar Patel, who had told his son and grandson, when they visited him [Sardar] after he suffered a heart-attack in Delhi: “As long as I am in this chair, don’t visit Delhi, unless I am unwell and you have to see me...All sorts of people will contact you. Take care.” (Rajmohan Gandhi in Patel–A Life, Page# 473.)


Dreamer & an Idealist?

Unable to rebut Nehru’s faulty handling of many issues like Kashmir, India-China war, economy and so on, his admirers have invented an innovative alibi: Nehru was a dreamer and an idealist!

"Dreamer" implying he had great vision, and "idealist" implying that he was a man of high principles, lofty moral standards, and impeccably cultured and hence, thanks to the machinations of his unprincipled adversaries, he  lost out on certain counts.

But, was it so?


One would have highly appreciated Nehru as a dreamer if he had helped millions realise their dreams that they had upon independence. Sadly, thanks to Nehruvian economics, the fond dreams of millions turned into nightmares! Was dreaming of a political leader at the top-most responsible position an elitist luxury and an indulgence afforded by the exclusive environs of Lutyen's Delhi?

Idealist? High Principles?

Talking of "idealism" and "high principles", may one ask what were those high principles that prevented Nehru from finding a negotiated settlement of Indo-China borders?

What was that lofty ideal that allowed Nehru to mutely accept erasure of our peaceful neighbour, Tibet,  as a nation?

What were those principled compulsions that drove Nehru to refuse Tibet’s repeated pleading to raise its issue in the UN?

What were those high moral  standards that forbade Nehru to ensure Sri Lanka treated its Tamil citizens fairly?

What were those high principles that allowed nepotistic promotion by him of his daughter?

Where was the great morality in protecting the corrupt—which he tried for some of his colleagues?

Was it conscionable (or a matter of high principles!) for him to continue as a prime minister after the debacle in the India-China war?

Wrote JP Dalvi in his book Himalayan Blunder: “When the inevitable disaster came Nehru did not even have grace or courage to admit his errors or seek a fresh mandate from the people. He did not even go through the motion of resigning; he merely presented his trusted colleagues and military appointees as sacrificial offerings... Instead of gracefully accepting responsibility for erroneous policies, the guilty men sought alibis and scapegoats. In any developed democracy the Government would have been replaced, instead of being allowed to continue in office and sit in judgement on their subordinates..."

Here is Israel/Golda Mier's example in sharp contrast to that of India/Nehru's: Israel successfully repelled the combined attack from Egypt and Syria in 1973—what has come to be known as the Yom Kipper War. After its decisive victories against the Arabs in 1967, Israel was a little laid back and unprepared, thinking there wouldn’t be any further wars. The attack of 1973 therefore came as a surprise to it. Still, after the initial setbacks and panic, it rose to the challenge. Golda Meir was the president then. Even though Israel’s ultimate victory was spectacular and decisive, they immediately instituted an enquiry to fix responsibility for the initial setbacks and the panic reaction, and the lapses that led to the attack coming as a surprise. The preliminary report took just a few months and was released on April 2, 1974—it actually named names of those responsible. Several top-ranking staff were asked to resign. Golda Meir was not named, but taking overall responsibility, she resigned on April 10, 1974—after mere eight days of release of the report, which was only a preliminary report! This, even though Israel, under Golda Meir, had actually won the war decisively and turned the tables on the Arab countries that had attacked them! In sharp contrast, even though India lost pathetically in the 1962 India-China War, Nehru government instituted no enquiry; and Nehru did not even make a gesture of an offer to resign.

Too nice and cultured?

Nehru was too nice and impeccably cultured and hence, thanks to the machinations of his unprincipled adversaries, he  lost out on certain counts. Really?

Just as a small illustration, if people studied how Nehru behaved with Netaji Bose before his reported death, or with Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad after independence, or in respect of all these three leaders after their death, they would be shocked beyond belief at Nehru's behaviour!

Even the current Modi's government is not declassifying files and documents related to Netaji Subhas's death, on flimsy excuses, like those of the Congress governments. The most likely real reason is that it would totally expose Nehru, and in the process, other revered leaders too!

Apart from dragging its feet in instituting an enquiry into Netaji’s death, manipulating the enquiry report, being hostile to INA, and not recognising Netaji for Bharat Ratna, Nehru’s Government had been so hostile that in 1947 it refused to put up Netaji Subhas's portrait in the Parliament House. That's nice and cultured person for you.

When Sardar died in Mumbai, Nehru, who himself attended the funeral, advised the then President, Rajendra Prasad, to not attend the funeral—the reason given by him was that as per the protocol, President need not attend funerals of ministers! So he treated Sardar Patel as a mere minister—what arrogance! A disgraceful attitude, particularly  when Sardar Patel had so selflessly supported him in the interest of the nation, even though Nehru had usurped the PM’s post from him most undemocratically. Writes Stanley Wolpert in his book, Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny, “Gandhi’s death reunited Nehru and Patel. Their reconciliation not only saved Congress and India’s central government from collapse, but it kept Nehru in power. Without the Sardar’s strength and support Nehru might have broken down or been forced out of high office. Vallabhbhai ran India’s administration for the next two years [before his death] while Nehru indulged mostly in foreign affairs and high Himalayan adventures.” That is what Sardar got for all he did for Nehru. But, of course, Rajendra Prasad went. Sardar was not just the Deputy PM, but was Rajendra Prasad's colleague of many, many years in the Independence Struggle.

Another example is of Rajendra Prasad, about whom Gandhi had himself said that his contribution to freedom struggle was second to none. As per India from Curzon to Nehru & After by Durga Das, when Rajendra Prasad was ill and it was suspected that he might not survive, Nehru was reported to have deputed Lal Bahadur Shastri, his trusted lieutenant, to search a place of funeral as far away as possible from that of Gandhi! However, Rajendra Prasad survived. When he died, and his funeral was held in Patna, Nehru did not attend, saying that he was busy with election campaign fund collection in Gujarat! That time Nehru had advised Dr Radhakrishnan, then President, “I do not see any reason for you to go.” Dr Radhakrishnan had replied: “No, I think I must go and attend the funeral. That respect is due to him and must be paid. I think you should give up your tour and come with me.” But, Nehru stuck to his programme. Nehru did not attend Ambedkar’s funeral either.

This is from the foreword of S Nijalingappa to the book, Inside Story of Sardar Patel—The Diary of Maniben Patel: 1936-50: “Strangely, however, while the collected works of many other leaders [notably, Nehru and Gandhi] have been published by the government since Independence, the collected or selected works of two foremost leaders, namely Sardar Patel and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, were never taken up by any official agency. It is for this reason that we constituted the Sardar Patel Society, had it registered, collected funds and published the Collected works of Sardar Patel in fifteen volumes...”

Nehru was also too vain, arrogant and full of hubris...

Nehru had visited the US in 1961. Writes Kuldip Nayar in Beyond the Lines: “Kennedy organised a breakfast meeting between Nehru and top US economists and foreign policy experts. Nehru was late for the meeting and generally monosyllabic in his responses. The breakfast ended in 20 minutes. Some of them reported this to Kennedy who remarked in the presence of his aides that Nehru had ‘lived too long’.”

Says Dalai Lama in his autobiography, Freedom in Exile: “I [Dalai Lama] then explained [to Nehru] that I had not originally intended to seek India’s hospitality [feeling let down by Nehru’s attitude] but that I had wanted to establish my Government at Lhuntse Dzong. Only the news from Lhasa had changed my mind. At this point he [Nehru] became rather irritated. ‘The Indian Government could not have recognised it even if you had,’ he said. I began to get the impression that Nehru thought of me as a young person who needed to be scolded from time to time. During other parts of the conversation he banged the table. ‘How can this be?’ he asked indignantly once or twice. However, I went on in spite of the growing evidence that he could be a bit of a bully...”

There is an episode in Stanley Wolpert’s book, Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny, which is as revealing as it is disturbing. While in England he wrote to his father, Motilal, that his [Jawaharlal’s] chief reason for wishing to go to Oxford was that “Cambridge is becoming too full of Indians!” Such airs from the grandson of the policeman, Gangadhar Nehru!

“Nehru was completely out of touch with the Indian life even of his time, except with the life of the self-segregating Anglicised set of upper India who lived in the so-called Civil Lines,” observed Nirad Chaudhuri in his Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Part-II. Chaudhury says that Nehru had little understanding of the actual India life or culture or of Hinduism; and was a snob, contemptuous of those who spoke English with an Indian accent.

MJ Akbar in Nehru:The Making of India writes about an episode in the pre-independence period of a number of poor villagers from the villages near Allahabad approaching him to verify their actual extremely pathetic condition first-hand. Nehru was not particularly enthusiastic about taking up the mission, particularly in the hot summers. However, “He was touched when he learned that hundreds of ill-clad villagers had built roads for him overnight so that his car could take him to the innermost recesses of rural India; and saw the eagerness with which they physically lifted his car when it got stuck in the soft mud. After all, he was still an Indian sahib in a hat and silk underwear.”


Innovative Counterfactuals

Unable to eulogise Nehru on the basis of the actual facts, many admirers, on the self-serving assumption that a person other than Nehru would not have been able to do what Nehru did, resort to innovative counterfactuals like: “Had it not been for Nehru India would not have remained united and secular. But for Nehru, there would have been no democracy and the citizens would not have enjoyed freedom...”

Does the counterfactual have any substance?

If facts don’t help you, go by presumptions and probabilities!

How about the following counter to the above counterfactual?

What if one advanced an alternate counterfactual and argued that an alternate person (like say Sardar Patel or C Rajagopalachari) as prime minister would have made India more united, more secure, more secular and free from communalism, more democratic and much much more prosperous, and India would have been well on its way to becoming a first-world nation by 1964!

* * * * *

Rajnikant Puranik
September 2, 2015

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. Puranik:

    I agree with most of your analysis, except for the part where you describe Indians as a "first-rate people." Such hubris is at the root of the Hindu's failure to behave respectably and responsibly.

    The truth is that Indians are a people who are slow to learn anything and even slower to forget something. They prefer to have their thinking done for them by others. Instead, they wallow in huge lies like "India is a peace-loving nation" or "Hindus are the cleanest people on Earth."

    While being highly individualistic to the point of being unable to think beyond their castes and having no sense of community or nation, they are also paradoxically desperate to be controlled by despots. They do not value self-discipline but seek to control all those around them.

    For the Hindu, he is always right, and it is "My way or the highway." Those with connections and the ability to bend rules for unwarranted benefits and those who get away with public embezzlement are the objects of veneration, rather than those who play by the rules and pay their taxes.

    How else can you explain the fact that the wretched Nehru family can still legitimately claim to be a center of power in this benighted land, despite the costly blunders, moral deficiency, intellectual bankruptcy, and uninspiring leadership of all if its representatives?

    The old saying "Yatha raja thatha praja" is actually wrong in today's India. Instead, it should be "Yatha praja, thatha raja," because being a rotten people, Hindus are unable to vote anybody with redeeming features into power. Nobody puts a gun to anybody's head at the time of elections. Yet, we have the spectacle of looters, caste warlords, and hypocrites repeatedly coming into power on the basis of hooch and a few hundred rupees or state-sponsored gifts like mixer grinders, cycles, and laptops.

    Hindus deserve what they get.

    Thank you.