(Brief assessment of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru)
In 1964, India’s first PM who became Prime Minister in 1946 in united India before Partition of 1947, passed away after 18 years as PM, longest period for any PM, except in communist country. Pandit Nehru from 1946 to 1950, as long as Mountbatten was Governor General of British India or even after Indian Independence, was subservient to Lord Mountbatten and till the departure of Mountbatten he was like member of Mountbatten family. This proved to be curse because Mountbatten mischievously had added a clause while accepting, Kashmir’s instrument of accession to India, duly segined by Maharaja Hari Singh, and forwarded to Pandit Nehru by Kashmir’s ‘PM’ Mehar chand Mahajan, whom Jawahar Lal had a fortnight earlier told to get -lost. When he had come with the same instrument of accession, though hundred of princely States sent the similar Instrument Accession which were accepted. In Kashmir’s case, Pandit Nehru received the Instrument of Accession when Sheikh Mohd Abdullah told the PM of India that Pakistani invaders had almost reached the outskirts of Srinagar and on the way they were looting and indiscriminately molesting Hindu, Sikh and Muslim women.
To India’s and Kashmir’s misfortune Kashmir’s instrument of Accession was sent to Mountbatten who had added, as said earlier, an uncalled for and dangerous clause that ‘will of the people of Kashmir’ will be taken afterwards. Jawahar Lal Nehru as India PM could have deleted this clause after discussing with GG but did not or could not use his intelligence, discretion or authority as Prime Minister considering himself the final authority and Mountbatten as titular head. It was only after Mountbatten’s departure that he became real and effective PM with C Rajgopal acharya as titular Governor General for a couple of years till 1952, when Indian parliament became effective under the new Constitution.
It is significant to quote from CF Andrews ‘Great Men of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru writes in another remarkable passage about himself, “I have been a queer mixture of East and West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Perhaps my thoughts and approach to life are more alien to what is called Western than Eastern, but India clings to me as it does to all her children, in unmeasurable ways. I cannot get rid of my past inheritance or my recent acquisition. They are both part of me and though they help me both in the East and West, they west in me a feeling of spiritual loneliness, not only in public activities but life itself. I am stranger and alien in the west. I can not be of it. But my own country also, sometimes. I have an exile feeling.”
Nehru depended on Rajaji’s advice as he regarded Rajaji as his closest friend, guide and associate in the entire hierarchy of congress government as well as congress party.
But it will appear strange that after a year or so Nehru sent Rajaji as chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. A former head of state, first Indian Governor General being shifted out of Delhi to far off Madras was something CR could not stomach. Soon he left the congress party and Nehru and found his though short live Sawtantera Party.
That was not all Dr. Rajendra Prasad the first elected President of Indian Republic under new constitution was not given the respect due to the Head of Democratic Republic though Dr. Rajendra Prasad was orthodox Hindu and Pandit Nehru a progressive Indian, not much of a Hindu. Their differences come to limelight when Dr. Prasad opposed the Hindu Code Bill sponsored by Dr. Ambedkar, the then law Minister and Pandit Nehru supported the Hindu Code Bill even saying that in getting the Hindu code Bill passed involved his prestige. But because of opposition from vast majority of Hindus who were orthodox and were led by RSS, the bill could not to be passed in the constituent Assembly. As a result Dr. Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet.
As Nehru had even opposed the election of Dr. Rajendra Prasad as President of India their differences increased to somewhat dislike for each other. With the demise of Sardar Patel in 1950 December, Nehru felt free and independent of any restraint, direct or indirect, from any other congress leaders in Party or Government as Sardar Patel was the only the leader who had large following in congress though he was Home Minister and Minister of states. So long as Patel was alive Nehru was virtually reduced in status, though a PM, as Minister of External Affairs with virtually no interference or advice in connection with integration of princely status and more particularly Police Action in Hyderabad.
Guha’s remarks on the President of India’s visit to Somnath Temple, which had been destroyed many times by the Mughal invaders and rulers, show the extent of differences amount of disrespect that Nehru had now cultivated against Dr. Rajendra Prased: “when the President of India chose to dignify temples consecration with his presence, Nehru was appalled. He wrote to Prasad not to participate in the ‘spectacular opening of the Somenath temple (which) unfortunately had a number of implications’. But Prasad disregarded the advice and went to Somnath. Although he was a Hindu, said Prasad at Somnath. ‘I respect all religions and on occasions visit a church, a morque, a dargah and a gurudwara’.
Like Rajaji who was sent to Madras as CM uncrumoniously so Dr. Rajendra Prasad was not given second term as President and not provided a befitting residence after vacating Rastrapati Bhawan, had to leave for Patna without a farewell befitting First President of India.
After that Nehru made his daughter Indra Gandhi Congress President . Her first undemocratic act was to organise mass upsurge against first Comminist government of EMS Nambudripad in Kerala to force him to resign. It is written that after the EMS Govt was dismissed she asked American government through US Ambassador to compensate her party with millions of dollars to fight another election to keep these Communists in Kerala down and out.
Thus Nehru groomed his daughter and had he lived for a few more years he might have given her more responsibility in Party and Government. It is in this light that after Lal Bahadur Shastri’s brief Prime Ministership, she became an obvious choice of congress Party to become Prime Minister. In this way Jawahar Lal Nehru laid the foundation of dynastic rule in centre and in states. This dynastic rule politics has done great harm to India and Indian democracy.
As I have explained earlier Nehru considered himself at least half western in thoughts, words and to an extent in his deeds. That is why he could not adjust with the cent per cent Indians in upbringing and culture like Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel.
Nehru accepted socialism and tried to implement so called Socialist Pattern of Society which in due course degenerated into what was being called ‘Inspector Raj’. Half hearted attempt to implement Marxist Socialism was bound to fail as vast majority did not know about Marxism or socialism. They only knew about Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Ahimsa. Some followed revolutionary philosophy of Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Accordingly Socialist Pattern of Society, instead of improving the lot of farmers and organised and unorganised labouress, made them subservient to Rationing Inspectors and the like. There was no progress in Industry and Agriculture. Rather both Agriculture and Industry deteriorated. Thus India under Nehru’s Socialist Pattern of society instead of moving forward went backward, economically, socially and politically.
Similarly Nehru’s efforts to organise non- aligned nations with Tito of Yugoslavia and Nasser of Egypt and the policy of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai ultimately failed.
In 1962 there was Chinese aggression, which was absolutely unprovoked, into North Eastern border of India called NEFA and ladakh. Chinese troops were advancing and capturing vast areas when Nehru made a statement that I had asked Indian Army “to kick Chinese out” and he proceeded to Ceylon, little realizing the consequences of such an incursion into Indian territory which had never occurred before. Within a fortnight Chinese troops overran entire NEFA and reached the boundary touching Assam. Then Chinese dictated terms of withdrawal of Chinese troops after making hundred of Indian soldiers prisoners.
In Military History of India and South Asia, it is stated as under: “After defeat of India in 1962 at the hand of China and after China dictated the terms of withdrawal from vast areas of NEFA and some areas of Ladakh, Pandit Nehru now decided to approach USA for air cover”. Writing to President John F Kennedy he described the situation as “really desperate” and requested immediate dispatch of 12 squadrons of fighter aircrafts—–for Nehru who had talked so much on non alignment, it was a crushing acceptance of failure.
Though President Kennedy, on the recommendation of US Ambassador in India John Kennedy Galbrith, a renowned Harward Economist who gave twist to USA’s a Free Market Economy, agreed to Nehru request for a financial aid and arms and sanctioned “supply of a million rounds for machine guns, 40,000 land mines and 1,00,000 mortar rounds. Though USA was not in favour of India because of India’s close contacts and relations with USSR, many senators opposed giving military and financial aid to Nehru who was a proclaimed socialist and to a great extent anti-American in opposition to Pakistan who had always been pro American. Senator Russel in particular opposed any sort of assistance to India. His opposition to Kennedy helping India militarily got wide publicity in USA as senator Russel was the chairman of senate Armed Forces Committee.
This was and the humiliating defeat of Indian Army had weakened Nehru’s position not only in USA and rest of world where he was known as champion of non alignment, but also in India and Congress Party itself. As a result decision making had been shifted from Prime Minister’s house to the congress Parliamentary Party. Inspite of hostile criticism by Senetor Russel and many others Kennedy and Galbrith, though upset, continued to give moral support to Nehru and India.
Chinese aggression and defeat of Indian Army was a great and unbearable shock to Pandit Nehru who had treated himself not only undisputed leader of India but of entire non-aligned world. Krishna Menon, Nehru’s favourite Defence Minister had to resign. Jawahar Lal Nehru himself could not bear this shock and in frustration and shame, within two years he scummbed to this unbearable shock and passed away in 1964.
However Nehru made an emotional speech in 15th August 1947 which is considered very touching and is renowned not only in India but throughout the English speaking world. India’s Prime Minister said: at midnight of ushering 15th August and India’s Independence; “At the stroke of midnight hour, when he world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom—-a moment which comes rarely in history when we step out from the old to the new, when as age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed finds utterance”.
There is no doubt that Nehru was one of the renowned leaders of India’s struggle for independence. Few nations have had leaders of such acknowledged intelligence as Jawahar Lal Nehru Dr. Rajendra Prasad, C Rajagopal Acharya —-Jawahar Lal Nehru served three full terms in office, (as Prime Minister) a privilege denied to any other Prime Minister of India or abroad in a democracy.
Thus despite all his shortcomings because of love for Western Culture and not considering Mountbatten as titular Governor General and not being able to take strong action in Kashmir and Hyderabad fovouring his sister Vijay Laxmi Pandit and daughter Indira Gandhi over others Jawahar Lal Nehru was a great and respected leader of India. He was pride of India like Gandhiji and will be remembered for ever. Even Ghandhiji had same shortcomings but these do not mitigate his status in India and the world. So Nehru, too, will be remembered always.