The best and noblest gifts of humanity cannot be the monopoly of a particular race or country; its scope may not be limited nor may it be regarded as the miser’s hoard buried underground.
When Nehru became the President of the Congress for the third time in 1937, Modern Review, a Calcutta based magazine published an article, written by a ‘Chanakya’, which criticized the then Congress President. It described Nehru as someone having “all the makings of a dictator in him — vast popularity, a strong will directed to a well-defined purpose, energy, pride, organisational capacity, ability, hardness, and, with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and a certain contempt for the weak and the inefficient.” How often do you see the existence of a fearless political writer exposing the flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses of a national leader in the ‘2021 India? Nehru became the Prime Minister in 1947. The scepticism, doubts and the intuitions Chanakya put forward gradually proved wrong by Nehru. Later, it was revealed by Nehru himself that Chanakya was none but him. Perhaps, Nehru’s reflection of his own shortcomings to make a political space more capacious and inclusive.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of life was free from an exclusivist ideology. It was largely influenced by his utmost belief in the fact that we exist because there is a mutual correlation of diverse cultures that complement each other in the country. Nehru’s view of life was more like a global understanding of what everything is all about. And one could say, without any question, that it was neither inclined to Europe nor Asia alone.
We live in a democratic space and are free to speak out what we feel or believe to be true and false( NB:India’s democracy Index falls to 53) To play a blame game on Nehruvian legacy and the country’s future is totally acceptable. However, one should never cease to realize the fact that the standards set by Nehru are much more competent and compatible to the country we live in today. He kept the country together amid the horrors that engulfed the country during 1947 and the subsequent communal tensions that had the potential to rip the country apart. By upholding secular ideals and fueling it with the flair of science and modernity, he successfully healed the larger wounds inflicted on the masses by the partition. For Nehru, man was not a simple individual but a crowd of thoughts and ideas.
When watched closely, a melodramatic stain was subtly visible in the personal misfortunes he was put to confront. However, a recurring element of morality never ceased itself from serving the purpose of his life. Democracy can afford two choices to a leader. He is always in a position to reassert his space by staking the whole process only to convince others and most importantly, himself that he is in the driver’s seat. And the next choice is to yield to the institutional needs of the country and submit to the traditions of the country he rules. Choosing the latter is all about keeping up the spirit, faith and responsibility inculcated inside him by the people. To make things work better, he ensured the existence of a strong opposition, thus eliciting the learning and unlearning process. Besides, Nehru was as broad to change, alter or jettison his policies to match the national interest. How often do you expect a Prime Minister to do this? The camaraderie shared between Nehru and cartoonist Krishna Shankar was exceptional and could never be imagined in tandem with the present scenario that exists between press and politics(NB: India’s press freedom index falls to 142). Cartoonist Shankar ruthlessly criticised Nehru in his cartoons despite the mutual admiration that existed between them. And Nehru was altruistic enough to say, ‘Don’t spare me Shankar”.
“The country must conduct itself through political principles, not through religious sentiments.”
Jawaharlal Nehru is not confined to memory and history. He is always out there in the democratic spaces of the country. Wiping out each and every fragment of the Nehruvian legacy is the new Sangh Parivar agenda. For them, Nehru’s spiritual existence is a threat to the Hindu Rashtra they are striving for. Their obsession is quite understandable. The figure of Nehru-a liberal, secular and intellectual leader of the masses-is in extreme contrast with the conservative and communal politics underlined by fascism and autocracy perpetuated by the BJP and RSS. ‘If you can’t compete with Nehru’s greatness, attack and bring him down’- their theory is simple as it is. They will keep trying to do so.
The Nehruvian legacy stands sublime. Even amid the darkest of times, this legacy ignites the sparkles of hope which has the potential to resist tyranny and autocracy we are battling with.