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Updated: November 13, 2012 00:15 IST

The commanding heights of Nehru

Ramachandra Guha
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The deeds and misdeeds of his descendants prevent many in India from fully appreciating the political vision of the country’s first Prime Minister

The most admired human being on the planet may be a one-time boxer named Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. To spend three decades in prison fighting racial oppression, and then guide and oversee the peaceful transition to a multiracial democracy, surely ranks as the greatest personal achievement since the end of the Second World War.

For the capaciousness of his vision and the generosity of his spirit, Nelson Mandela has sometimes been compared to Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, Mandela is both a reconciling figure and a universal figure, admired across the social spectrum in his own land and in other lands too. There are also odd personal details that bind them: Mandela was a friend of Gandhi’s second son Manilal, Mandela and Gandhi were both lawyers, Mandela and Gandhi both lived in Johannesburg, Mandela and Gandhi were both incarcerated in that city’s Fort Prison. This prison now houses South Africa’s Constitutional Court, on whose premises one can find permanent exhibits devoted to the life and example of Mandela and of Gandhi.

Appealing and impressive

Mandela’s comrade Ahmad Kathrada, his fellow prisoner in Robben Island, once asked why he admired Gandhi. Mandela answered: “But Nehru was my hero.” To his biographer Anthony Sampson, Mandela explained his preference as follows: “When a Maharaja tried to stop him he [Nehru] would push him aside. He was that type of man, and we liked him because his conduct indicated how we should treat our own oppressors. Whereas Gandhi had a spirit of steel, but nevertheless it was shown in a very gentle and smooth way, and he would rather suffer in humility than retaliate.”

In the 1940s, Mandela closely read Jawaharlal Nehru’s books, including his autobiography. His speeches often quoted from Nehru’s writings. A phrase that particularly resonated was “there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere,” used by Mandela in his first major political speech, made in September 1953. Decades later, the phrase found its way into Mandela’s autobiography, whose Nehruvian title is “Long Walk to Freedom.”

In 1980, Nelson Mandela was given the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. Since Mandela was in prison, his comrade Oliver Tambo — who had left South Africa to canvass support overseas, while travelling on an Indian passport — came to New Delhi to accept the award on his behalf. “Nelson Mandela’s captors may wish to ponder the fact,” remarked Tambo in his speech, “that Jawaharlal Nehru, who was no stranger to imprisonment and was in no way destroyed by it, served the world community, including the British, far better as a free man than as a political prisoner. Nelson Mandela’s 18 years’ imprisonment has in no way destroyed him, and will not.”

Jawaharlal Nehru appealed to Mandela and Tambo on account of his political views. As a socialist and modernist, Nehru’s ideas were, to these South African radicals, more congenial than Gandhi’s. But there was also a practical reason for their appreciation; the fact that, as Prime Minister of India, Nehru worked tirelessly to arraign the apartheid regime in the court of world opinion. Thus, as Tambo noted in his speech in New Delhi in 1980, “if Mahatma Gandhi started and fought his heroic struggle in South Africa and India, Jawaharlal Nehru was to continue it in Asia, Africa and internationally. In 1946, India broke trade relations with South Africa — the first country to do so. Speaking at the Bandung Conference in April 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru declared: ‘There is nothing more terrible than the infinite tragedy of Africa in the past few hundred years.”’

Shortly after the Bandung Conference, Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Soviet Union. When he spoke at Moscow University, in the audience was a young law student named Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. Decades later, Gorbachev recalled the impact Nehru’s speech made on him. “Obviously, we [students] were still very far from understanding the principles of democracy,” he wrote in his memoirs: “Yet, the simplified black-and-white picture of the world as presented by our propaganda was even then considered rather sceptically by the students. Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Moscow in June 1955 was an unexpected stimulus for me in this respect. … This amazing man, his noble bearing, keen eyes and warm and disarming smile, made a deep impression on me.”

Thirty years after hearing Nehru speak in Moscow, Gorbachev helped bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War while permitting a transition to democracy in Eastern Europe. Unlike Soviet rulers in 1956, 1968 and 1979, he did not send troops into Soviet satellites whose people wanted an end to Stalinist one-party regimes. It appears the early exposure to Jawaharlal Nehru played at least some part in the reformist and reconciling politics of the mature Gorbachev.

I quote these appreciations for three reasons: because they are little-known, because Mandela and Gorbachev are both considerable figures, and because their admiration runs counter to the widespread disapprobation of Nehru among large sections of India’s youth, middle-class, and intelligentsia.

Turning anti-Nehruvian

Greatly admired within India during his lifetime, Nehru witnessed a precipitous fall in his reputation after his death. This accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, when his ideas on the economy, on foreign affairs, and on social harmony all came under sharp attack. There was a vigorous campaign to free entrepreneurs from all forms of state control and regulation; a major, countrywide movement to redefine Indian secularism by making it more “Hindu” in theory and practice; and a clamour from the media and business elite to abandon India’s non-alignment in favour of an ever closer relationship with the United States.

India has experimented now with 20 years of anti-Nehruvian policies in economics, social affairs, and foreign policy. These radical shifts have shown mixed results. Creative capitalism is being increasingly subordinated to crony capitalism; aggressive Hindutva has led to horrific riots and the loss of many lives; and the United States has not shown itself to be as willing to accommodate India’s interests as our votaries of a special relationship had hoped.

His ideas remain relevant

Among reflective Indians, there is a sense that these decades of Nehru-bashing have been somewhat counterproductive. It is true that Nehru was excessively suspicious of entrepreneurs, yet some form of state regulation is still required in a complex and unequal society. His ideas of religious and linguistic pluralism remain entirely relevant, or else India would become a Hindu Pakistan. And it suits India’s interests to have good relations with all major powers — China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States — rather than hitch its wagon to the U.S. alone.

Nehru’s respect for democratic procedure, his inclusive social vision, and his independent foreign policy all remain relevant. Other aspects of his legacy are more problematic: these include his neglect of primary education, his lack of interest in military matters, and his scepticism of political decentralisation. However, a balanced appreciation of Nehru’s legacy — its positive and its negative aspects — is inhibited by the fact that the ruling Congress Party is controlled so closely by individuals related to him and who claim to speak in his name.

In a recent interview to The Hindu, Nayantara Sahgal pointed out that it was Indira Gandhi who created the “Nehru-Gandhi” dynasty, not her father. This is absolutely true. In a book published in 1960, the editor Frank Moraes (by that time a sharp critic of the Prime Minister) wrote that “there is no question of Nehru’s attempting to create a dynasty of his own; it would be inconsistent with his character and career.” When Nehru died in 1964, another bitter critic, D.F. Karaka, nonetheless praised his resolve “not to indicate any preference with regard to his successor. This, [Nehru] maintained, was the privilege of those who were left behind. He himself was not concerned with that issue.”

Living outside India, insulated in their daily lives from the consequences of the deeds or misdeeds of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi, both Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev could appreciate the sagacity and moral depth of Nehru’s political vision. We who live in India are however inhibited from doing so by the unfortunate accident whereby control of our most powerful political party has passed on to Nehru’s descendants.

(Ramachandra Guha’s new book, Patriots and Partisans, has just been published by Penguin/Allen Lane. E-mail:

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The readers would be interested to read about some thoughts of Nehru
beyond his political ideas.In the year 1931 Mr.Nehru had replied to some
questions of Will Durant raised by him in his famous book,"On the meaning of life" Here is a few extracts from the replies sent by Nehru found in that book.(quote)"...Religion in its limited sense did not appeal to me....Vague ideals possessed me,socialistic and nationalistic,and I grew to desire the freedom of India passionately.
....I have believed in science and logic and reason,and i believe in
them still,but at times they seem to lack something and life seems to be governed by other and stronger forces-instinct or an irresistable drive
towards something-which for the moment does not appear to fit in with science or logic as we know them.(unquote)
These words show he had some insights into the limitations of science,
logic and of course politics against some strong powers beyond humans.

from:  seshachalam gopalakrishnan
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 14:37 IST

True that there is a lot of Nehru bashing these days. But then its
partly due to greater awareness among the public on the equally great
contributions of leaders like Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the like whose
deeds were sidelined by modern day historians of India who crafted a
legacy for Mr.Nehru and his family .

from:  Sunil Nair
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 13:49 IST

Mr. Guha's essay made a wonderful reading. It must be understood and
appreciated that the socialist principles to which Nehru adhered seem
right at that point in time. What worked then may not work today,
that's a different issue altogether.

The concluding part of the essay is very succinct. Mr. Guha has
rightly pointed out that it is his descendants who have thrown
democratic principles to winds and led to spawning of dynastic
politics in the country. Unfortunately, Pt. Nehru's quest for building
a nation of scientific temperament, democratic governance and strong
institutions has been squandered by his own family.

from:  Aashish A.
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 12:51 IST

A very informative extract. Thanks!

Ref to Indira's Congres Presidentship, and dismissal of Kerala's communist government, I would like to pont out that:

-Nehru was a democrat and wouldn't VETO the party's decision (you could,of course blame the sychophancy of Indians for it.

- He didn't like the decision but wouln't block her daughter's ambition - he WAS a democrat in personal matters too.

- The PARTY's/ Indira's decision was power-play driven - that is purely politically motivated; given the political framework he did not veto the decision - wrong? Yes! he should have put his foot down - that's OUR opinion. He thought otherwise.

We, lesser men, cannot reach Nehruvian heights (he was a most respected intellectual of his time- we can only try to throw mud at his name, and a campaign led by the Hindutva crowd is being run in order to undermine the progressive secular intellectuals and social workers in certain parties' political interests.
We readers should be critical, not cynical

from:  prem mathur
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 11:46 IST

I acknowledge that Mr. Mandela and Mr. Gorbachev are really great
people. However, just because these esteemed gentlemen have spoken
greatly of Nehru, it does not mean that they were heavily influenced by
him. Nor does it mean that they know Nehru in and out in order to make
an objective assessment of him and derive their ideals from him. It is a
mark of great men to pay tribute to others. One should not read too much
into this.

from:  Kalyan
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 11:26 IST

No doubt Nehru had done good work like industrialization etc., but his greed for power and self centered attitude set the tone of Indian politics of today, all the good work of Gandhi and Sardar in this direction has been washed by this single attitude. I know it is easy to criticize past events and people but a more democratic man in that chair would have done better for present India. As pointed out rightly, bringing in Indira (Gandhi) had done immense damage to the country, personally I admire her courage though. Let us be courageous to say spade a spade.

from:  Murthy A S
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 07:44 IST

Nehru laid the foundation of capitalist growth at a critical time and saved the country for it and lulled the Indian communists/socialist at the same time by snatching their slogans.Indian capitalist class was the most fortunate class to have such an intelligent leadership. After consolidation with Nehruian socialism this class passed on to PPP model of capitalist development after 1991 on the strength which Nehru had provided it. In fact there was nothing socialism/communism in Nehru; he was buiding capitalism on a solid basis

from:  KRam
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 07:43 IST

My doubt: in spite of persistent encouragement, is the performance of the private sector
better than that of the Govt. undertakings? Has it proved its superiority?

from:  Venkatachalam
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 04:51 IST

A person should be evaluated over his whole life time activities. Nehru got the biggest break in his life at young age, to become the congress president, because of his father Motilal Nehru, who was friendly with Mahatma Gandhi. During the independence struggle when INA attacked British troop under the leadership of Netaji at Kohima Imphal, Nehru proclaimed that he was going to fight the INA and would not allow them to set foot in India . He was one of the prime reason the country was partitioned in 1947 as he was almost sixty years old at that time and did not want to wait to become the ruler of the country. In 1947 when Pakistani soldiers invaded Kashmir, he ignored the advice of Patel and maintained status quo and also involved UN in the process. We are still paying for this folly. He was the first Asian leader who recognized Chinese communist rule as legitimate and got recognized China as a member of UN. He meekly surrendered the sovereignty of Tibet and accepted Chinese dctum that Tibet is a part of china.

from:  Kumar Mondol
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 03:22 IST

It was good to read an article about Pandit Nehru.There was a real chance for him to have developed an Indian administration free of corruption .We will never hear about the many members of the IAS/ICS who disagreed with the Nehru family.The systematic decay of public institutions can be traced back to Panditjis yes men.Perhaps as one veteran freedom fighter observed-the Congress party should be disbanded now that we have won our independence -may have allowed the development of a democratic and cleaner India.In India we lionize these paper heroes and pay scant regard to anyone who is moral and honest.Jai hind

from:  Rajiv
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 01:46 IST

I think it is about time we as a nation move on from being enthralled with Nehru 'greatness'. He and his family got more than enough rewards and adulation (verging on being treated as a demigod) to continue this fervor any longer. I would like to read some honest and credible critique of Nehru performance as the first PM of India who ruled unchallenged as long as he lived on.

from:  Joyjit Dutta
Posted on: Nov 15, 2012 at 00:33 IST

If one decides to talk good about someone, he will neglect any bad about him. The same is done here by Mr. Guha.

from:  Vishal Kale
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 20:47 IST

Dear Sir,
"aggressive Hindutva has led to horrific riots and the loss of many
lives", by writing this are you trying to say that you are secular
(not religious). Let me tell you one thing. Sir,
INDIA can not be governed by Hindutatva or Islamist opinion. India is
far greater than your intellect's understanding. Secular Nehru's
political ambitions, led to India's Partition

from:  suryakant
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 19:28 IST

There is no doubt that Jawaharlal Nehru was the single most towering
figure in India between 1947 and 1964. In a world where Western
hypocrisy ruled, he stood firmly against both fascism and apartheid.
His success in nation-building is evident when we consider that almost
a half-century after his death, with so many of "his promises still to
be kept", we still have an Indian state surviving despite the almost
intractable problems faced by India when India, Pakistan and 550 plus
Princely States were created in the wake of the unplanned and hasty
withdrawal of 1947.

from:  G Krishnamurthy
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 18:55 IST

Panditji was Tall Man amongst many pigmies.He did take India to
International platform.His Five year plan modelled in the Russian
Industrial Programme(much criticised by every one)Laid the Foundation for the Indian Industrial Growth.The hold back by his Govt.of allowing foreign companies in India PAID VERY well that India DID develop many industries and the CSIR did develop many products and processes indegenously.Hë had two "Waterloos"in his life time.One was Capitulation to the seggregationists who SECURED the Linguistic Division of India-NEGATING EVERYTHING the Sardar DID to UNIFY INDIA.The other one was the "Panchsheel and Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai"The desth of The Ïron Man"left him without a Strong and clear headed crutch and had to depend on so many "Court Jesters". The value of Jawaharlal Nehru IS HAMMERED ON US EVERY SECOND due to the Commissions and Omissions of the current Political Leadership

from:  ajith kumar
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 18:06 IST

Indira Gandhi became the Congress President during the lifetime of Nehru. If Guha is correct in his assessment of Nehru, then Nehru should not have let Indira get the coveted post in the party organisation. I am surprised he has no explanation for this in this essay. Secondly, Nehru dismissed the E.M.S.Namboodripad Government in Kerala without a convincing Constitutional ground. So much for his love for democracy, which has earned praise from Mandela and Gorbachev!

from:  V.Venkatesan
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 17:37 IST

@ Baikadi Suryanarayana Rao: You cannot possibly deny that in Congress
there is no shadow of inner party democracy. It's a solely owned by decedents of Nehru. It is by their arbitrary dictates leaders appointed and disposed of. None in the party can be critical even constructively and be safe.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 16:51 IST

The article by well known historian Ramachandra Guha aptly
highlighted the heights of Nehru.In the domestic front his secular
credentials, by even suggesting the then President Rajendra Prasad not
to attend the opening ceremony of renovated Somnath temple,a project
initiated by Vallabhai Patel clearly shows his secular principle what
he wanted to achieve in public life.Also,the democratic structure what
the congress enjoyed during his time is worth to mention unlike in
later years which became purely central authoritarian party taking off
respect for regional leaders in public life which became the very
beginning of regional satellites(parties).

In foreign affairs ,there is no doubt to say that there
was no contemporary so well versed with international political
affairs and relations which made him to keep Foreign affairs portfolio
with himself and his Asian Regional Conference of March-1947 in
Delhi to bring Asian leaders on to a single platform to focus "Asia
for Asians" ,no doubt explains his true vision for his country& Asian

But unfortunately today his successors are more
remembered than him even by his own party , but it is true that it is
Nehruvian charm & vision which laid the very foundation of this
Independent India.

from:  HAVISH
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 16:29 IST

As a critical admirer of Savarkar, I must admit that Nehru was a first class institution builder and he deserves to be admired for that. But that must not blind us to his many failings. A single reading of V. Shankar's, "My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel" will be very useful in indicating our first PM's many limitations. The view that whatever standards a minority may follow, the majority must strictly abide by secularism - attributed to Nehru - has caused the downfall of the idea of Secularism in India. For Secularism is also a very jealous God and eeverybody - majority or minority - must follow that God. I believe Nehru never really understood this very first basic tenet of Secularism.

from:  Rohit M. Dhakras
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 16:15 IST

Nothing remains permanent, neither Nehruvian socialism nor liberal
capitalism. Ramchandra Guha is a great scholar but flexibility as needed
by people should be accepted.

from:  Pramod Mishra
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 16:14 IST

Man needs not to be judged from one perspective only as we all do when
talking about Mr Nehru. May be because of his earlier stance on
Kashmir, we tend to blame him and curse him but his contribution could
not be forgotten . Today it seems to have become fashion to criticise Nehru.
Some criticise his economic policy foreign policy and more to Nehru
because of Sonia , Rahul, Indra ..
Nehru policy need to be examined in view of condition that existed
that time. Those who criticizes his economic policy , please go back
in History and read about India's economic condition and suggest some
better way which he should have opted for. China's invasion is
considered as fallout of his foreign policy. True, but was he a one
man show that time who controlled all from defense, industry, foreign,
home and others. Putting the whole onus of China's attack on Nehru and
his policy does not make any sense. It was a failure of Govt . Nehru
as leader of Govt was responsible but not as himself.

from:  pawan
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 16:13 IST

I once read in a magazine that Pakistan, during the Sixties, used to have broad, wide roads while India at the same time used to have only untarred roads. Pakistan also had a higher standard of living than ours.

I asked my father - who used to know some of the leaders - why our roads are bad and why no one paid attention to developing our infrastructure.

My father said, "According to Nehru, laying good roads mean we are pandering to the whims of the rich. Because, only rich people owned cars. Big, wide roads benefited only the rich and not the poor people.Poor people don't travel much and they need food and not infrastructure. So, laying roads across India became low priority for the rulers.It has been so ever since then !"

from:  Ganesh
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 16:13 IST

Simply putting it as - "The lack of interest in military activities" does not permit letting the enemy kill and torture your very own people that too at night in less than zero degree centigrade. Opinions suit best only when raised unbiased and neutrally. Please refer to the texts like 'Himalayan Blunder' for further details. Just to be clear, I am not at all criticizing his great deeds, my motive here is just to let readers know more about certain other issues that are also the highlights of Nehru's tenure as India's PM...

from:  Prashant Marwaha
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 15:33 IST

@kammusingh: “No Indian trader was interested in going in for the basic
Industrial needs of the nation then.” Nothing was farther from the
truth. The jealous guardians of Nehruvian Socialism always considered
private undertakings making profit was immoral. Business climate was so
hostile that denied opportunity in India, Birla was forced to go to
Indonesia to invest in polyester production and Bajaj was threatened
with incarceration for producing more scooters than permitted during
the dark days of quota permit raj. Medha Kudaisya's fine book, The Life
and Times of G.D.Birla describes in some detail how Birla moved with
strategic foresight into basic industries after Independence, and the
heartbreaking episode concerning the rejection of his Durgapur steel
plant after so much work had gone into it. Instead we are saddled with
the unmanageable public sector company, Sail, which continues to
struggle and keeps guzzling public money. There is no doubt Nehru’s
infatuation with socialistic pattern based on Soviet system had caused
enormous set back to the economy of India. Starting with Air India
majority of PSU continue to parasitic blood sucking of scare resources
ensuring India continue to top the world in poverty and corruption.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 14:17 IST

The author is very much true when I observe among this generation of Indians the growing religious fanaticism in making India a more hindu pakistan. It is also ironical that this decay in all these three domains - economics, foreign policy and social awareness has come from his own party men and family. Indira & Rajiv started the eradication of social awareness and was well carried forward by the gullible Narasmiha Rao who threw all norms of democracy to wind during his tenure as P.M. And the leftovers in economics and foreign policy was annihilated by the worst primeminister since Independence - Manmohan Singh with his conspirators in Montek Singh Ahluwalia, P.Chidhambaram headed by Nehru family's Sonia. Hats off to these men for their courage and conviction in insulting Nehru and putting an end to genuine forms of democracy, political probity, secularism, socialism et al.

from:  M.S.Chagla
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 14:17 IST

The status of Nehru may have diminished because of the Hindu right-wing in combination with the propaganda of the business class. However, i hardly think their opinions are relevant to the serious thinker. Irrespective of his descendants,Nehru remains one of our greatest leaders.

from:  Shourav
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 13:20 IST

Agree with the fact that Mr. Nehru didn't give any preference to have a successor from his family line, that said, it's disappointing see Mr. Nehru being put on the pedestal as a role model and a great man without going into all facts. A statesman must have complete interest in the military of the nation to safeguard its territory, subjects, and interests, at the same time thinking in futuristic terms, Mr. Nehru is guilty of overlooking both, his view of governance in all areas is purely bad policy.

A lot of red-tape and corruption you see nowadays overarching-ly goes back to this prime minister who propounded it. Had Sardar Patel become the first prime minister of India, would have served a lot better the whole nations interest, one must opine.

from:  Archy
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 11:40 IST

what is an opinion piece if The Hindu would not even allow comments that are critical to the article. No pointing reading the Newspaper here.

from:  krishna
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 10:58 IST

Nehru, when he talked about the commanding heights of the Economy, he was facing the reality that existed in India at that time. No Indian trader was interested in going in for the basic Industrial needs of the nation then. Who would put up Steel plants? who would put Fertilizer factories at that time? The state had to do it, Nehru had the vision to go ahead by all means at his disposal.

from:  kammusingh
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 10:37 IST

Nehru did not die in 1964. He continued to live on through his capacious vision of a self-reliant, democratic socialist republic of India. But the members of his own family and party have been holding personal interests above country's.

from:  VMN Sharma
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 10:07 IST

What is democracy if it can't provide majority rights, What is democracy if it can't safe gaurd majority, its family safety & respect, What is democracy and its value if it subjudicate majority. Democracy is rule of the will of benovalance of majority.

from:  Martin Kurian Koothappallil
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 09:08 IST

Very cogently written article. Lately, it has become a fashion to
criticize Nehru without any grasp of his extraordinary abilities in
forging a liberal, modern and democratic state during a period that
witnessed the vivisection of the land into two countries, the influx
of millions of refugees, and steering the country towards a
functioning democratic state. His moral and ethical standing and
leadership kept the country united and his knowledge of history and
Indian ethos helped him to fashion a unique foreign policy. Mr. Guha
as a historian has marshalled these facts by bringing to fore how the
lives, thoughts, and achievements of some of the great personalities
of this age were influenced by Nehru. Nehru also brought scientific
temper to our nation and laid the foundation for scientific and
research institutions. His writings and speeches reveal his firm
conviction of democratic governance.

from:  E.R. Vedamuthu
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 07:40 IST

Mahatmaji called Panditji the jewel of India. Foreign leaders like Nelson Mandela and
Gorbachev respected him for his fact , he can be considered as the architect
Of India, as he laid the foundation for development of a country in the field of education
Through IIIM's, for industries through giant steel projects, and in agriculture through
Construction of dams. This helped India to grow further, when we shifted from the planned
Economy to the global economy. He loved India and the Indian nation and did not even
Evince interest to name his successor. He respected the opposition , and did not attempt
At dictatorship, when the Indian national congress was in a very comfortable position at
The center and in the states. There was erosion in values at the political level, and after
His demise, and ever thereafter, the leadership took a different path, though the masses
Still remember him. He was great. The writer has objectively analyzed him, as a great

from:  C.p.Chandra das
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 05:52 IST

Now that nearly fifty years have elapsed since the end of Nehru era. In 1964,his positive role
in the emergence of the new India would have passed on to the pages of History.But,with the
Congress party's continued dependence on his descendents both for leadership and for
iconic life- breath,'Nehru' is still in contemporary politics.The result: There is no genuine
assessment of his immense contribution to and in India's nascent years nor an objective
critique of of his foreign policy or his inclination towards the strong role of the Government on
social,industrial and economic issues.It is somewhat regrettable that his name, on the other
hand,is sullied and bashed for all the current ills, be they in today's highly-rated global
economics or in our equivocal Defence relations with our two close neighbours. Guha's
observation that the three succeeded generations are to be blamed for shadowing his
contributions and for magnifying his missteps is worth an extensive study and debate.

from:  Narayanaswamy Venkataraman
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 04:28 IST

Although born after Nehru era, I can appreciate the good he has done
based on what I've read.Famous people sometimes have auras larger-
than-life in some ways and smaller in others, thats OK.He was a first
rate writer, speaker, manager etc (remember Nayantara Sehgal quoting
him about India-"For we are very old and trackless centuries whisper
in our ears".)Was he as good at leading?I know he risked his life for
freedom. Question: did he remain essentially the same person or did he
change after Independence? My friends and I used to, rightly or
wrongly, but jokingly say you are "Gandhian" if you're comfortable
with all others around you but "Nehruvian" if you're most comfortable
with those who are either too senior or too junior to you: ie equals
are seen as competitors. Also, I know Nehru worked very hard as PM,
but can we unconditionally say it is all for the nation? A foreign
historian gently said that it would have been good if Nehru had
voluntarily passed on the baton. And so on ...

from:  Madhusudan
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 00:55 IST

The writer is a Nehruvian romantic... and he has made me fall in love
with Nehruvianism too...quoting(not verbatim) from his own book - people
from all walks of life today criticize Nehru, He must have done
something right!....and to put it in a more cliched manner, maybe he
wasn't the hero India deserved, but he was the one India needed!

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 at 00:44 IST

While Nelson Mandela ruled like an inert and ineffective ruler over South Africa after getting it its independence and the reasons for it are quiet obvious, Pundit Nehru was a real democratic ruler the like of which is never seen in history of democracy. He not only laid strong industrial and agricultural base for development of India but also was the bulwark to maintain International peace at a time when world was divided into two dangerous warring camps. His death sparked the beginning of the confrontations in the world from first Indo Pak War to Arab Israeli war, and these wars continue to this day.

from:  Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 23:47 IST

Nehru like any other historical figure is not above critical analysis.Unlike the Mahatma he who embraced his Hinduisimn and saw n reason to be apologetic about being a Hindu,Nehru and his modern day acolytes,victims of both Macaulay and centuries of Hindu bashing by succesive ruling dispensions,developed what the jews a people very similiar in outlook and history,developed,a self hating complex.The self hating Jew's,counterpart the Nehruvian self denying Hindu led to the great paradox.While it is empirically true that secularisimn only took root in independant India ue to the vast majority of her people being Hindu by culture.The Nehruvian concept of India is based on denying this very fact,that India is secular,because India is Hindu.

from:  parthosarothy k mukherji
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 23:36 IST

Nehru being the founding father of this country by and large has been the most influential political leader of this country . It was Nehru that laid the seeds of socialism and license raj an economic phenomenon that was exploited by congressmen to the hilt . should we not blame Nehru and his ideological successors for the 1991 crisis.

The single biggest failure of Indian polity is it's failure to create an institution which will act independent of executive control and yet be held responsible to the parliament . Whom should be blamed for the lack of constitutional enforcement of internal democracy , the lack of independent institutions to investigate and prosecute criminals and the corrupt . Shouldn't the most influential founding father be blamed for that ?

The corruption , the inefficiency , the lack of sense of priority every major issue of state the congress party and Nehru got it wrong . For me Nehru is the worst prime minister this country has ever had

from:  Ravi kiran
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 23:36 IST

Its not for nothing that Rajeev Gandhi once remarked -' I am the unworthy grandson of a great greatfather.'

from:  Avishek Deb
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 23:35 IST

It is always a cerebral delight to read the articles of Mr. Guha. The
intellectual depth and the extreme erudition on the part of the author
trickles down the reader and makes him/her to feel how much blessed one
must be to have those great leaders.

This article made my day. Happy Birthday chacha!! :)

from:  Sumirti
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 23:08 IST

A sane voice amidst a cacophony of views we hear on the telly. Yes, Nehru was a colossus. Unfortunately he was accompanied by several time servers the notable exceptions being Krishna Menon and Rafi Ahmad Kidwai. Nehru was also too much influenced by the socialism which he enforced in India single-handedly. Socialism resulted in corruption at all levels; but kicking it out has lead to crony capitalism. Does that imply that Indians are basically corrupt? I shudder to guess an answer. However, I am optimistic that India will find a way out of the mess that it is in. I do believe that in the next ten to twenty years, the religious bigots will lose their power and the common man will raise his voice strongly and effectively to fight and at least minimise corruption.

Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 22:44 IST

A great and timely article about one of the most overlooked, yet significant men of the 20th century.

from:  John Adams
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 22:36 IST

Nehrus role immediately after independence, followed by
partition were too many and he stood like a rock to make it more
orderly. There were many structural frame work he had to design and
lead a team of ministers who are also new to the job.To the country
with proper policies was a difficult job which he did commendably.Five
decades hence which water has flown under the bridge, things has to
change along with changes taking place globally.Now it is easy to
criticise him for his policies. In any case the foundation of new india
was laid by him and he deserves all praise from the nation. he could do
this with much ease as he was holding his post with a commanding

from:  E.Sivasankaran
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 22:11 IST

In India - there is a small group, those who are die hard Gandhi/Nehru
fans, and for them they could do no wrong, and would launch a vigorous
defense of any of the policies or decisions.

Gandhiji, did not want to enter politics, and wanted Congress to be
disbanded after gaining freedom, yet he wanted Nehru (over Sardar
Patel)to become PM, just because he was educated in UK, for no other
reason. Nehru, in spite of all his lofty ideals, was a weak man

from:  Suparag Sethu
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 21:35 IST

>>>India has experimented now with 20 years of anti-Nehruvian policies
in economics, social affairs, and foreign policy. These radical shifts
have shown mixed results. Creative capitalism is being increasingly
subordinated to crony capitalism;>>.

Sorry you are more sympathetic to Nehru, years of Nehruvian politics
has to license raj - and that is what that is undermining Capitalism.
Nehru's policies have all failed (except one, the IIT must be because
it was left on its own).

from:  Suparag Sethu
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 21:27 IST

I can't speak for others, but certainly in my mind Nehru's stature
has not diminished at all. His socialistic views are indeed
criticised today, but people forget that they do so with the benefit
of hindsight. All men must be judged in the context of their era, and
definitely at that time, socialism, at least on paper, had the most
compelling case of all politico - economic philosophies. It was only
after half a century of practice that communism and socialism
collapsed under it's own weight in Europe that people realised why
such a system would not work. But Nehru did not have the benefit of
this experience and therefore to criticise him on this basis is being
petty.Apart from that, all leaders of that era shone for their
patriotism and level of integrity in public life. I don't think in
today's India, these two word exist in any politicians dictionary.

from:  Bhaskar Bhattacharya
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 20:46 IST

I was once a great supporter of Nehru's congress for its idealism in the face of
strong opposition of the then Swatantra party leader Rajaji & others. I now realise
that what Rajaji was advocating, was a practical way to remove poverty of India by
working on the initiative and enterprise of the Indians to create opportunities for
themselves. Rajaji,s advocacy of teaching the people to fish rather than giving
them fish at that time was not appreciated even by this writer. The Govt.
interference in to many areas of business and commerce results in wasteful
resources and in damaging India. Politicians have developed a vested interest in
the control of economy. What Indira Gandhi did, was against the very principle of
democracy, where the rule of law is supreme for every one including the Rulers.
Now what is ruling India is Power and connection, the very idea of which would
have appalled Nehru. Had he followed Rajaji,s idea India would not have been as
corrupt as it is today.

from:  S RAMESH
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 20:24 IST

liked this assessment - "the unfortunate accident whereby control of our
most powerful political party has passed on to Nehru’s descendants".

Very True

from:  Aditya Parihar
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 19:45 IST

The difference between Pakistan and India ,as they are today , is that we were lucky to have
a leader like Nehru on our side. Whatever his foibles, as all mortals are bound to have, he
was a tower of strength, reason and political wisdom at a time when a fledgling India needed
it most. I totally agree that the so called " dynasty" was not his idea at all.

from:  M.Salahuddin
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 19:13 IST

Well written; unfortunately a section of India's citizens have become
ungrateful lot, anti-Nehru and fanatics though they are benefiting the
hard work and achievements of J.Nehru.

from:  bschandru
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 19:09 IST

Dear Editor,

Nehru, for all his follies, was an institution builder par excellence.
His legacy to current India are the defense and public sector
institutions he built. The defense and civilian labs provided a
wonderful knowledge ecosystem and still provides the Indian IT
industry mature human capital. Bangalore became an IT Center, three
decades after his death, only because of the compelling knowledge
ecosystem he visualized and helped build. The numerous public sector
units helped build an industrial ecosystem that helped the private
sector grow rapidly since 1990s. What stands as an everlasting tribute
to his vision is that his dream institutions are the engines on which
the Indian dream is based on even today. One can't say that of many
decision makers in history.

from:  Narendra KV
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 19:01 IST

Dissolving iron curtain and unshackling of several states tied as soviet
union; breaking Berlin wall and making one Germany again; abandoning
"apartheid" and allowing natural justice to set-in in South Africa. The
great leaders; "Mikhail Gorbachev,Helmut Kohl", and F de Clerk"
achieved this.

from:  mvrangaraajan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 18:44 IST

Excellent analysis by the historian. Our elite and argumentative
middle class seldom understand the challenges Pr.Nehru woke up to face
daily. Extreme poverty, threat of famine, highly divided and unequal
society, lack of nationalist concepts etc do not match upto challenges
faced by our leaders today. In comparison with other third world
countries, India did much better in her formative years to tackle poor
socio-demographic indicators.

Unfortunately, the word-Nehru is increasing becoming a taboo. Hatred
and undeserving humiliation of Pt.Nehru is looming large in public
debate. This disturbing nature of public discourse does not correlate
with growth and development. In my opinion, post 1991, no prime
minister have achieved anything close to what Pt.Nehru did. Public
discourse often does not consider social, political and economic
situations prevailing post 1947. Judging Nehru's action (147-62)
through a lens of this era is utterly foolish. Thanks for a bold

from:  Dr.Himanshu M.
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 18:15 IST

Nehru was a fine orator and a man of some vision but unfortunately not competent
in all aspects of governing. This alone would not have been an issue were he not
willing to cede control of those domains that were not his strength.

Certainly, he deflated communists and communal forces alike by proclaiming India
a secular and socialist country but his real political decisions were not always
based on merit. We cannot ignore the fact that Nehru achieved the great power
that he did primarily because he was Gandhi's favorite.

Nehru might have served India much better in another role, not as PM but maybe
as a President.

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 18:12 IST

Sir,History does not respect pesons or personalities.Only solid work is everlasting.We remember him for the Kashmir problem.the failed diplommacy with China,the reorganisation of states on linguistic basis,to point out only a few,which the author conveniently ignores.his preoccupation with Russia model of economy has its epoch in 1991 when we pledged our gold at London to oversee our precarious foreign reserve.The nonaliganment poliy which we religiously pursued,made us blind to Russias agression of Poland or Zekoslavakia.About the founder of dynasty,Nehru himself appointed Indira Gandhi as congress president in 1958,and few can dispute their role in the overthrow of the comunist government in KERALA.his subsecquent embrace of Muslim leauge,the party responisible for partition of our country.So much for his secularisim.

from:  S ganapathi bhat
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 18:04 IST

Without Nehru who brought peace to minorities and nonhindus, nonhindi speakers,
modernity (yes he had no choice except to accept the help of Soviet Union as the
other powers didn't care about India at that time and was busy with building Europe
and Japan), India woudn't be what it is today (progressive in general, trying to build equality as a mission, scientific, etc)!

from:  meyappan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 17:51 IST

It is not economic liberalization or right wing growth which brought
down Nehru’s towering height. It is internet. Before internet, we have
to relay states or its supportive media for the information. Now we
have new god called internet and it provides all information without
restriction. So do not compare orange with apple. My assumption is
within a decade Gandhi’s philosophy also will be under criticism. In
democracy it is good thing and we have to encourage it. Hero worship
(or making demigod) is not going to do any good to anyone.

from:  arul
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 17:06 IST

1.Nehru was making more speeches(than actions) with high sounding
terminologies that meant nothing like his favourite"socialistic pattern
of scoiety".. which was no where convincing nor easily understood by a
common middleclass moderately educated Indian Citizen
2.Nehru was not the listening type(a requirement of a good leader),
he could have taken a pause to think as to what the others have got
to say than dismiss them doubt there were cynical critics
like Rajaji who never understood what is relevant for development
either......this encouraged more arm chair economists who thrived on
their own theories in mumbo jumbo English which I doubted if the
English Speaking population would have understood..
3.Nehru nor his cronies, bureaucrats ever acknolwedged
scientists/technocrats and their roles ,.It is possible that he never
understood what is a rational solution based on science and

Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 17:00 IST

A very nice article indeed. Nehru realized not only that the walk to freedom is not easy but even harder is preserving it both in the political and economic sense. His insistence on infrastructure building got in the way of quick wealth and brought considerable angst among many who were unrealistic in their belief that political independence will immediately lead to prosperity. His vision of non-alignment (now being compromised terribly and wrongly) is yet another example of his great vision. To realize its importance, all one needs to do is to travel to some countries like Costa Rica and see how little the locals own in their own country and have traded some prosperity for economic servitude to foreign corporations.

from:  V. Ramaswami
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 16:59 IST

As always, an engaging and enlightening op-ed by Dr. Guha. This piece
is a must-read for all those who advocate the sort of historical
revisionism we see in India today regarding the role of Nehru in
shaping India's destiny. As the father of the nation, Gandhi might
have been the single most responsible person in the birth of
independent India; but as the first guardian and leader of the infant
state, Nehru played the most important role in shaping its character
and spirit. As the author says, there are some areas where Nehru's
vision can be faulted, as in the case of attention given to primary
education; but overall it cannot be denied that much of the credit for
India's rise as an important player in the global map has to be
accorded to Nehru. The "deeds and misdeeds of his descendants", as the
author puts it, should not be used as a weapon against the true
architect of modern India.

from:  Mithun
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 16:36 IST

Pandit Nehru as a visionary and a thinker is someone whom we have to
admire. We should remain grateful to him for the IITs and the IIMs. I
personally wish that he had been more shrewd as a statesman. If only
he had given three months time to Gen Thimmayya, instead of taking the
Kashmir issue to the UN, India would have been a much more stable
power in South Asia. Ramachandra Guha talks about Hindutva and I feel
he should mention that Pandit Nehru had invited the RSS to participate
in the 1963 republic day parade to honor its services towards the
Indian army during the 1962 Indo-China war.

from:  Nachiketh
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 16:28 IST

I have read somewhere that Nehru Blackmailed Gandhiji to become PM. He
said he will break the congress party if he is not made the PM and
Gandhiji had to accede to his demands although he wanted S.V. Patel to
be the PM.

from:  aditya
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 16:20 IST

No Disrespect intended... but I have read a few books of Mr Guha and have found you to be the biggest loyalist of Nehru-Gandhi family... He became the PM when several other deserving candidated existed... it was due to him.. that the Indian Army, Indian Economy, Indian Eduaction system sufferred. He was more interested in writing letters than doing any thing good... please refer to wikipedia for more details.... no doubt he was a good man... but we need to judge a person with all the qualities... not just good ones...

from:  shekhar
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 15:59 IST

Great piece....eye opener!

from:  Viren RAMBIRITCH
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 15:26 IST

The merits in Nehru's sagacity and vision notwithstanding, it is debatable whether his "Middle of the road" foreign policy would have made India another 'Pole" in the polarised world. Times change and so has to be the policies of governments and leaders. Though widely popular during his days in kremlin, former soviet President M Gorbachev had to cave in to his opponent Boris Yeltsin. Soviet Union disintegrated in just one succession but what is to be noted is that India remains integral even years after Nehru's era despite the deeds and misdeeds of successive rulers, as claimed by the author.

from:  S Raghavan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 15:19 IST

I work in a Public Sector Bank in a remote village and see people of
different religions carry on with their lives living together. They,
with their poverty and little education, can celebrate and mourn
together while still worshipping their Gods. Who is responsible for
that? Certainly not Nehru!
Mr. Guha should understand that hero-worshipping a politician is
incorrect for a political commentator like him.
Nehru was indeed a good man. But, I refuse to believe that India is is
secular and democratic because of him. India is secular and democratic
because of our constitution and our people. And of course because we
are a Hindu majority nation

from:  nitin
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 15:17 IST

Very interesting and informative article on impact of Nehru on Mandela and Garbachev. However, Nehru lost his aura in younger generation after 1980s mainly due to his errors in foreign policies paticulary for keeping the Kashmir issue hanging by going to UN, allowing China to gobble up Tibet and not teaching China a lesson and instead, learning a lesson or two from China! No one doubts his contribution to modern India in all other fields. As regards dismantling fo the socialist pattern of economy which he built up, it was indeed the need of the hour. However, it was fault of Indira Gandhi and later politicans who did not dismantle it over a period of time in parallel with China since 1980s. Non Alignment too was the need of the hour but we didnot understand the business of statecraft and how to protect national interests before philosphising. Nehru failed miserably in this. But there is no doubt that India would not have been India of today without Nehru guiding us in the intial years.

from:  Surendra Barsode
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 14:40 IST

Another beautiful piece from Guha.


from:  sathya
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 13:36 IST

Jawaharlal Nehru bestowed strong ethical and moral values to Indian
politics .Although pros and cons are part of every human being, we must
not be dejected by falsie far-flung message spread by some people. To
ameliorate the society ethical values, we always have to castigate our
thoughts and to align our vision to the legacy of the great man

from:  Prasannajeet Mohanty
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 12:51 IST


I am not quite sure how you missed his Everest's of failures.

To start with the recent one

National Herald
Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai
Kashmir Policy

from:  Tejaswy
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 12:32 IST

Mr. Guha, i am a fan of your Left-of-the Center, & objective analysis on historical, & political topics, but on this one i will disagree.

from:  Sunit Jang Bahadur
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 12:07 IST

I wonder why Guha is writing about the Cold War at all; is he attributing a slight credit to Nehru. Rest assured, their is absolutely no connection between the two. Mikhail was as impressed by some of the Western leaders, as he was with the East. He was one of the few thinkers in the communist world who was at-the-center, & a pragmatist; no credit to Nehru. Reagans aggressive Russia policy, & the growing US's stature in the world (especially in Europe), & above all Russia's economic teetering to the brink is what led to collapse of communism, et al. It was the geo-political landscape which forced Mikhail's hand at the inevitable conclusion. So please, no credit to Nehru on that one. And Nehru's bashing did not start in the 80's; it was brilliantly evident even as he was forcibly stepping into the PM's shoes. You will be suprised that out of the 14 tenets of leadership we know, Nehru only scores in 3 of them, against Gandhi on all 14. The only global leader to score a 100%.

from:  Sunit Jang Bahadur
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 12:05 IST

nice articles....nehru and gandhi are two great vissionaries of my

from:  dilbagh rai bhatia
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 12:03 IST

There is Thirukkural couplet which describes this aspect aptly."
Thakkaar Thagavilar enbathu avar avar echchataal Unarappadum". The
quality of a person can be ascertained from what they leave behind. In
order to keep the Nehru greatness afloat he has to be delinked from his

from:  mvrangaraajan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 11:43 IST

The younger generations should know Nehru's greatness. Well-timed article. The last
paragraph is most perceptive.

from:  Soundararajan Srinivasa
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 11:13 IST

The same routine talk about the greatness of Nehru is repeated ad nauseam when his economic policies,foreign policies have failed miserably. It seems Guha does not remember that it was Nehru who instated Indira for the post of Congress president even though there were many seniors who were more credible and popular then.

from:  krishna
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 10:49 IST

According to Chambers
dictionary dynasty is succession of kings of the same family. If
Nehrus are to be called a dynasty Indira Gandhi should have succeeded
her father without having to bother about mustering the required
strength in Loksabha. Instead Lal Bahadur Shasthri became India’s
democratically elected PM. Indira chose to serve him as a minister.
After the untimely death of Shasthri Indira became PM with the
blessing of senior Congress leaders like Kamraj and on getting duly
elected by Congress parliamentary party. If as these intellectuals say
India’s ruling arrangement is dynastic succession there was no need
for Indira to call for general elections in 1977 by revoking emergency
rule and on getting defeated need not have handed over power to
janatha Party. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated Jail Singh made
Rajiv the Prime Minister. Immediately there was general election to
the parliament. If rajiv’s appointment was wrong Indian people had the
opportunity to throw him out. Instead he got a massive mandate.
Parties other than Congress also ruled India for many years. A duly
elected Sonia refused to become PM. Much to the disappointment of BJP
and amidst fascinating speculations in the media Rahul has not yet
become the PM as they are deprived of an opportunity to deride the
Nehru family. In sum what we see is whenever any Nehru is defeated it
becomes triumph of Indian democracy and when they win elections it is
dynasty. This is not only hypocrisy but also intellectual dishonesty.

from:  Baikadi Suryanarayana Rao
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 10:31 IST

(1) In case of present family members of the Nehru-Gandhi, one
observation is that their commitment to transparency in their
activities (in both political and personal lives) is not seen. That is
why of late there have been accusations against Robert Vadra and Rahul
Gandhi and these are likely to hurt them as also the Congress parry.
They cannot blame any one else but themselves for such a state of
affairs. (2) Unfortunately, these family members wish to get benefit
of their legacy but are not aware of the responsibility that goes with
their names. (3) The Nehru-Gandhi family members have such an enormous
advantage of having a pan India appeal but in all probability they
would fritter away the advantage in coming years. They are perhaps not
aware as to how Shri Javaharlal Nehru attained such commanding heights
of Nehru or of thoughts on the mixed economy.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 10:19 IST

While I agree with the author's views about Nehru's forward outlook and
Foreign policy, it is a gross extrapolation to examine Nehru's domestic
and economic policies based on Mandela's or Gorbhachev's views. And I am
really surprised to see a historian of repute Ramachandra Guha calling
"Hindu Pakistan", without considering the fact that India has been
pluralistic in its 2000 year history just because of its people and
cultural values and it is highly biased to credit this to any particular
ruler or party.

from:  Sriram
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 09:56 IST

There is no doubt that Cambridge educated Panditji has done commendable work as India's first Prime Minister to the best of his abilities. He was to do tough multi-tasking in dealing with the outgoing British, estranged brother Pakistan and to look after infant democratic India's versatile problems & development. Having witnessed mixed British economy he put his best efforts in building temples of modern India, irrigation projects and Industry which created a lot of employment opportunities. Men around him were people of exemplary conduct & character unlike the present scene. Things were not bad until Rajiv rule but subsequently slowly slipped into disgrace. People are Masters in the circus of democracy and their will & wisdom shall prevail as to whom they want as their Master.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 09:23 IST

An excellent positive read on a person like Nehru who along with Gandhi are somehow losing their grip on the youth today.Most of it is as rightly pointed out because of shortsightedness of his successors.On a note of disagreement I would point out that India can never become a Hindu Pakistan.Her history attests to the fact that India naturally is an accomodating place.Even with the radicalised hindu,the scale of violence India has seen over the years is nothing compared to most other parts of the world.The academic concern though demands caution, not necessarily the need to brand India a possible hindu pakistan.

from:  Abhishek kumar baranwal
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 09:21 IST

Even if one may doubt the relevance of Nehruvian foreign policy in a
unipolar world, none can deny that it was very relevant at the time. He
made sure that India won't be another Pakistan, but a democratic secular
nation ..

from:  Rakesh
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 08:32 IST

Gandhi and Nehru are two different personalities.Gandhi may be good in freedom fighting or as reconciling figure.i do not think he is good at government and politics.on the other hand Nehru is a true politician.he is good at ideas and he is futuristic in thinking.

from:  sharan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 08:23 IST

Pandit Nehru, during his life time was a front rank statesman at the national level. Nelson
Mandela and Gorbachev respected his vision of the world. He was not interested in naming
His successor during his life time and this was acknowledged even by his bitter critics like
Karaka. The fact remains, that he laid the superstructure for the growth of India during his
Lfe time. The IIT's, The IIM,s, The steel projects and the biggest dams including Bhakra
Nangal. He , by the absolute majority in parliament, could have emerged as a dictator, but
HE DID 'NT. And there lies his greatness. The men and women of his generation still
Respect him for his greatness and also the masses in India. He was not particular that his
Family members should rule India, but the masses - not the leaders- still remember him
With gratitude and India still remains the most populous democracy in the world.After
Mahatmaji, Panditji was definitely the greatest mass leader of india.

from:  C.p.Chandra das
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 08:18 IST

Another apologist article, clinging to straws.

Our Indian history is littered with examples of Nehru's incompetence. To top it, he held the PM-ship for 17 years and persisted with the party name as congress even after independence, if these are not telltale signs of dynastic rule then wonder what is. Much of the troubles that India faces today can be directly traced with his pseudo intellectual approach. I think it is high time people remove this tinted vision of reverence and look at the Greats with objectivity, we will be a better nation and not be mere sheeps in this so called democratic setup.

from:  jram
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 08:06 IST

Has the restoration of Nehru and his legacy and, re-labelling of
Nehru-Indira dynasty to Indira-dynasty, if they are required, bugun?

The last half of the last line, "the unfortunate accident whereby
control of our most powerful political party has passed on to Nehru’s
descendants", may become a future topic of analysis for historians,
including how accidental and how beneficial to the party and to the
country it was.

What may be of pressing interest is, what signs are there that the
current party members accept the validity of any part of the above
conclusion and are able/prepared to debate it now?

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 07:51 IST

Ramachandra Guha's eulogy depends mainly on the testimony of others-- Mandela and Gorbachev in particular, for that and other reasons unconvincing. If Nehru were a political theorist like his hero Harold Laski, we may judge him by his ideas alone, but he was also India's most powerful leader for nearly two decades. It is for this he is important and must be judged, not his theories which were already in the air and now appear commonplace.

What is his legacy as a leader? He botched Kashmir, left the Northeast undeveloped (against advice of General Cariappa but listening to missionary Verrier Elwin), withdrew from Tibet against the advise of Sardar Patel, leaving China to fill the vacuum and rejected the seat in the UN Security Council offered to India.

In economics he gave India the Nehruvian rate of growth, derisively called the Hindu rate. But to Guha, Nehru can do no wrong: India before Nehru was al Dahiya-- Land of Darkness to which Nehru brought the first light.

from:  N.S. Rajaram
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 07:34 IST

Nehru was a giant of a man, intellectual, historian, visionary, orator, writer and politician.
When you see the pigmys of today's politics attack him, people of my generation who grew
up during the Nehru period, feel pretty bad. But for him and his visionary leadership, India
would never have been able to continue as a democracy. Probably, China and USSR would
have taken over with the help of their local quislings. It is good to read a nice article placing
Nehru in his proper histocal position.

from:  Antony Kuriakose
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 07:32 IST

Ramachandra Guha is spot on while observing “Nehru’s respect for
democratic procedure, his inclusive social vision, and his independent
foreign policy all remain relevant”. However while talking of his
problematic negative legacy he has over looked to highlight his most
glaring failure which continue to dog the country even today. His
inability to envision and unleash the inherent power of private
entrepreneurship for good of the country and blind prejudice in favour
of Soviet style command control regulated economy has caused the
country great economic strangulation effect. Tragically he was unable
to appreciate the genius of Rajaji who had prophetically envision the
folly of Nehru’s Licence Raj or the Permit Raj which to quote Wiki “
refers to the elaborate licenses, regulations and accompanying red tape
that were required to set up and run businesses in India between 1947
and 1990. The Licence Raj was a result of India's decision to have a
planned economy where all aspects of the economy are controlled by the
state and licences are given to a select few. Up to 80 government
agencies had to be satisfied before private companies could produce
something and, if granted, the government would regulate production”.
This was astounding failure of statesman ship which has put the country
backward by decades.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 07:17 IST

Jawaharlal Nehru was a great man. Without his inclusive and secular vision we would
not have India in one shape as we have today. His long term planning for the
universal betterment of the country is unquestioned. Where would we be without the
IIT's and IISc's which he funded generously. If and only if we had listened to him and
not partitioned our states based on language, we could have been a more inclusive
nation. The current troubles in Andhra Pradesh/Telengana is a good example to
keep in mind!

from:  G Parameswaran
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 07:16 IST

The author has quoted selectively -- Several Congress leaders of that
era, including Sardar Patel have expressed their exasperation on Nehru's
preoccupation of molding Indira as his successor.One is bewildered that
on the fiftieth anniversary of the India-China war, articles are
sprouting everywhere projecting the "greatness" of Nehru. Even his
failures are interpreted as his genius.

from:  Jay Ravi
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 07:11 IST

I agree with Ramachandra Guha's assessment of Nehru. He is not to blame for the horrific
Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has taken India close to ruin. However, Guha overstates the case
against Hindutva to buttress his arguments when he says that Hindutva has caused horrific
riots. Which riot is he talking about? The worst "riots" in India were the 1984 riots, followed
by Nellie, then Mumbai in 1993 and then the Gujarat riots of 2002. Which of them had
aggressive Hindutva as the cause? Even the 2002 riots had the Godhra burnings as the
cause, a fact that all "secularists" forget

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 07:03 IST

Guha's article does bear the imprint of a great historian.Coinage of neo-logism HinduPakistan adds to vocabulary of poltics.God save us,only one Pakistan on the face of globe is sufficient.

from:  beant singh bedi
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 06:49 IST

The The dynasty starts even before Nehru.Motilal Nehru was the first
one.Indira Gandhi was inducted into Congress by Nehru.Nehru dismissed
EMS Munboodiribad Govt on the advice of Indira Gandhi.Do not conceal

from:  Dr.R.P.Rajan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 06:31 IST

Another politician who was inspired by Nehru was President John F. Kennedy. We had Nehru to lead India for 17 years, while Pakistan had Jinnah. The wide disparity between the two countries tell us who was better.

from:  Pramod Patil
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 05:54 IST

Gorbachev did not have an iron fist to stop the independence of the slavic states, as he himself was a weak leader and his position in the party was being challenged by a lot of his comrades. Mr Guha's opinion that Nehru in someway infulenced Gorbachev's actions are very far fetched.
Nehru did not groom a successor in the party or the Government which led to the dynastic rule. He did not create the 'Nehru-Gandhi' dynasty but he facilitated it to a great extent. Lal Bahadur Shastri once replied without batting an eyelid 'Of course his daughter', when asked who will succeed Nehru.
Nehru's vision of an utopian society with all the countries living in harmony and all relegions respecting others remains what it is - Utopian. His own daughter threw his independent foreign policy by hitching India to the Soviet bandwagon. Result - we were absolute mute spectators when soviet tanks rolled into Kabul. His legacy left India in a confused state.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 04:57 IST

Ramachandra Guha has put it well. Besides what he has said as great statesman like qualities of Nehru, Nehru thought of India as one (his famous word: Unity within Diversity), built educational base (his famous word: Temples of learning), promoted research base (examples: TIFR, CSIR, BARC), started industrial complexes with public funds where private capital was not that forthcoming (major exceptions are Tatas and Birlas) -- all these with only long range benefits in mind. He also decimalised the currency with least social impact on a major illiterate population (compare: even today, USA has not implemented much preferred metric systems in industry; it took them a lot of battle and hesitation before they decimalised trade in stock exchanges). Today, deploring him is ill-sighted. Without foundation, nothing can sustain. Nehru laid that. We should not forget what he has done and only whine what he could have done which was nearly impossible in his time.

from:  Hari Subramanian
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 04:52 IST

It's unfair to say that people of India do not appreciate contribution of Jawaharlal Nehru. Jawahar and Subhash Bose had developed a close friendship in early days but later Jawahar sided with Mohandas Gandhi to usurp leadership using Gandhi's influence. Later he again used Gandhi's influence to push Vallabh bhai Patel, the chosen leader of the people of India, to a side and grab Prime Ministership. Jawahar made full attempt to ensure that Hyderabad and other Muslim dominated regions go to Pakistan but was not successful. Jawahar created a permanent problem for India by taking Kashmir issue to the UN when Indian military had an upper hand against Pakistan. Jawahar ensured that Indian army is ill prepared, the soldiers are untrained and unfed so that China insults us in a war and wins our territory. Jawahar killed the spirit of Indian entrepreneurship when the West progressed while India rotted in the perverse socialist ideals where only the wealthy prospered. We give him full credit.

from:  Abdul Hamid
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 04:46 IST

It is an absolute delight to read such an authentic piece about the
Nehru-Gandhi nexus. In the midst of biased thoughts and twisted
opinions, colored by personal misjudgments, this article lends a
neutral flavor to the perennial debate about Nehru's character. Often
impersonated thoughts and meaningless rumors overpower our sense of
judgment. We need to read and understand Nehru in isolation and not
always club and bring about an admixture of jurisprudence tagging Nehru
with his decedents whose ways Nehru would have had never approved had
he been alive!

from:  Upasana
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 02:47 IST

History has proved Nehru was right and Jinnah wrong.
A democratic , secular, undivided and non - aligned Hind would be best!

from:  Sohail Zahid
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 01:47 IST

Awesome article . There is no doubt that Nehru's ideology has more moral
depth than we think today and his ideology would eventually lead to
India's development but History also shows that He neglected the issue
of corruption when the first allegation on his one of the cabinet
ministers has come and also defended the minister by writing to
president himself . And Current society is more concerned about
corruption and that explains his popularity decline .

from:  KSVM Koundinya
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 00:57 IST

Nehru's ambition of becoming the elder man of World has cost us a lot . The present LOC with pakistan and China's attack on Arunachal Pradesh

from:  ishan
Posted on: Nov 13, 2012 at 00:50 IST
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