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Something about Nehru on an idle Sunday

Nehru’s policies not only delayed progress in India post-independence, but actually put the clock backward for thirty-five years. He was a Fabian chauvinist, confused about whether India needed communist or socialist models of governance, while depending heavily on the funding of wealthy capitalists to keep him and his party in power. Such a symbiosis was possible only at the cost of not only founding, but whole-heartedly fostering corruption, which in turn generated inaction, shortages, and permits which translated into delays and denial.

He could barely hide his contempt for Indian tradition and Indianness, and yet was so charismatic in India that nothing that he said or did could be effectively challenged, hampered or altered. He sacked those who politely raised their voices in doubt, or with differing views, but defended to the point of claiming full responsibility for every infraction, including murder, those of his Council of Ministers or sycophants whose support kept him in power. Kashmir became and remains an intractable and very explosive situation because he interceded with Sardar Patel’s job and responsibility as Home Minister. Patel was doing his job firmly and sagaciously. China, a personal high under Chou en-lai, cost India more than 40,000 square miles of its territory, for which he blamed the nation for its somnolence. Many Ministers who had been convicted of crimes were taken back into the fold so that Nehru could remain their master. The people and the country suffered, while he moralised and preached to the whole world.

Among many unpardonable sins of his, one with the utmost notoriety was his telling Mountbatten, in the presence of Sardar Patel, with whom he was having an argument, that the British should take over India again and rule.

The following was written in response to an industrialist, who, having had his Sunday coffee and feeling blasť about life, wrote a politically and historically very ignorant note in reaction to an article by P.V. Indiresan in The Hindu, June 2, 1991.


June 6, 1991

Dear B:

It was good to wake up to a cloudy morning and, without the aid of caffeine, to work up some adrenalin by reading your clouded thoughts on politics.

I have discussed Nehru from the age of fifteen, and have not been able to dismiss him because of the legacy of ineptitude, inefficiency and corruption he has left us. As he perpetuated himself, he accidentally planted a device of political amorality which also became self-perpetuating; a morass which grew from its own strength, breeding unstoppably either abject turpitude or impotence to combat it. Even as an idealist intellectual, his vision of India was flawed. He adopted half-baked models from the West, wholly inappropriate to the psyche and tradition of this country. He loved India because India loved him more, and he could rule it unchallenged.

My belief in an executive system of governance is entirely another story. While some of my notions on Nehru find similarities in the article by P.V. Indiresan that you sent me, the most unfortunate and even dangerous presumption and postulation contained in it is that violence and assassination in this country are directly connected to the manner in which Nehru and his successors occupied the office of Prime Minister. This is a very grave error, and one would hope that most people would either not read the article, or, if they did, would not take it seriously enough to make a historical evaluation.

This is an era of mindless violence and terrorism, where crime, criminality and destruction are not principled behavior. If Nehru did not die, in his time, as a result of an assassin's attempt, he certainly would have been a top-listed candidate in the current times. Gandhi, however, who was not part of Nehru's political philosophy, did die violently, even far ahead of the present time, when violence is the rule rather than the exception. Indira certainly did not die because of Nehru's policies, and neither did Rajiv.

Abraham Lincoln had not the slightest inkling of how Nehru would run his government, or shape the policies of his party, and yet he was assassinated. No evidence has shown that the Kennedys were killed because of their friendship with Nehru, or connection with Nehru's ideology. People in high office, or with ambition for it, have been targets of violence for a vast variety of reasons, from lofty idealism, plain rivalry, to lunacy: Caesar, Thomas Becket, several Popes, you name it. Mr. Indiresan would do well to ruminate over historically momentous murders before laying exclusive emphasis on the nexus between the tragedies in the lives of one Indian family and the way the founder ran his office.

History entirely and essentially deals with the past, and eases our conscience by giving us alibis for our behavior in the present. Predictions made about the future at any given time prove either wrong or right out of caprice, and not because of their intrinsic accuracy. We need our ifs and buts to feel comfortable.

Your ending your note abruptly was sensible. Listening to Jasraj is certainly a persuasive and soothing reason. I do suggest that you and I do the same more frequently, and leave the dirty work of politics to those to whom we should be grateful for liking it, in spite of it and because of it. I know that I am incapable of doing anything. I have to learn, however, to live with the burden of this knowledge. Jasraj, Mozart, Talat, might just help.


ramesh gandhi