Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had the honour of being the first Prime Minister of India. He was entrusted with this duty during such a phase when India was left alone with some good and bad options in every aspect. It is argued that Nehru advocated state-sponsored industrialisation, increasing the “wealth-producing capacity” and using atomic energy for civilian use. But he realised that for industrialisation to be viable it needed a supportive agrarian economy and a small-scale industrial base. Nehru notably called Industries as the “Temples of Modern India”. Nehru was undoubtedly a leader of great potential and courage who had a standing before the intellectual class in the world. It won’t be a misnomer to call him as the first world-class or universal leader from India.
Nehru was keenly interested in the political work-affairs around the globe and strengthening the international relations with other nation-states. This is the reason when V.K. Krishna Menon, a close aide of Nehru, initiated to establish Indian Society of International Law, he gleefully agreed to this idea.
That was a crucial time for the world, the third wave of democracy had just begun, Non-Aligned Movement was at peak and Nehru was being regarded as its face in the world. On the other hand, the Non-Proliferation Treaty was being widely discussed. With so many developments in the international arena, Nehru became the first Prime Minister of independent India. That wasn’t an easy task at that moment. No other Indian Prime Minister has so extensively worked for strengthening the international relations. Mrs Indira Gandhi is still an exception to this view who tried to correlate our domestic matters with the international laws and treaties. The Indian Society of International Law, which is a brainchild of Nehru and Menon, provides for Prime Minister to be its Patron, but no other Prime Minister except Nehru and Mrs Gandhi has been interested enough to take up this position. One more leader who can be accredited with the “statesman” tag was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. An avid supporter of the theories of international relations propounded by Nehru, Vajpayee always had a soft corner for the foreign policy matters of Nehru as a Member of Parliament back in the 1960s. However, Vajpayee never missed a chance to criticise (read, respectfully criticise) Nehru but that criticism was somehow construed to be a constructive one. In recent few years, the way certain people have attempted to diminish the image and stature of Nehru shows that he is still a “bonus marks” for the Indian National Congress. The Nehruvian ideology which developed in the meanwhile created a somewhat neutral way for the various Congress-led governments of the day to function moderately. Similarly, a slightly different doctrine which may be a counter to the Nehruvian theory is developing the new conceptual theory of Atalian/Atalism. The truth is that a younger Atal always admired Nehru and an older Nehru was always impressed by Atal.
Though Vajpayee and Nehru admired each other, there was a significant difference between their views given their background as a major reason. Nehru was born in an influential family who later chose the hardships of life and became a Gandhian follower, while Vajpayee was from a very humble background. Nehru admired western culture and their development models. On the other hand as a member of RSS, Vajpayee’s propagated nationalist ideology. This can be reflected in many of his decisions like the Pokharan Test and the Kargil war- were issues related to India’s international image were concerned.
Politicisation of Vajpayee’s for the benefit of Bhartiya Janta Party, which Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla has objected, is similar to the Indian National Congress using Nehru for political gains. The status of Vajpayee was of such that a statement was very popular about him that – “He is a right person in the wrong party.” But after his sad demise, will it be right to confine Vajpayee’s statesmanship in the parameters of any single party? Will it be right that if Bhartiya Janata Party generates sympathy in the name of Vajpayee after his death? The answer would be a NO!
Nehru and Vajpayee both are among the very few statesmen India has produced so far. Their domestic and foreign policies were not a result of overseas trips and visits. Their policies were the result of their love and affection for this country. They were the builders of modern India; it will be unfair to tie them up in the electoral politics after their deaths. Because, Nehru and Vajpayee never wanted any political party to win, they always wanted the democracy of this nation to succeed.