Since the advent of Modi Sarkar, several deliberate attempts have been made to either defame and discredit Nehru or totally ignore his contribution as first PM of Independent India. Well, they may try as much as they like, but it is almost impossible to remove the memory of the tallest politician of Independent India from people’s minds!! So I would like to focus my attention in this blog on exactly what philosophy Nehru stood for and where India would have been today if not for Nehru. So let us begin our journey .
Nehru was a proud Socialist and belonged to the Left Wing of the INC along with others like Subhas Chandra Bose. He was deeply disturbed by the huge inequalities in India between the rich and the poor and very strongly advocated for the state uplifting millions out of poverty. The Russian Revolution had deeply inspired many young leaders of the the early 20th century like Bhagat Singh, MN Roy, Bose, etc. and Nehru was no exception. He was enamoured by the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment of working class power. During his visits to the Soviet Union, he could see how a young nation and a young idea was born, challenging the old order of Imperialism which had only brought the bloody carnage of the World Wars, Colonialism of the Asias and Africas and misery to the working classes of Europe. Hence, Nehru, like others, was convinced that only a strong state led by the popular mandate of the people based on a Socialist planned economic model could lift millions out of poverty, bring social welfare to the people, usher in education and healthcare for all and break the chains of the old feudal society.
Jawaharlal Nehru was an avowed supporter of socialism. In his presidential address to the Lahore Congress in December 1929, Nehru affirmed that he was ‘a socialist and republican…’, making him the enfant terrible of Indian politics. His interest in Marxism and planned economic development was stirred by the Brussels Congress and his four-day visit to Moscow in 1927. In 1933, Nehru wrote a series of articles titled ‘Whither India?’, in which he explained why he believed in socialism and argued that capitalism had outlived its day. The crisis of 1936 had a profound impact upon Nehru; he decided to subordinate ideological considerations to his overriding loyalty to Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and to the Congress party as the chief instrument of the anti-imperalist struggle. In truth, Nehru could not easily give up any of the three basic tenets of his political creed – secularism, democracy, and socialism.
You can refer to more of Nehru’s view on Socialism here.
Hence, post Independence, Nehru supervised the five year plans and started the construction of India’s massive public sector enterprise like HAL, SAIL, BHEL, ONGC, etc. He also built modern dams such as Bhakra Nangal, Hirakund, etc. which he termed as the “Temples of Modern India”. Next comes Nehru’s emphasis on higher education by building world class institutes like IITs , IIMs, AIIMS, etc. He made public education and healthcare as his priority by hugely investing in government hospitals and schools. Next in the list is the emphasis on space research and defence research with ISRO, DRDO, and Bhabha Atomic Research Center .
All these points mentioned above prove that Nehru had a vision of a modern Socialist Nation for India on the lines of Soviet Union .
Nehru’s views on Secularism largely contributed to shaping today’s India. Nehru always believed that the Church and state should be separate. Religion was a private matter and shouldn’t be influencing government’s functioning . Of course, religious freedoms should be protected under the Constitution. But religion should not frame a country’s economic or foreign or social policy. Nehru knew very well that given the deep religious differences which were subdued in Indian Subcontinent during the British rule due to the fervour for Independence amongst all sections, would reignite again post independence between the Hindus and the Muslims, who were the largest minority. Partition had reaffirmed Nehru’s beliefs that the only way this great country could move forward was by Secularism. India would be a secular state like UK or USA and not a theocratic state like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia and if there is one person who is largely responsible for the largely peaceful coexistence between all communities in India (barring the riots like in 1992 or 2002, thanks to the BJP-RSS ‘s politics), it is Nehru.
Nehru piloted the Non Aligned Movement, which was the centre piece of Nehruvian foreign policy, along with Nasser of Egypt and Tito of Yugoslavia. It was the time of the Cold War and we had US on one side and USSR on the other. India knew that it needed to adopt a diplomatic approach and built a new fraternity of friendly newly Independent nations like India, Egypt , Yugoslavia, etc. Nehru had approached US just after becoming PM to garner support for Indian industry, but was disappointed as US did not see India in the scheme of foreign policy yet and was suspicious of Nehru. Hence Nehru turned next to the Soviet Union and was welcomed like a brother. Russians have been the primary support base for India and continue to remain so through thick and thin of political changes. Soviets helped build up India’s public sector, space and defence industry.
Apart from NAM, Nehru maintained a friendly diplomatic relationship with China and other neighbours like Nepal, Sri Lanka, etc. The Panchsheel and Hindi-Cheeni Bhai bhai slogan is famous. The border dispute which happened between India and China was because the McMahon line was never clearly discussed and it led to some misunderstandings. Also, the issue of Tibet and The Dalai Lama created a tension between both the countries. Not to understate the Cold War era where there was also an ongoing rivalry between the Communist countries USSR and China, with USSR backing India and China supporting Pakistan. Hence, these factors led China to transgress Indian borders and humiliate India. It can be said to be the lowest point in Nehru’s foreign policy. But thereafter, there has been an unsaid understanding between India and China on not to meddle in each other’s internal affairs.
Many people in the BJP today blame Nehru for Kashmir’s unsolved dispute and ongoing terrorism in Kashmir. This is blatantly false. The Kashmir crisis arose because Hari Singh, the Hindu King of Kashmir, was ruling over a Muslim majority. As per partition norms, the Muslim majority areas were to go with Pakistan in East and West. Hence, Kashmir was a highly potential target to move to Pakistan. It is because of the indecisiveness of Hari Singh till the end whether to be independent or join free India or free Pakistan that the Kashmir issue could not be solved. Also, Sheikh Abdullah the popular leader of Kashmiri masses was in favour of India and had friendly relations with Nehru. At the very end, Hari Singh decided to join India, when Pakistani intruders attacked Kashmir and took away some territories. India pushed the intruders back but as India and Pakistan were members of the UN, the UN mediated for a possible resolution on Kashmir by ensuring a immediate ceasefire, hence creating Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and India Occupied Kashmir. Nehru had promised a plebiscite or Referendum to Kashmiri people in future, but successive governments have stuck to the status quo and not conducted a referendum.
Also, Pakistan’s belligerent policy has kept Kashmir on the fire and despite several attempts of dialogue, the issue has not been able to be resolved. Hence, to blame Nehru or Patel for Kashmir is not right and it was due to Partition that this issue sprung up, which was again a legacy of the British ‘Divide and Rule’ policy in India, which Nehru, Gandhi, and Congress fought hard to repair.
To summarise the above aspects, India today is a modern secular, democratic, socialist, republic due to Nehru’s large contribution as the first PM of free India. India is the fastest growing economy and has removed crores and crores of its people out of poverty and not failed as a state like many other newly independent colonies due to Nehru’s liberal, inclusive politics. Let us hope his legacy continues to inspire youth to contribute to create a truly liberal, secular, socialist India.