The manner in which the Congress leadership has tried to appropriate Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and diminished his stature in the process must have pained every Indian acquainted with what India’s first Prime Minister stood for. At a time when more than 50% people living in the country were born after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and therefore Nehru, Indira Gandhi and others are merely characters of history for them, attempts by Congress leaders, not aware themselves of his contributions to the nation, to isolate him as someone who only belonged to a particular political party are not only deplorable but demonstrate the paucity of understanding of issues by those who are running the very organisation which was nurtured by iconic personalities.
There are historical accounts and narratives by historians and leading journalists like Inder Malhotra, which provide an insight into the Nehruvian era. He was truly the founder of modern India and helped create an infrastructure, which has helped Indians to compete aggressively against the best in the world. He stood for certain principles and values, but his politics was inclusive. He encouraged upcoming leaders in the Opposition to contribute to Parliamentary debates. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was greatly influenced by him, and till the time he was active in politics regarded Nehru as someone whose place among the heroes of the country was unique.
It was Nehru who was the reason why India succeeded as a vibrant democracy and as a nation, and Pakistan did not. Like any human being, Nehru too had his share of failures and there are innumerable historians and political scientists who fault him for misreading the political situation in Kashmir and also the ties with China. He trusted people even though many of them let him down. He would make it a point to be present in Parliament whenever it used to meet, something the present day leaders can learn from. Dr Manmohan Singh used to usually time his foreign visits when the Parliament was in session. And Rahul Gandhi, who is being so very possessive of Nehru, has to see his own record of attendance in the Lok Sabha to know how important participation is to learn the affairs of this vast country.
The Congress show on Thursday to mark 125 years of the visionary was dismal. Not only was Nehru trivialised, but the way petty politics was sought to be played in his name was deplorable. It is doubtful that various speakers who spoke about him had even read his books, Discovery of India and Glimpses of the World History or had cared to know what he said in his speeches, “tryst with destiny” and the “light has gone out”. Panditji was a multi-faceted personality and even if he was ideologically opposed to someone, he tried to carry him along. His first 14-member Cabinet had six outsiders, including Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Baldev Singh and Dr B.R. Ambedkar.Therefore, reducing him to being the leader of the Congress alone was a great disservice done by members of his own family, though Maneka-Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s other daughter-in-law and now a Union minister, tried to set the record straight by stating that he did not belong to just one party but was the Prime Minister of India in entirety. The Congress, for whatever reason, also tried to keep leaders of other parties out from the celebrations of the luminary. It appeared that the Congress reaction was borne out of the efforts of the BJP government to give greater prominence to both Mahtama Gandhi and Sardar Patel, which itself is ludicrous, since all three of them have to be viewed together during a crucial phase historically and not in isolation of each other.The country does not have to see Nehru from the prism of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. At present, as the recent elections have indicated, people have a very dim view of the two and if their account of Nehru’s virtues is taken seriously, the former Prime Minister will be seen in a very poor light, something which is extremely unfair. Nehru believed in secularism, but that is not the only thing which he believed in. First of all, he believed in this country, in its people and also in himself. This is something which is lacking in the current Congress leadership. They refuse to see the reality.
There are other ways of hitting out at the present regime and one way could be to describe it as a “treadmill government”, which is struggling to move ahead and is jogging only at the same spot. But to use Nehru’s birth anniversary to hit out is sheer blasphemy. Modi, like Nehru, is the Prime Minister and enjoys the mandate of the people. He may not share a lot of things with Nehru, but in this dispensation, the buck stops at him. Between us.