RAJ KANWAR | 14 NOVEMBER, 2020
Nehru’s Birth Anniversary Should be Observed as ‘Parliamentary Democracy Day’
Nehru and Sardar Patel worked in unison
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi suffer from some sort of pathological dislike for Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister? It would seem so the way he holds Nehru and his progeny ‘responsible’ for everything that has gone wrong in India during the past 73 years and more. Virtually in every speech either at official functions or public meetings or even religious congregations, Nehru Parivaar is the sole butt of Modi’s venomous ire and diatribe.
To begin with, both the RSS and BJP suffered from a hallucination that Sardar Patel and not Nehru was the rightful claimant to the highest office in the country post-Independence, and that the latter had cleverly ‘manipulated’ both Gandhi and Lord Mountbatten and thus managed to become India’s first Prime Minister pushing Patel down to the number two slot.
Absurdly, both the RSS and its later appendage BJP have had to borrow Sardar Patel -- Nehru’s closest colleague both in the freedom movement and the post-1947 government -- as their iconic hero hailing him India’s ‘Iron Man’ -- amply shows the bankruptcy of leadership in their own ranks.
Ironically, it was the same ‘Iron Man’ Sardar Patel who was instrumental in banning the RSS and arresting its leaders and cadres following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, thereby demonstrating the hollowness of their ideology. Even as recent as 145th birth anniversary of Sardar Patel on October 31, Modi had showered all of his panegyrics on the ‘Iron Man’ of India projecting him as India’s greatest ever leader.
Was all that indirectly intended to show Nehru in poorer light and a lesser leader in comparison? Such an assumption may not be much off the mark. That brings me back to the original question; does Modi suffer from pathological hatred not only for Jawaharlal but also for his entire clan?
At times, politicians make it convenient to forget history, even recent events. Let us at least not forget that both Nehru and Patel were comrade-in-arms and Gandhi’s closest lieutenants during the long Freedom movement; they were also intimate colleagues in the post-independence government. There was hardly any difference of opinion between the two colleagues and the two worked in unison with each other.
Even though Nehru was the Prime Minister and Patel the Home Minister, Nehru extended due deference to Patel’s opinions on matters of policy because of the latter’s seniority in age. It would be twisting of history to claim that all would have been hunky-dory in regard to Kashmir or other thorny problems if Patel had been the Prime Minister.
Veteran political commentator Shekhar Gupta had wondered in February 2020 if Modi suffered from some ‘exotic neurological condition we might call Nehruitis’. In speaking on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, Prime Minister Modi had mentioned Nehru’s name 23 times during his speech lasting 100 minutes. Shekhar perhaps is right in his diagnosis, and Modi does suffer from ‘Nehruitis’.
Now that when Machiavellian attempts are being made by the current ruling dispensation to erase from India’s political history the name of Jawaharlal Nehru – India’s first and, by all accounts, the most popular Prime Minister, it is time to recall, celebrate and indelibly etch on stone his great contribution towards making India a modern secular parliamentary democracy. Nehru had considered the Parliamentary democracy as critical bedrock for building a forward-looking and self-reliant country. And every possible safeguard was incorporated in the Constitution to ensure that its fundamental features were not tempered with.
Despite Gandhi’s assassination on 30 January 1948, it nonetheless goes to Nehru’s credit that he steadfastly pursued development projects in spite of the turmoil of the Partition and the resultant migration of populations. He left in the competent hands of Sardar Patel the issues regarding the maintenance of law and order and those related to the accession of hundreds of Indian princely states to the Dominion of India. The reassuring presence of Patel was a great help and enabled Nehru to continue without distraction with his development agenda.
Those who today overtly criticize Nehru from house tops must not forget that they have been in power since 2014, thanks to the Parliamentary democracy that Nehru not only gave India but also ensured that it remained strong and durable. Now that the Nehru’s 131st birthday is around the corner, it is time that we Indians rose above our narrow political skirmishes, and stand as one man to hail Nehru as the man who made India the bedrock of Parliamentary democracy.
The latest victory of the NDA in Bihar elections spearheaded by Prime Minister Modi himself, in the tradition of the ancient Ashvamedha, and the virtual annihilation of the Congress provides ample proof that the foundation of the Parliamentary democracy in India today stands firmly rooted, and no degree of political shenanigans today or tomorrow can shake its foundations. In the process, BJP also seems to have achieved its much flaunted and vaunted “Congress Mukt Bharat” goal.
They must not forget that but for Nehru and his Parliamentary democracy, there would neither have been a Modi nor even the Modi government. Let us henceforth hail and celebrate Nehru’s birthday as the ‘Parliamentary Democracy Day’. That is the least that the country can pay its tribute to the man who had laid a strong foundation for Parliamentary democracy in the country. Let’s salute both Sardar Patel as India’s ‘Iron Man’ and Nehru as the ‘Fountain Head’ of Parliamentary democracy in India. We must not forget that both Patel and Nehru had been comrades-in-arms for all of their life, political and otherwise.
Raj Kanwar is a Dehra Dun-based veteran journalist and author.His latest book is Dateline Dehra Dun
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