Fifty-seven years after the passing of India’s first Prime Minister, the country has travelled far from Gandhian ideals and Nehru’s vision.
“Nehru was not just a mass leader. There are several mass leaders today as well, but he was a visionary. He had a long-term vision for India’s prosperity. He built a nation and its premier institutions from scratch which at the time was not easy. His initiatives like the Non-Aligned Movement bolstered India’s international political significance,” said K.P. Singh, a member of the national executive of Swaraj India.
Nehru started his political journey with Annie Besant’s Home Rule League in the late 1910s. Nehru and Gandhi worked closely during the Non-Cooperation Movement. He promoted communal harmony and was a part of the Lucknow Pact, which talked about Hindu-Muslim unity.
Singh added: “Having worked so closely with Mahatma Gandhi, he was truly secular. His secular principles were abandoned back in the 1970s, by his own party, when his daughter decided to place a religious leader, (Jarnail Singh) Bhindrawale, in Punjab’s politics. Later, under her son, Rajiv overturned the Shah Bano ruling and got the gates of the Babri Masjid opened. Today, what we see as the culmination is BJP reaping benefits of what the Congress started.”
While Nehru built a modern India, he also made mistakes that have been criticized.
“We socialists do not agree with every decision of Nehru. He made mistakes which was natural in his long tenure as Prime Minister. But today, any shortcoming and incompetence of the incumbent government is blamed on Nehru. This mudslinging culture and personal attacks in Indian politics are new. A leader who is dead for years, who can’t defend himself, is blamed for every poor decision taken today,” Singh regretted.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a tweet, paid a tribute to Nehru.
Anil Kumar Chaudhary, president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, said: “Nehru’s vision of India was national building and development. He focused on building dams and public institutions. He stayed away from religion and caste politics. He believed in keeping the nation together and moving forward. A country whose Prime Minister kept the country first while legislating has changed. Today, the government legislates for a particular family or community.
“Communal tensions have gripped India. This is not our claim, but media houses the world over have said this. Secularism is the soul of our nation, but in recent times the violence and conflicts we have seen are saddening. Nehru stood against all this. He stood as much for secularism and communal harmony as he did for nation-building,” Chaudhary added.