Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rahul Gandhi's hidden card: Emulating Jawaharlal Nehru

Pt Jawaharlal Nehru is making news for all obvious reasons. But today as we pass through yet another anniversary of this ‘illustrious’ son of India, it does not need any scholarly unraveling that Nehru is and will continue to be rated as the most talked about Prime Minister of India. 
His purported love for democracy and the dynasty he left behind, his Nehruvian secularism and legacy of planned governance – everything is being debated especially in the context of a landslide victory recorded by Narendra Modi – who in all perspective is an anti-thesis to Nehru. 
In the words of Krishna Kripalani, Nehru was truly, “an aristocrat in love with the masses, a nationalist who represents the culture of the foreigner”.
But circa 2014 also opens up another can of worms. Were Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel co-equals? Were the one better than the other? Could either have ousted the other?
Noted writer Michael Brecher answers few of these questions in ‘Nehru – A Political Biography’ and says eloquently: “there were differences which set them apart”. While Patel, for instance was “ruthless, practical and blunt in speech and action”; Nehru was a man of great charm and aesthetically inclined, impulsive and emotional. He also argues: “to the world at large Nehru was, with Gandhi, the symbol of India’s struggle for freedom. Patel never attained this stature….”.
These comparisons could go on between the two as they were different in more ways than one. However, it goes without saying that the rivalry between the two was also highly exaggerated by cliques of civil servants and politicians devoted to each leaders. Actually, the same phenomenon continues even today as Modi-led BJP regime has almost usurped the Sardar Patel legacy.
The Congress party has therefore erred in not inviting the incumbent Prime Minister of India (their arch rival Modi) for Nehru anniversary function even as honestly, the Congress party was left with little choice given the animosity between two sides. But given to the immature and short-sightedness in handling the crisis, the Congress has only erred in not inviting a Prime Minister in office. Probably they have walked into a trap in the process and made it official now that Nehru belongs to “us, the Congress party”.
This is just the opposite of what Nehru actually was. Till the other day, the worst of critics of ‘the dynasty’ despite all reservations could not help admit that: Pt Nehru undoubtedly stood almost at par with Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehru legacy was above political party or even ethnic/state or caste considerations.
 The situation demanded that Sonia Gandhi took a much benign approach and rather embarrassed Modi by inviting him into a show where Nehru’s admirers from world over would have come and would laud his stand on secularism, pluralism and tolerance towards opposition.
Now take this sample: "If India is a vibrant democracy today, it is because of the foundations laid by Nehru. If India has become the third largest economy. It is because of the multi-purpose projects, the PSUs and institutions of higher learning established by Nehru”. This quote came from a long time Congressman and the President of India Pranab Mukherjee.
Sample this gem of reference made by Pranabda; "I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say 'yes' to one man, I want a strong opposition”. 
Imagine Modi sitting next to President, who would have been embarrassed more – BJP’s Modi or Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Now let us examine another finer point. In Nehru’s life time, two conceivable rivals Sardar Patel in 1950 and Subhas Chandra Bose earlier in 1945 had passed the scene. This made Nehru’s task easier in terms of political survivor and more so as Mahatma Gandhi’s acknowledged heir. Now the Congress has tried to hijack Nehru from the national scene to its party politics and indulge in one-upmanship against a man called Narendra Modi, who has made a virtue of attacking the first political dynasty. Modi’s target is not Nehru – but his great grand son Rahul Gandhi. So has Modi's task too has been made easier?
At this moment of history when Congressmen and women try to rediscover the virtues of Nehru legacy, they ought to remember one quality of their hero which had clearly given him an upper hand vis-à-vis Sardar Patel. 

That was in Nehru’s role as a “strategic link” among diverse social and political groups in India
Nehru too was often a lonely traveller, but he never seemed to be bogged down by that. 
It’s time for Rahul Gandhi to emulate Nehru and give up playing a part-time political star. 
The photo ops remarks he made against Prime Minister again would be exploited against him.

In Nehru, intellectuals saw a bridge between tradition and modernity; the younger Indians looked at him for inspiration, peasants as a man of their hopes, the left wing found him reasonable enough for capitalists. 

To realize it well that Nehru had earned a great respect and enjoyed closest of personal rapport in political circle could only now come handy for Rahul to try this route to save his sinking ship called the Congress party.

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