Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Systematic betrayal of Nehru’s ideals

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

We remember Jawahar Lal Nehru on his 50th death anniversary yesterday on May 27th, the man who crafted India into a secular socialist democratic republic.  It is tragic that generation which has born years after Nehru is vilifying him for the values that India is known for and is appreciated.  The democracy that all we are ‘celebrating’ today with smooth transfer of power cannot really ignore the contribution of Nehru in nurturing it after putting strong foundation for it.  The institutions are stronger unlike our contemporaries and neighbors in South Asia where people have to fight for ‘democratic’ government as well as their fundamental rights.  Most of them remained in the tight grip dictatorial martial law regimes or monarchies.  Democracy and constitution became the biggest victims of such regimes where constitutions were changed time to time according to suitability of their dictators.

Nehru has been one of the most 'criticized' men today when the propaganda machinery of Sangh Parivar unleashed vicious campaign against him in the past one decade. However, it reached at its level best in the past three years after the UPA regime which could be termed as one of the worst in independent India. Some of the right wing ‘intellectuals’ blame him for being ‘leftist’ and pushing the model of ‘Public’ sector and thus creating a ‘huge’ bureaucracy. The other ‘nationalists’ felt he was ‘Anglican’ in nature who to has no interest in Indian i.e. which according to them is Hindu culture. They had very problem with the word ‘secularism’ which Nehru espoused so much. Many criticized him for pushing dynastic rule in India while huge number of ‘fake’ account holders on web world publishes his photographs of ‘drinking’ and ‘smoking’ with women particularly Edwina Mountbatten.

I have no first hand ‘experience’ of ‘Nehruvian’ age as I was born nearly four years after his death. But it is important to understand Nehru by socio political situation and first-hand experience of many of his contemporaries. He was a thorough democrat and fiercely secular, a word which has subsequently misused by the Congress Party in the post Indira Gandhi regimes where the party started playing ‘liberal Hindu’ card and secularism became ‘symbolism’ of worst kind.  In fact, Nehru is today paying a price for the wide level corruption and lack of ideological clarity in the Congress party after his death. His daughter Indira Gandhi made party more personalized and subsequently her son Sanjay created a much bigger era of ‘personality’ around her compelling the ‘chamchas’ to coin phrases like ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’.  The decline of Congress Part actually started when it promoted cronyism in the leadership and tilted towards Hindutva and a few things in the post 1980s prove that.

Today, we blame Narendra Modi for a presidential style campaign built up around personality cult of an individual but way back in the 1980s, one of the biggest sycophants of the Gandhi family Vasant Sathe had openly campaigned that India must opt the America’s presidential form of government. In fact, Sathe wrote a book ( I was send an electronic copy by Sathe’s relative when I wrote for Proportionate Electorate System for India) suggesting that ‘coalition’ government are not suitable for India and because India was entering into it hence need for more stability so that the government can function without facing the Parliament.

Congress Party developed ‘remarkable’ tolerance towards religious fanaticism and not acting. It created a Bhindarwale in Punjab to counter Akalis and used Hindu card too later when the army made assault a the Golden Temple. In the Jammu Kashmir elections Indira Gandhi played same Hindu card to allure the voters of Jammu. In 1984, the Punjab problems was converted to an issue between Hindus and Sikh and so much so that when Indira Gandhi was assassinated in October 1984, the Congress used her death and came to power with a massive mandate. The BJP was reduced to mere 2 seats in Lok Sabha but the fact of the matter it was a communal mandate based on hatred towards Sikhs.  In 1986 Rajiv Gandhi got Lok Sabha passed a bill to undo the Shahbano judgment by the Supreme Court to placate the Muslim conservatives who demanded the same to undo what they termed as ‘intrusion’ in the Muslim Personal Law. In the 1989 elections, Rajiv campaigned from Ayodhya and promised to bring ‘Ram Rajya’. His close colleague Arun Nehru got the locks of the disputed complex in Ayodhya and created unprecedented communal crisis in the country.

When VP Singh government decided to implemented Mandal Commission recommendations, Rajiv opposed it. When BJP withdrew support from the government, the Congress could not save a government which was actually fulfilling its constitutional obligation in protecting the Babari Masjid. After Rajiv’s unfortunate death, Congress lead by PV Narsimharao completely abdicated the Nehruvian model of economy and followed the path of ‘capitalist’ economy. Thus, affirmative action programme of the government and welfare state concept became biggest victims which Nehru nurtured so laboriously. Narsimha Rao was glorified by the Indian industries despite his corrupt regime. Babari Masjid was demolished under Rao’s regime which he promised to build but that never happened. Rao was too depended on some of the BJP’s stalwarts like Vajpayee who he send as India’s representative on various international  forums defending India’s Human Rights records towards the minorities and Dalits-aadivasis.

Once Congress bid adieu to Nehruvian model through ‘liberal’ Hinduism as well as the abdicating the state’s responsibility on social sector, everything was great about them. The media made Sonia Gandhi as mother Teresa once she handed over the ‘power’ to Man Mohan Singh who together with Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahulwalia ensured that India’s natural resources were not meant for the rural poor but for the big companies.  When the things went beyond their head, Sonia tried to calm down things in the second term for UPA in 2009. Man Mohan too asserted, so was Chidambaram and others. It is the new economic order where corruption is bound to happen with so much of donation for elections and business-governments nexus hand in glove of what we ‘beautifully’ term as ‘Public Private Partnership’ is nothing but democratic stamp on illegal control of the corporate over these national resources.

At the time when corporate are deciding and ‘managing’ our ‘mandate’ this return to Nehruvian model was too late and inadequate. Most of the Congress’s cadres and leaders hail from upper caste middle class background and hence not very committed to the core values of Nehruvian principles such as secularism and social justice.  Those who believe in social justice had no space in Congress party. So mere speaking to ‘secularism’ and ‘social justice’ added with a few ‘welfare’ legislations would not take you anywhere unless there is a committed leadership on that issue. Congress made itself the party of ‘liberal’ ‘elite’ which equally abhors the issue of social justice like the right wing Hindus. So, when the party decided to go back to Nehru’s principles, it was too late and too little was done in that direction. You  can’t  enthuse your cadres unless they take issue of secularism and social justice dear to their heart. The right wing Hindutva groups were already operatives on the internet to defame Nehru through various things which today’s congress party was unable to defend.

The ‘moral’ aspect of these sinister campaigns was that Nehru did not like Indian ‘culture’. I say, if he has the courage to say things wrong then what is wrong. After all Nehru did not say anything which Ambedkar had said long back and yet Sangh Parivar is bowing to him. Nehru was progressive but definitely not such much committed to the idea of social justice as we wished him. Yet, it was he who was keen on getting the Hindu Code Bill passed drafted by Dr Ambedkar though the right wing lobby in the party led by leaders like Rajendra Prashad, Sardar Patel and others ensured that the progressive legislation is thwarted.  Dr Ambedkar resigned in protest against Nehru’s inability to get this important bill passed in Parliament though he himself knew that Nehru remained isolated in his own party on the greater issue of personal laws and their codification. He never liked the highly conservative attitude of Rajendra Prasad at the Rastrapati Bhavan yet he was always respectful towards him and followed all the constitutional propriety with him. Compare it with Rajiv Gandhi who with his mighty mandate forgot to all the constitutional proprieties that President Gyani Jail Singh deserved during his tenure and even thought of dismissing him as Prime Minister but good vision saved India from a chaotic political situation.

For years, the Sangh Parivar and their champions continued with this campaign of calumny of Nehru as a person who did not know ‘Indian’ culture. Nehru’s ‘relations’ with Edwina and some of his photographs smoking with her went viral on social media in all these years.  It is rather unfortunate as Nehru never hid his relationships and ideals but many of the icons of Sangh Parivar and Hindutva actually never lived the ‘ideal’ life they prescribe for the society to follow. In fact many of the top leaders followed exactly the opposite of what they preached to people at large. Unfortunate part was that Congress Party could not defend the honor of its leaders and kept quiet. Government could nothing with sinister campaign at the social media in the name of not allowing ‘freedom of expression’. It was clear who this freedom of expression is as we know how people are being arrested for simple criticism.

Nehru’s secular socialist model is more than important for India. Congress deviated from this path and in the post 2004, it believed in giving the rural poor ‘entitlements’ or subsidized products but never really worked on their real issues. Hence, Dalits and AAdivasis were being displaced from their places without being rehabilitated while government was propagating the ‘right to food’ bill which was nothing but a dole out. You snatch our resources and give us job for rupees one hundred a day and that too without a firm guarantee. The land acquisition act came after lots of pressure from social movements and incidents that happened in Singur and Nandigram. The political economy of Man Mohan Singh faithfully promulgated and implemented by P.Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahulwalia is a clear violation of Nehruvian model. Moreover, continuous surrender to the religious right wing from the days of Indira Gandhi has also weakened Congress’s politics. Despite hugely popular leader, Nehru never suffered from megalomania and continued to interact with people. He was a true secular giant who never compromised with religious fanatics and yet fought with convictions. Congress post Indira Gandhi actually failed to develop on democratic lines and promoted the ‘personality’ cult. No credible state leadership was allowed to be built. The drawing room manipulators ensured that only a full scale sycophant gets the seat and the best example was Uttarakhand where a mass leader who brought the party to electoral victory twice was sidelined and puppets were imposed from Delhi who were highly unpopular and thoroughly corrupt. How could Congress say that it is genuinely committed to probity in public life and secular values when it has leaders like Vijay Bahuguna, Shri Prakash Jayaswal and then Ajai Rai in the list for? How can it claim secular values when it has certain babas fighting from a constituency just because he happened to oppose Modi. Congress forgot that such adjustment would have won several seats to them in the past but now people particularly upper castes were in no mood to vote for it as they felt uncomfortable with it and more attracted to Hindutva. The Dalits, AAdivasis and Muslims have no reason to come to congress automatically unless the party was seen to be doing something genuine for them.  Today, Congress workers do not fight and why should they when the leaders are being promoted in a crony political way. Why should a grassroots worker be ready to shed his blood when the leaders come from drawing rooms who are not ready to sit with them and take pride in the ideology of the party.

Why should the marginalized sections of people join congress unless it genuinely believed in their concern and develop their leadership. Nehru was iconic as he understood India better and its problems. He knew that superstition and orthodoxy would damage India the most and hence attempted everything to discourage them. In personal life he never visited astrologers or any temples. In fact, his daughter Indira Gandhi unfortunately encouraged such ‘spiritual’ gurus who he would have despised.

Nehru’s biggest contribution to India is its commitment to secular democracy. Except for the dismissal of the first ever communist government of Kerala, Nehru did not touch the states. The dismissal of a duly elected government was a blunder that Nehru committed on the advice of his daughter Indira Gandhi. He respected his political opponents and ensured that they are not defeated in the elections. Parliament those times, people recall, was to be seen to be believed. Ram Manohar Lohia was his fierce critique yet both were deeply fond of each other. There were many other stalwarts in Parliament who enriched its debate during the period. His son in law Feroze spoke against the nexus between politicians and businessmen his own party’s finance minister and Nehru listened to it. The Minister Mr T.T.Krishnamachari had to resign.

Nehru’s differences with Patel were well known but they were close associate. Both had similar views on many things particularly on the national affairs. In those days of dual international structure, Nehru opted for a non-aligned India which Indira Gandhi too was committed too but subsequently the government later abandoned. Today, India is changed and so are the policies of our political party. We have left all other neighbors and only interested in pleasing the US, resulting in our own isolation in South East Asia where we could have made good inroads as culturally they were closure to us because of Buddhist values.

Nehru was an intellectual individual also and hence appreciated art and culture. He ignited the flame of change and a new progressive India among many in the Hindi cinema. The poetry and cinema flourished during those years and one can say with convictions that some of our best films and music came from that era which are still very relevant and evergreen. It is not that writers, lyricists, journalists such as Sahir, Faiz, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Mulk Raj Anand and numerous other progressive writers and artists were not just friends of Nehru but virtually adored him.

Walking near the Oxford streets of London, I stopped at a roadside shop to buy woolen for me. Just to know about my nationality, he started the conversation asking me about it. He smiled proudly, when I said that I come from India, linking Nehru and Mustafa Kamal Ataturk’s friendship. I love Nehru, great secularists who build India, he said. Some of my Pakistani friends still fondly call Nehru as Panditji, a term, I always hated but they would continue,’ Vidya, you will only understand Nehru when you face the crisis like situation that exists in our country. Nehru’s biggest contribution to India is a secular plural democracy where you all have got a chance to progress which no other South Asian countries have been able to achieve. Even if your democracy may not be a first class one, you are much better and far ahead of us and you cannot ignore the vital contribution of Nehru, they would say.

I do not know much but definitely Nehru is being abused for the failure of the respective Congress governments who became highly unpopular because of corruption scandals as well as lost trust of countries minorities, Dalits and marginalized for their failure to protect the interests of these segments. A large number of people also despised the Congress Party in the recent elections because it could not take a decisive stand against communalism and it failed to address the issue of communalism with conviction. Nehru’s legacy was buried by Narsimha Rao and Man Mohan Singh regimes who not only advocated uncontrolled free market but also connived with the communal forces to create fear psychosis among the Muslims. Rather than being proactive on secularism, social justice and welfare state, congress reduced people to mere ‘free bees’ which too did not reach people resulting in credibility crisis. All attempts of Sonia and Rahul to ignite the flames of Nehruvian socialism failed as people were not really ready to believe and just remembering Nehru and giving the overdose of government’s adverts during his birth and death anniversaries only angered people who felt that Nehru was being imposed at the cost of public exchequer. That was not the way to strengthen the legacy of Nehru but only defaming him. It is time Congress learns its lesson, build the party on truly secular principles of democracy and develop dynamic leadership at different levels. That would be the fitting tribute to Nehru when the party that he led would stand for the people who marginalized and becoming victim of religious fanaticism. Nehru has become more than relevant today when Indian state has abdicated its welfare state mechanism and ‘secularism’ has turned as much despised word in political and academic circles.

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