Chapter 4: INDIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE - IV
Jawaharlal Nehru: Architect of Modern India
Nehruji had a multi faceted personality. He had wide range of
interests and had qualities like rationality, humanity and respect
for individual, independence of spirit and secular. He wanted to
inculcate these qualities in co-workers as well as people.
Nationalism is his foremost quality which even his enemies wouldn't
deny. This he retained even after 1947.
He wanted to build a socialist society - equitable, egalitarian,
just, humane with democratic and civil libertarian polity. He tried
to link his dual commitment to nationalism and socialism. The most
important task before Nehru was to build a nation and neither of his
two idols Gandhiji or Marx had any guidance on this matter. He set
upon his task with excitement and optimism.
Under his leadership India had an independent foreign policy which
wasn't inclined towards either of the two blocs - US and USSR. He
also was responsible for the economic policy of making the nation
self-reliant and self sustaining. He set upon building world class
institutions in science and technology, develop indigenous
capabilities for research, public sector industries for strategic
sectors and self sufficiency in agriculture. Nehru believed
that independence depended on economic strength of a country.
The motto of Unity in Diversity was a good example of his
ideology. He recognised that the separatist factors like
caste-ism, regionalism, communalism which had transcended during the
independence struggle had risen again. India had to embrace all
diversity and yet remain united. He succeeded in keeping the
secessionist forces in check and at the same time pushed forward the
process of national integration and nation building.
Nehruvian ideology: Democracy and Parliamentary
Nehru believed in the power of democracy. He pushed forward the
system of parliamentary governance based on universal adult
franchise and secret ballot. He made elections the norm not
exception. His firm commitment to democracy, civil liberties, free
speech and press, independent judiciary are what made India into a
His aim was to turn the country into a self governing institution.
He believed that people would realise their power and soon push
reforms that would end social inequality. The political party would
merely implement popular mandate or be swept away. This firm
commitment to democracy superseded all. Even on matters of economic
development as most modern countries had used authoritarian measures
but Nehru preferred democratic way. He argued that this method would
be slower but Indians are ready to pay this price.
Nehru always believed that democracy and civil liberties were not
means but ends and a diverse country like India would remain united
only when democracy flourished as it would allow different
viewpoints to come forward.
Nehruji was attracted by Socialism and wanted it to be in India.
However he didn't want the Soviet version of socialism but the idea
behind socialism like a society free from inequalities, class
distinction, having equal income distribution, just and humane
society. He favored co-operative ownership of means of
production rather than the capitalist view of profit making. But
he knew that equitable distribution can be of riches not poverty
so a country should have tremendous economic growth.
He quoted " We cannot have a welfare state in India with
all the capitalism and communism in the world. What we need is
high growth rate sustained over a long period of time to bring the
poor out of poverty".
Nehru's policy was to have public sector as the commander of the
economy and private sector as subordinate to it. Public sector meant
not only The State but also cooperatives in trade, industry and
production. For a long time profit making and market forces were too
become back runners. This policy had its weaknesses and and India
did reach its commanding heights but due to the reintroduction of
the market based economy and capitalism. But at the time of Nehru,
his economic agenda was most suitable for India.
He believed in connection of means and ends and refused to allow
violence even if the cause was good like establishment of socialism.
His idea of India was Socialist society in a democratic polity.
Since he believed in keeping people together and making decisions.
He preferred the approach where decisions had to be delayed as
consensus had to be built. He believed that the leaders were to
exist only for implementing people's mandate. A good decision if
opposed by majority in the society would lead to fascism as the
large section would start a counter revolution and overthrow
Nehruvian era was criticized as a a period of weak leadership and
slow progress but this was due to Nehru's style of consensus
building rather than a confrontational approach.
Nehruvian ideology: Communalism
Although he was himself a Nationalist and secular person he
couldn't launch a crusade against communal forces. His policy of
firm faith in secularism and democracy was right but also suffered
from weaknesses. He failed to use the Congress against communal
forces and had to compromise on his principles when Congress
allied with Muslim and Christian communal forces in Kerela. He
also failed to ensure States took steps in the administration to
crush communalism. Riots on religion also occurred during his last
The Congress: 1947 - 1964
Polity of India was democratic in which large number of parties
thrived. After independence these parties played a major role in
the opposition and managed to win sizeable number of votes in
General elections. All these parties were Pan India in terms of
objectives and ideology. They had leaders of impeccable integrity
and even when the base of the party was narrow geographically but
the character was All India. These parties played an important
role in Parliament and provided high quality debates on questions
of national importance. One reason for this was Nehru's nature of
However the opposition parties couldn't unite and so never
challenged the hegemony of the Congress till 1977. Opposition
parties to the congress would influence it through various
agitations and since Congress had a mixture of various groups it
was successfully influenced and even absorbed the agitating
parties. Sometimes it would lead to opposing parties having a more
radical stance to ensure that its base wouldn't be absorbed in the
Congress but this meant having an extreme rightist or leftist
stance that affected the public opinion of the party and made it
vulnerable to splits.
Congress itself saw a major change in structure. It had now to
evolve into a party from a movement but this transformation was
slow. The Congress was to get a organizational cohesion by Sardar
Patel's suggestion that no member of other political party could
be a member of congress. This however upset the Congress Socialist
party and its members decided to exit. However again Nehru
succeeded in placating them and kept the Leftist and Rightist
members together while trying to give the Congress a leftist
This was to be an arduous task as the Congress had a Pan India
base and support of all sections of the society. It also believed
in ruling through consensus and this meant unifying diverse views.
The Congress itself had a democratic structure with multiple
levels of decision making at provinces and center.
Party vs Government
Nehru became head of the Interim government from 1946 and this
led to his resignation from president-ship of Congress. His
replacement Kriplani argued that the President of the Congress
should be taken into confidence on government policy initiatives.
But this view wasn't shared by either Nehru or his political
associates like Patel or Rajendra Prasad. All felt that government
must be responsible to the people not a party and should be in
control of all decisions related to governance. The Congress
should restrict itself to party activities and not demand
consultation by the government.
Nehru vs Sardar Patel
Sardar Patel was the Leader of Right wing of Congress. He was a
believer in capitalism and free markets but also shared Nehru's
vision of egalitarian society. Although both had a tense
relationship and offered to resign from government at one point or
another but what commonality they had was more important than
their differences. Both believed in Gandhiji's leadership and when
Gandhiji died both realised the importance of cooperation. Patel
argued for Right to Property as a fundamental right and succeeded
in making it one. This was firmly opposed by Nehru although he
accepted it later.
Patel would argue strongly for a point but if on basis of
arguments he couldn't succeed in convincing Nehru he would accept
Nehru's view. Patel's though was a great organizer and able
administrator but lacked Nehru's mass support and wide social and
Sardar Patel was the inspiration behind creation of Indian National Trade Union Congress.
Nehru vs Purshottam Tandon
This conflict was mainly a fight between the Rightist and leftist
wings of the Congress. Nehru had supported Kriplani as the Party
president indicating that working with Tandon who was a Right-wing
candidate supported by Sardar Patel would be difficult for him. In
the elections, Kriplani won and Nehru offered to resign but Tandon
accepting Nehru's important role in the forthcoming elections
resigned and Congress Working Committee offered president-ship to
Nehru. Although Nehru felt that a Prime minister should act as
President of Congress but he accepted.
Nehru - Tandon conflict was also related to the old issue of
Party vs Government. Party wanted the government to be
implementing the party policies. However the government wanted
full control over its working. This system was followed in most
democracies but in India wouldn't be suitable as Party
had deep roots even in villages and thus could act as interfaces
of people to government. They would be useful in gauging public
opinion and keeping a check on bureaucracy. The party leaders
would decide who could contest on a party ticket and so decide
indirectly future government leaders.
One important failure of Nehru was not recognizing importance of
party work and relegating party cadres to unimportant positions.
This led many cadres to ignore party work which was essentially
mass mobilization and focus only on becoming parliament
leaders.The cadres would take up party work only when left out of
Government posts and this too only to gain popularity and reenter
Congress and the Downhill Journey
The Communists had left the congress in 1945 and ideological
differences emerged against the Socialists in post independence
period due to Sardar Patels "One Party membership rule". This led
to their walking away from the Congress. This made congress to
become controlled by Right-wing or conservatives.Nehru himself was
in favor of Socialist policy and wanted to make the Congress a
"Left of Center" party. However differences emerged between him
and Socialist leaders later on. Nehru attacked their ideology and
the Socialists accused him of abandoning his principles and
Although Socialists never were a grave threat in the opposition
and their radical stance against congress gradually led to erosion
of their public support and splits but Congress was facing other
problems too. The leaders that had risen during independence
struggle couldn't organize the party post-independence and so new
leaders didn't emerge. Next generation saw congress as a party of
no strong ideology and preferred joining the opposition. Nehru
though a great Nationalist was never a Party organizer and so
couldn't stem the rot.
Second problem was that power had seduced many of the leaders.
The cadres were now mainly interested in power and neglected party
work. Government though belonged to Congress but those in power
too neglected to see the important role the party could play in
gauging public opinion of the government. This led to atrophy.
Thirdly, as Socialists and Communists left the party the
conservatives stepped in. The Congress now took stands in favor of
capitalism and isolated its old support base. Even where agrarian
reforms and other socialist policies were decided, failed to gain
support and had to be abandoned.
A late plan of reform was decided by Nehru and K Kamaraj
known as the Kamaraj plan. This meant that all Congress leaders
in executive roles would resign in favor of other cadres and
focus on party work. This would revive the party. But this
reform arrived too late and Nehru's death in 1964 meant that it
couldn't be implemented fully.