Nehru, not progeny, is the problem, Mr Guha! – Punarvasu Parekh

Jawaharlal Nehru was the archetypical Indian brown sahib

IconA society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted. – Punarvasu Parekh

President Ram Nath Kovind’s pointed omission of Jawaharlal Nehru and his progeny in his first presidential speech to parliamentarians has not gone down well with Congressmen and other secularists. Congressmen have availed of this opportunity to exhibit once again their loyalty to their first family, while some secularists have sought to remind us of Nehru’s greatness, such as it was. Court historian Ramachandra Guha  (“Rescue Nehru from his descendants”, The Hindustan Times, 30 July 2017) argues that Nehru’s legacy should be separated from mistakes and misdeeds of his progeny and respected properly with due gratefulness.

Essentially, the argument is that “Nehru contributed enormously to the making of modern India, by promoting universal adult franchise, linguistic and religious pluralism, and modern science. However, the actions of his descendants have deeply damaged his reputation.”

Guha is wrong on both the counts. Nehru’s contribution to the modern India is largely negative, and his descendants have only followed the lead given by him, though in a more crass and cynical manner.

Nehru’s biggest failure was his inability to appreciate the role played by Hinduism in defining and unifying India. He borrowed, through Marx, the colonial view of Indian society, Indian history and Indian civilisation. According to this view, Indian society is a loose conglomeration of disparate groups divided along every conceivable line (caste, community, ethnicity, language, religion, wealth and income, to mention a few) which is struggling to evolve some principle of unity. For him, this ancient land with a glorious civilisation running through millennia was a “nation in the making”. India’s history, according to this view, is a record of its conquest by successive groups of marauding invaders. To Nehru, Indian civilisation, at least at practical level, was a hotchpotch of irrational superstitions, empty rituals and meaningless metaphysics.

This view of India (now glibly flaunted as Idea of India) is not unexpected in a man who said that “by education I am an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim and I am a Hindu only by accident of birth.” Nehru failed to see the cultural and spiritual unity reigning supreme over social divisions, a unity which makes it imperative to read Indian history as a vast and variegated narrative of a single people through the ages, and Indian civilisation as an elastic but unbreakable bond that held its people together despite their mind-boggling social diversity. No wonder he came to the conclusion that “to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interest. The ideology of Hindu Dharma is completely out of tune with present times and if it took roots in India it would smash the country to pieces.”

This suspicion of and disdain for everything that was Hindu propelled him to strenuously oppose India’s return to her roots after independence, saying that he did not want India to become a “Hindu Pakistan”, whereas, in fact, it was he who behaved like a Muslim monarch ruling over a Hindu kingdom.

Nehru is said to have promoted pluralism through secularism. However, Nehru’s secularism was an alien concept borrowed from the West, divorced from Indian tradition of respect for other viewpoints. Owing to his defective view of Indian society, history and civilisation (not to mention vote bank politics), secularism turned into a united front of anti-Hindu ideologies (Islam, Christianity, Communism) and became a powerful tool to suppress Hindu aspirations.

Nehru’s admirers project him as a world class visionary. They should explain why his foreign policy was such a disaster. His handling of the challenges posed by Pakistan and China was inept, to put it mildly. His quest for glory on the global stage led him to set up a talking shop of beggars better known as the Non-Aligned Movement and isolated India from countries that could and would have helped her in areas that mattered. It was no surprise that after four decades of that foreign policy, India stood friendless, voiceless and insignificant in the comity of nations.

As the late Girilal Jain observed so perceptively in his The Hindu Phenomenon, under Nehru’s influence we mis-defined the nature of the Indian state on several fronts. “Nehru saw himself as an arbiter between rival camps in the Cold War in disregard of the horror that was communism, just as he saw himself as an arbiter between Hindus and Muslims in the country. Obviously, the cost on both counts has been quite heavy. If non-alignment has meant isolation of India from true centres of power in our era, secularism has meant the moral disarmament of Hindus. Pakistan and China could not have posed the threat they have to our security if we had made common cause with the West and the Muslim problem would not have remained wholly unresolved if we had not mis-defined the nature of the Indian state”. (p.13)

Modi’s India is struggling to correct that mistake, however clumsily and ineptly, and that has rattled the secularist class.

Guha suggests that universal adult suffrage was Nehru’s gift to India. That is like suggesting that the sun rises because the cock crows. Nehruvians have long flaunted their democratic credentials. But their record is one of nepotism and lust for power. Their stranglehold on Congress has vitiated our polity.

The manner in which Nehru managed to sideline Sardar Patel to become Congress president in 1930 and prime minister in 1946 should put paid to his love for democracy. No doubt as prime minister he showed respect to his party colleagues, but then they were stalwarts in their own right, having risen from the ranks and passed through the crucible of the freedom struggle. They did not owe their rise and survival in politics to Nehru’s sufferance. Also, Nehru never missed an opportunity to cut his potential rivals to size. Witness the Kamraj Plan.

Nehru’s social policies have proved divisive and disruptive. Even at the height of his popularity, this votary of modernity did not oppose caste-based reservations. Nor did he dare touch the Muslim personal law while driving the Hindu code bill. Like an ordinary politician, he chose the line of least resistance. That is the not the mark of a visionary.

Nehru nurtured a deep hostility to private enterprise. In an effort to control this “evil”, he handed over the economy to control-minded planners and corrupt bureaucrats. The planned economy stifled innovation, discouraged enterprise and punished initiative.

Many people credit him with promoting science and scientific temper, but the bureaucratic state and restrictive policies suffocated growth and prompted migration of people of talent, either in industry or science. Indians prospered everywhere except in India, and Nobel Prize in Science was won by Indians who had left the country for good years ago to pursue research.

Nehru’s economic policies inspired by half-baked Fabian socialism kept the country poor, backward and underdeveloped in spite of a large, young and highly talented population, vast territory, rich mineral resources and willingness of other countries to help and cooperate. Followed faithfully for four decades, they drove the country to the brink of default on international loans.

It is not an accident that the country embarked on a high-growth path only after Nehruvian policies were dumped. And, that course correction is still hobbled by two pillars of Nehru’s approach to economic problems: state control and populism (mai-bap sarkar).

Nehru created an interventionist state which claimed to know better than the people what was good for them and sought to mould society, economy and polity in a pre-determined structure. The project was bound to fail since the conceived structure was anti-growth and alien.

The Babri mosque of Nehruvian edifice had three domes: secularism, socialism and non-alignment. Socialism kept us poor and backward in the name of growth with social justice. Secularism kept us divided and distrustful of each other in the name of communal amity. Non-alignment rendered us ineffective and friendless in the comity of nations. A society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted.

India cannot regain its rightful place in the world until Nehru’s legacy is undone and forgotten. That process has been on for some time now. President Kovind deserves to be complimented for according formal recognition to it.

» Punarvasu Parekh is an independent senior journalist in Mumbai.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Hindi Chini Bai Bai

2 Responses

  1. Good work Mr President. The sooner this rotting legacy dismantled the better. Save India from Nehru and his descendants, all parasites!!!


  2. The following note on the 2016 Companies (Amendment) Bill—which has been sent to the Rajya Sabha for approval—is from Sri Ashok Chowgule in Goa. It is an example of how the business environment in India has changed since Nehru’s time.

    Major highlights of the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2016

    Company can pursue any lawful objects and no need to have specific objects. Company can adopt model Memorandum of Association.

    While incorporating a new Company, a declaration from each of the subscribers to the memorandum and from persons named as the first directors, will serve the purpose. No need to file affidavit for this purpose.

    Company can authorise any employee to authenticate documents on behalf of the Company. At present only directors or secretary can authenticate documents.

    Company shall not utilise monies raised through private placement unless allotment is made and the return of allotment is filed with the
    Company making any allotment of securities under this section, shall file with the Registrar a return of allotment within fifteen days from the date of the allotment;

    Where 90% or more members are promoters of the Company, though they are interested in the resolutions, they can also vote on such resolutions in general meeting.

    Sweat Equity Shares can be issued at any time after incorporation. At present such shares can be issued after one year from commencement of business.

    Deposit insurance is now dispensed with as no such cover is provided by insurance companies.

    Certain charges need not registered with the RoC. Govt. will specify such charges.

    Time limit for filing of satisfaction of charge increased to 300 days after payment of additional fees.

    Extract of annual return in form MGT 9 need not be included in Directors Report.

    No need to file return of changes in the promoters’ shareholding in case of listed Company.

    Annual general meeting of unlisted company can be held at any place, instead of place of registered office, if all members agree.

    No postal ballot is compulsory, if company provides facility of electronic voting.

    Certain resolutions passed by the directors need not be filed with the RoC.

    No need to consolidate accounts of Joint Venture Company.

    Minimum penalty on auditors firm for certain defaults, reduced to Rs. 5 lacs from Rs. 10 lacs.

    Chief Executive Officer (CEO) should sign the financial statements.
    Disclosures made in the financial statements need not be reported in the Directors Report.

    In the Directors report of listed companies, only statement that, performance evaluation of board, directors and committees is carried out is sufficient. The manner of evaluation need not be disclosed.

    The requirement of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) will be decided on the basis of networth/turnover/net profit of the preceding financial years. This is logical. At present it is for any financial year in past.

    Net profit for CSR will not include certain sums as may be prescribed by the Central Govt.

    Auditors are appointed by members in General Meeting for a term of 5 years, subject to ratification every year. Now no need to have ratification by members every year.

    The auditor of a company shall have right to access the books of accounts of associate company also.

    Audit of cost accounts of the company can be done by ‘Cost accountant’ and no need to appoint separate cost accountant in practice.

    Eligibility criteria of Independent Director revised. Now person having transaction with company exceeding 10% of his total income shall not be appointed as independent director. Also the person indebted to the company or provided guarantee to the company or holding securities of the Company are also not eligible for appointment as Independent Director.

    In addition to Directors Identification No. (DIN) any other number as Govt. decides can be used by directors.

    If any person, other than retiring director, is proposed to be appointed as Director, a deposit of Rs. 1 lac was to be paid by him to the Company. This is not applicable to private cos. Now it will not be applicable for appointment of independent directors and persons nominated by nomination committee.

    No person shall hold the directorship of not more than 10 public cos. Or 20 private cos. Now this limit shall not include dormant cos.

    Filing of resignation by the director with the RoC is now optional. It was mandatory. However, the company will have to file the same.

    In a board meeting, if there is quorum through physical presence, any other director may participate through video conferencing on such subjects as Govt. may decide.

    In case related party transactions are not approved by Audit Committee, the Board can approve such transactions.

    Loans by Company to other private co. in which any director of company is member or director, is now after passing special resolution in general meeting.

    Restriction on layers of investment companies omitted. It was allowed to have maximum two layers of such companies.

    Loans to employees are out of purview of limits on loan by company.

    Prohibition on forward dealings in securities and insider trading by directors now omitted. This was unnecessary duplication of provisions.

    If the person is not eligible for appointment as Managing/Executive Director, then govt. approval is required. This is new provision.


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