1. Chased away Congress talent: When the US won their war of Independence, some people suggested that George Washington declare himself king. They were soundly rebuked and Washington chose to become President. He also chose to step down after two terms.
That became the norm and when Franklin Roosevelt won four terms the two-term precedent was converted into a law. Historian Richard Morris identified seven founding fathers of America. Did you know that apart from Washington, four others also made President?
They are John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin.
Contrast that with Jawaharlal Nehru who ruled like a king till death. He ruled from 1947-64 and India totally stagnated towards the end. There were 10 ministers in the Nehru-Patel Cabinet. Did you know six of those rebelled against Nehru and quit?
Even our only Indian Governor General C Rajagopalachari rebelled against Nehru and formed the Swatantra Party.
While the founding fathers of America ruled their country in turns, Nehru was a dictator who chased away party talent. This leadership style continues till this very day in the Congress and most regional parties.
2. Founded a pseudo-communist state: One party ruled without a single credible Opposition for 30 years. Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi (with a brief 3-year gap) also ruled till death.
The license raj was pathetic and the State controlled every aspect of life. So used to a pseudo-communist State was everyone that Indira had absolutely no problem in introducing Emergency in 1975. Maybe communism seemed like a great idea in 1947, but on hindsight it could be called one of the worst political ideas ever.
3. Economic foundations crashed in 1991: Great leaders are known by their long-term vision. With whatever economic vision Nehru founded Independent India, it all came crashing down in 1991.
In hindsight even though Liberalization appears our best idea after 1947, it didn’t seem so at that time. Not many remember the economic crisis before it. The government was on the verge of default, our Forex reserves were non-existent and the RBI was getting no new credit.
Imagine India airlifting 67 tons of gold to the Bank of England and the Union Bank of Switzerland to raise an amount of $600 million! A leader commented that the then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar was selling the country.
Chandra Shekhar quipped back: Who will buy this country with the state that it’s in!
We should consider ourselves very lucky that the Liberalization gamble paid off big time and full marks to then then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao.
4. Foreign policy was a disaster: We have two enemies: Pakistan and China. Nehru bungled on both. Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw has gone on record as saying that Nehru was totally indecisive on Kashmir and it was Patel’s pushing that saw India take decisive action and secure the Valley from the advances of Pakistan.
In the case of China also while our enemy was making grand plans to acquire Aksai Chin, Nehru wore blinkers and pretended nothing would happen. Even when China attacked, Nehru looked the other way.
At that time the Indian Air Force was superior to the China’s Air Force, but Nehru was too scared to use it.
The Non-Aligned Movement was also a joke more so because we were closely aligned with the USSR which was not a democracy but a Communist dictatorship. Again Nehru backed the wrong horse and it went kaput in 1991 and Indian defence forces had problems with spares when the USSR collapsed.
5. Led to the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty: Some people try to defend Nehru by saying that he died in 1964 and Indira took over in 1966 and he had nothing to do with the dynasty taking root. This is incorrect.
Nehru made Indira Congress president in the 1959 Delhi session and always indicated that she was his choice as a successor. In fact in 1964 many Congress leaders expected Shastri to suggest Indira’s name for the PM’s post, but he didn’t do so.
6. First Amendment: Nehru introduced the First Amendment which sincerely curbed free speech. He set the standards for suppressing dissent and most of the Dynasty tried to follow him. Indira imposed Emergency, Rajiv tried to introduce the Anti-defamation Bill and Section 66A was introduced under Sonia’s Congress presidency.
7. Kashmir: The Kashmir problem could have been solved in the 1947-48 period, but Nehru was totally indecisive on it. Kashmir was never treated like other Indian States and BR Ambedkar strongly opposed Article 370.
Jammu & Kashmir continues to be a troubled State and the origins of that lie in 1947.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The most charismatic leader of them all. (Had Mahatma Gandhi not chased him from the Congress Presidency, Bose may have stayed in India and survived till 1947)
Sardar Vallabhai Patel: The man who unified Independent India. (He was the first choice for PM within the party, but the Mahatma unilaterally pushed for Nehru)
C Rajagopalachari: The only man with the “Right” economic foresight. (Probably the most under-rated 1947 leader, his writings have become even more relevant in 2014)
More from the author:
Beware! The Fascist dictator riseth!
Five reasons why Pappu will be a disastrous PM
Six reasons for Nitish's sudden collapse
Misogynist politicians: Roll of dishonour
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.