Narendra Modi: Learning from a mistake of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru

Before the General Elections of 2014 in India, Narendra Modi got confused between two famous figures of Indian history (Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Shyamji Krishna Verma). He praised the earlier for the merits of the later. Other parties found a way to point out the ignorance of current Prime Minister and said that good understanding of history is important to lead a nation as big and diverse as India.

In this article, we argue that whatever his status of facts are, Modi has been able to correctly understand one important aspect or we should say a mistake made by Jawahar Lal Nehru i.e. to mobilize people on major issues.

While majority of critical points for Nehru are based on individual opinions, there is a consensus that he did not take initiative to mobilize people on issues like education, women empowerment etc. When he rallied as a spearhead of his party for General Elections of 1952, he was able to mobilize people against communalism, a strong force of religion at that time which shows that he had the ability to mobilize people (after all he was the chosen one by Gandhiji himself) yet he did so only at the time of elections. His thinking was simple: “If you propose an act or a policy that can take India forward, then there is no need to mobilize people for it as they will automatically get around eventually.” Hindu Code Bill for social consolidation, PSUs for economic consolidation, IITs and other national academic institutions for developing scientific temper were all parts of this thinking. As there were many things to do at that time, Nehru did not bother to see the actual implementation of these measures. Women continued to get discriminated in divorce and property related matters while PSUs became house of corrupts. This part is extensively written by many historians like Bipan Chandra who maintained that while Nehru’s intent was to take India to new heights, he was always reluctant to make an issue a movement. They take the example of Russia which, after Russian revolution, was able to rapidly increase the fold of education as whole nation rallied under the communist leadership for single mission of universal education. In this context, Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan reflects his good understanding of history. He said that India should be clean for many domestic and international reasons. The argument is true and obvious to many of us. He then took the leaf from the book of history where Nehru made the mistake to not walk that extra mile to ensure the implementation of the measure through participation of people. Modi tagged many celebrities including Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bacchan to kick-start the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. He chose Gandhiji to be a poster boy for this movement and launched the movement on 2nd October on his 145th birth anniversary. Even Congress could not condemn this move and some of its MP like Shashi Tharoor participated in the movement. Since then, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan has become a buzz phrase for all Indians. Its popularity increased much rapidly than MGNREGA of UPA or Jan Dhan Yojana of NDA. While the Abhiyaan has really become a revolution is still to be found, no one can deny that such mobilization on an issue is a new reality for India. It is often said that an advise is not a substitute for experience. We believe it was said by those who could not comprehend the advise well. Many prime ministers followed Nehru and did not learn from his one commonly known mistake. Many of them made issues like Reservation and Religion their movements through which they intended to mobilize people. These issues, however, ended bloody because there were people on both sides. Issues like education, health, environment etc can only improve if there is movement for them. There are numerous instances from history which are testimonials for the argument made in this article. Probably it is time to change the saying from “Get your facts right” to “Get your understanding of facts right”.

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