As we are about to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India and this may be the right time to dispassionately discuss his legacy without a political or personal bias.

In my mind for many years the legacy of Pandit Nehru was based on unquestionable loyalty, deference and absolute gratitude to the freedom struggle and anything even remotely critical of this would be considered blasphemy. However, modern India needs to take a realistic assessment of his successes and failures dispassionately.

In my opinion without doubt the greatest contributions and attributes of Panditji were

  • Personal Sacrifice for our freedom fights, even when he could lead an elitist comfortable aristocratic life.
  • Statesmanship and gentlemanly politics
  • Suave sophisticated and classy politics
  • Strong belief in democratic process and secular credentials
  • Open to criticism but no one dared criticize him because of his stature till the China disaster happened
  • Setting up of premier Postgraduate Central Institutes, which until today have stood up to the test of time and continue to be premier Institutes

Having said all these there were many decisions of the Nehruvian Era which certainly set us back in our quest to be one of the strongest, most, powerful and developed nations of the world.

  • The Kashmir blunder was very early in our post independence era where an indecisive prime minister failed to take tough decisions against Pakistan and we are still paying the price.
  •  The Chinese military debacle of the 60’s where our army had to retreat with huge losses after a humiliating drubbing from Chinese, because of poor assessment of the ground reality and very naïve decision making by the Prime Minister, which was compounded by the then Defense minister Mr. Krishna Menon poor military leadership.
  • Poor attention in upgrading the armed forces and nuclear programs leading to Chinese superiority, which got them the permanent membership in the Security council because they went ahead where we faltered and till date we are nowhere close to getting this coveted powerful permanent seat in the Security council.
  •  A very socialistic policy, with extremely large government involvement and very little private participation, leading to a poor economic growth
  •  Totally absurd policy of income tax rates of as high as 90% which killed any incentives for the private individuals and sectors to invest and grow; to me this was the beginning of the black money saga as no one could afford to lawfully pay this tax and survive.
  •  Too much of the license raj which greatly impeded private sector growth and brought in the phenomenon of permanent shortage of essential goods encouraging hoarding and black market culture.

Secular to the point where some considered it an appeasement of vote banks, these issues have always led to the debate – who as a leader would have benefited India the most the Charismatic Statesman, Suave Pandit Nehru or the Earthy, Grass roots, Street Smart, Iron Man of India Sardar Patel in the immediate post Independence period.

In my opinion the best would have been the combo ruling us for many years after independence, until we matured as a democracy. These are my personal views without any political prejudice.

Jai Hind!

Dr H Sudarshan Ballal, MD, FRCP(London) 
Chairman – Med Adv Board & Medical Director – MHEPL, 
Manipal Hospitals, 98, HAL Airport Road, Bangalore-560017 
Email: s.ballal@manipalhospitals.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not of the hospital.

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