Nehru
From the archives

After Nehru - What?

By the time Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru died on 27th May 1964, C. Rajagopalachari, a colleague of Nehru before the British left, had spent nearly 10 years fighting Nehru’s statist policies. We reproduce here Rajaji’s views on an India after Nehru.

Let not the magnificence of the funeral of our late Prime Minister and the tributes of the world Powers and their representatives paid after his death to Nehru the man, lead us into the error of believing that all is well with India and what we want is just the keeping up of the status quo and nothing more. It would be a grave error to adopt this policy of complaisance, which is so tempting and easy for loyal men to adopt but would be wholly unfortunate for the nation.

I was asked by a foreign journalist how I would measure India’s loss in the passing away of Sri Jawaharlal Nehru. The loss is very great. I replied, not only because of Jawaharlal Nehru’s greatness, but because he had by his influence created a more or less rigid public opinion in respect of many matters, and it cannot be easy for smaller men who now represent his authority to change the course. Jawaharlal Nehru was in spite of his seeming dogmatism, open-minded enough and able to modify his own views. This advantage we have now lost – and it is a great loss. Plans and policies adopted under his lead must be greatly altered, if we wish to save the country from much misfortune.

No single man can replace Sri Jawaharlal Nehru. Not can even a group of people replace him in the full sense. But a group of people can carry on, if they have humility enough to listen to divergent opinions and take advice from the Union President and others. Some people doubt whether democracy can survive in India without the leadership such as was provided by Jawaharlal Nehru. Democracy can in India in spite of Nehru’s death, if the people could be induced to return Opposition members to the legislatures in sufficient number- and out of good and able men. Unfortunately elections have become too costly for this to happen or to be hoped for; and the electoral procedure cannot be amended, the Government partly having an advantage in the very expensiveness of the elections.

Nehru with Rajaji

The greatest danger now facing India is the failure to effect cordial relationship with Pakistan or a neglect of this important issue. The consequent weakness of the sub-continent against communist aggression should be the first concern of all thinking men India and Pakistan. I also feel that on economic plane the greatest danger now is a stubborn continuation of the policy of expensive taxation and far too ambitious Soviet style of Planning, leading to inflation. The vital element of the population, on which depends democracy, is crushed between inflation and taxation. Put in general terms, the greatest danger now would be the failure of the new Government to realize the need for a change of policy in spite of admiration and worship paid to the memory of the late Prime Minister.

India will be compelled to move towards franker and more open friendship with Western Powers including Russia. I include Russia because of distinctly better climate of affairs between America and Russia now developing. Non-alignment will fade away into a remembered doctrine leaving nothing substantial behind. The Government should wake up from dogmatism and give up the sterile and self defeating policy of crushing taxation levied to back up State capitalism.

I crave attention to the important and thoughtful article in last week’s issue of Swarajya contributed by Srimathi Vasanta Subramaniam. The Central idea in it is that friendship can be got by love, and not by bargaining. The nation and its leaders should settle in their minds clearly on the objective of friendship and co-operation with Pakistan and recognise that this is No.1 priority in our present politics. S-E Asia is going into communist hands and we have had enough of evidence as to China’s non-reliability as a peaceful or honest neighbour. It would be fatal for both of us, Pakistan and India, if we drift apart, accepting as our fate the policy of carrying on with mistrust and mutual hostility.

Once this aim of achieving Indo-Pak friendship is underlined as essential, we must not allow pride or anger or resentment of any kind to block the way of achieving it. When a priority is fixed, on full consideration, we should stick to it firmly. There are some things for which no price can be too much. Not peace at any price which is an ignoble policy: but friendship at any price is a noble positive determination when that friendship is essential for defence of Freedom. We can never in this world obtain friendship of any kind, private or public, by hostile gestures. Nor is negotiation the way. No true friendship can really rest on a bargain or on intimidation. Negotiate details we must, and clear the stables, but the main preliminary task of changing hearts is not something that can be reached through bargaining or through the irritating ambiguities of diplomacy. Friendship can be generated by and only by unilateral action carrying with it unmistakable message of love. India and her leaders must find courage that is required for unilateral action. It is a subtle and unfailing instrument for generating love, where there has been a history of persistent mistrust and hostility.

It will be asked by some no-changers on this side, that his doctrine of love and unilateral initiative for friendship should be recognised by Pakistan too. That leads us back to the barren way of negotiation, which if what I have so far said is true, would be futile policy.

Nehru’s death and the great and impressive funeral can be an occasion for a turn in history instead of being a mere tragedy

. The smaller men that have had to take over the office held till now by a great man have a big opportunity to achieve what Nehru during the last few weeks before his passing had wished to achieve, and which in paradoxical way has been brought a little nearer even by the very tragedy over which all Asia genuinely laments. Nehrus’ death itself can become a sad stepping stone towards better fortune in our great affairs. Providence in a mysterious way sometimes provides such compensations.

Turning to purely internal affairs also, but not going into any lengthy examination of the problems, gestures of concern for the welfare of those engaged in industry and agriculture can also follow the principle of unilateral action. Such gestures would serve to forge fresh and strong bonds of love between the Government and the people in all ranks and occupations. Is not love indeed the best bond between government and people? Reduced taxation and the abandonment of the policy of fragmentation of land as well as of the airy castles of collectivization would be noble gestures of love and patriotic concern for the people- as well as great wisdom. And this should be done not in response to pressure but unilaterally, so to say, on the initiative of the new Government. Budgets are not immutable during times of crisis, specially when a Government of wholly new calibre takes charge. Let me end saying that unilateral initiatives of this nature call for the highest understanding of the human mind as well as the greatest courage, both of which may God bless the new Government with.

This piece was first published in the June 16, 1964 edition of Swarajya.