Idea of India

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After blaming Nehru and Nehruvian era for all the ills in the country, prime minister Narendra Modi has finally paid tributes to the man he loves to revile, soon after his victory in the 2019 polls on the occasion of Nehru’s death anniversary. Modi symbolizes everything that Nehru, who ably steered India on the road to a journey of modernism, liberalism and democracy, opposed and warned about. Seven decades after Nehru created a Nehruvian order of social restructuring, secularism and socialism, Modi has ably managed to take the country on a u-turn and provided an alternate idea of India that is soaked in hatred, bigotry and ultra-nationalism. This anniversary is an apt occasion to recall how the Nehruvian model of politics, that is now being completely altered but for retaining the hollowed shell of social welfare, contributed to India. He gave to India the direction of an anti-imperialism and liberalism during the Indian freedom struggle much before he became India’s first prime minister. The Nehruvian model of development – based on the four pillars of parliamentary democracy, secularism, economic planning for establishing a welfare estate and the policy of non-alignment brought India the due international recognition and prestige. Thought the prime architect of the Indian constitution, one of the reasons that democracy in India has sustained for seven decades, was B.R. Ambedkar, Nehru was head of the Constitution committee and his ideals of secularism, modernism, liberalism and socialism form the essence and core of this constitution from which flow the rights of the citizens of the country. Much of his envisioned socialist welfare state model was altered in the nineties when India started took major economic reforms and embarked on the journey of economic liberalization to match the pace of a changing global economic order. However, the essence of Nehruvian socialism – a blend of private and public enterprises – remained relevant even after that. So did his policy of non-alignment which played a key role in empowering developing nations as major pacifist stake-holders during the cold war period. Everything that Nehru espoused and the direction he gave now stands threatened and likely to be altered with major tectonic shifts as the 2019 election campaigning of Modi led BJP pivoted around war mongering, as opposed to Nehru’s pacifist ideals, and Hindu supremacy as opposed to Nehru’s secular polity showed that the alterations which were already on course in the last five years would be hastened. Crony capitalism that started under Congress regimes is reaching dizzying heights, unemployment is at its worst and economic disparities are heightening with an economic model that serves the interests of solely the rich with some social welfare schemes for housing and toilets serving as a fig leaf to hide the ugly picture of the money power propelling the politics of the day. Nehru’s scientific temperament laid the solid foundations of research centres and modern universities and some of the earliest bills that his government passed sought to end superstitious beliefs and culturally regressive practices like polygamy and non-acceptance of inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. In comparison to that, Modi’s sense of science stems from ignorance, endorses myths, perpetuates superstitions and thus creates a sad trend of de-intellectualising the society. Modi has won the election with a thumping majority in a democracy that might not have survived the way it did if it weren’t for Nehru’s vision and the contribution of many other stalwarts who shared that vision. Ideologically, he may be opposed to Nehru’s idea of India and may be driven by the desire to completely demolish the idea but it would serve him well to understand the role Nehruvian model played in sustaining democracy and the keeping the country united for so long. An alternate model that Modi himself envisions may not necessarily have that ability.