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Jawaharlal Nehru

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Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru
Date of Birth: November 14, 1889
Date of Death: May 27, 1964
Place of Birth: Allahabad, UP
Prime Minister of India
Tenure Order: 1st Prime Minister
Political party: Indian National Congress
Took Office: August 15, 1947
Left Office: May 27, 1964
Successor: Gulzarilal Nanda

Jawaharlal Nehru (जवाहरलाल नेहरू, Javāharlāl Nehrū) (November 14, 1889May 27, 1964), also called Pandit ('Teacher') Nehru, was the leader of the socialist wing of the Indian National Congress during and after India's struggle for independence from the British Empire. He became the first Prime Minister of India at independence on August 15, 1947, holding the office until his death. A committed socialist, Nehru was the architect of the 'Avadi Resolution' that swore by the 'Socialistic Pattern of Society.'

Contents

Brief Biography

1889-1918

The son of prominent Congress leader Motilal Nehru, Nehru returned from education in England at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge to practice law before following his father into politics. By his parents' arrangement, Nehru married Kamala Kaul, then seventeen in 1916. At the time of his wedding on 8 February, 1916, Jawaharlal was twenty-six, a British educated Barrister. Kamala came from a well-known business family of Kashmiris in Delhi. Jawaharlal was domineering; Kamala quiet and unobtrusive. Despite Jawaharlal's presumably modern views, Kamala was to have very little impact on her petulant husband. In the second year of the marriage, Kamala gave birth to their only child, Indira Priyadarshini in 1917.

1918-1937

Politically, Nehru gradually emerged as a protege of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi entering the first rank in Indian nationalist politics as president of Congress (an annual post) for the first time in 1929. Nehru spent most of these years in prison writing books and letters; he lost his father and wife while incarcerated. Kamala Nehru died of tuberculosis on 28 February, 1936 in Switzerland.

1937-1947

Imprisoned for 32 months after the Quit India movement of 1942, Nehru formed the country's first Indian government in July 1946 in the face of mounting opposition from the All-India Muslim League, whose campaign for a separate state led to the creation of a separate Pakistan in 1947.

Nehru's major rival as Mahatma Gandhi's successor in Congress was Sardar Vallabhai Patel. Nehru was considered more idealistic than the more pragmatic Patel, who was also popular within Congress; but Gandhi's fondness for Nehru proved decisive in all contests between the two leaders.

Another of Nehru's political rivals, this time on the Congress left, was Subhas Chandra Bose who championed a military solution against the British. Bose left the Congress after Gandhi opposed his Presidency at the Tripura Session of Congress in 1937; he went on to found the Indian National Army, which has been referred to as the "Forgotten Army" in a famous book of the same title, and, allied with the Japanese, took part in action against colonial British forces in much of Southeast Asia.

1947-1964

Nehru served as the prime minister of India for these 18 years consecutively. Nehru died on 27 May, 1964. India's heavy defeat in the war with China, which dimmed his public stature greatly, and affected him greatly both physically and mentally: he felt betrayed by the Chinese, whom he had trusted implicitly and supported in many fora. He died shortly thereafter, having achieved much, yet still - according to a quote from Robert Frost which he had always kept on his office desk - feeling he had so much more left to do.

Nehru's policies

Economic policy

Nehru was fascinated by the Soviet Union's Piatiletka or 5-year plans. But he wrote after a visit there in the 1920s that 'the human costs are unpayable'. A believer in the 'mixed economy' of Harold Laski and influenced by the Fabian Society, Nehru wished the Indian Economy to be partially capitalist, but with the state occupying a large role, especially in the commanding heights of the economy.

In setting a path for the economic policy after Independence, he choose from a set of options considerably more limited than those available today, and followed to a large degree the conventional wisdom among academic economists of the time. India's growth rate in GDP stayed moderately above 4% during all the years that Nehru was Prime Minister.

Some recent (but isolated) studies influence by Chicago School economists—such as one by Goldman Sachs—have claimed that India, had the potential to grow faster than it did in the 1960-1980 timeframe. According to this thinking, that opportunity was wasted out of a misplaced faith in the power of economic planning. Economist Jagdish Bhagwati has remarked that India's problem has been that it has too many brilliant economists; Bhagwati believes the stalwarts of Nehru's Planning Commissions began to believe in their own infallibility, to the detriment of the Indian nation.

B. R. Shenoy contemporary dissent to Nehru's Second Five-Year Plan, notably, is now considered a classic publication in the Austrian School of Economics.

The Soviet Union was the only major power during Nehru's tenure to aid India in developing independent capabilities areas of heavy industry, engineering, and technology. This political fact, combined with Nehru's preference for state-led development, promoted suspicion about the sincerity of India's non-aligned foreign policy positions. In hindsight, the Nehruvian model failed in many of its objectives; however, many Indian economists—particularly among Nehru's contemporaries—believe Nehru's emphasis on central planning was the right policy for India of that time.

Some critics of Indian economic development believe that the economy of the Nehruvian and post-Nehruvian era, with inefficient public sector entities on the one hand, and crony-capitalist private sector entities that used the so-called license raj to carve out lucrative niches for themselves on the other, was a product of economic policy foundations laid during Nehru's tenure.

Nehru's economic policies are sometimes confused by critics with those of his daughter, Indira Gandhi, which were more statist and dirigiste in orientation. Nehru's economics of state intervention and investment were conceived at a time when transfers of capital and technology important to India were not easily forthcoming from the developed world (which at the time also had plenty of state-sponsored capital controls.)

Institutional legacy

The British left behind civic institutions including the judicial system, parliament and universities that continued to function well during Nehru's tenure.

Foreign policy

Nehru's personal charisma extended to the world stage where, because of his leadership, India was often seen to be "punching above its weight." As prime minister, he pursued a foreign policy of non-alignment and became a founder and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. He pursued India's claim to Kashmir in the face of Pakistani opposition, resulting in the First Kashmir War (1947-49). Not wishing to confront China, Nehru did not protest the Chinese conquest of Tibet, despite the fact that it meant the disappearance of a buffer state that had separated China and India, although the Dalai Lama was permitted to set up a government-in-exile at Dharamsala. Military defeat at the hands of the People's Republic of China in the Sino-Indian War in October 1962 brought strong criticism of military unpreparedness and Nehru's policy of excessive trust in China, which had, to its credit, truthfully indicated its intention to occupy both Tibet and parts of northern India.

During the Cold War on November 27, 1946, Nehru appealed to the United States and the Soviet Union to end nuclear testing and to start nuclear disarmament, stating that such an action would "save humanity from the ultimate disaster."

Home affairs

Though Nehru professed distaste for armed force, during his administration the Home Minister Sardar Patel used India's army to secure, for instance, Hyderabad in September 1948; later Portuguese-colonized Goa in December 1961 was incorporated into India through a bloodless military takeover.


Books written by Nehru

Missing image
Discovery_of_india.jpg
Nehru on the Cover of the Discovery of India.

The words of Nehru's famous Tryst with Destiny speech on the eve of Indian Independence is as familiar, and indeed significant, to Indian ears as the Gettysburg Address is to Americans. However, to a modern Indian listening to a tinny recording of that speech, Nehru's famed charisma does not quite come across although he was supposedly a legendary orator.

Post-Nehru era

His only daughter, Indira Gandhi, went on to become Prime Minister following the death of Nehru's immediate successor Lal Bahadur Shastri in January 1966. In an interview to an American magazine, "My legacy to India", Nehru had said, "is, hopefully, 400 million people capable of governing themselves".

Trivia about Nehru

  • Nehru had a golden bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi and a hand of Abraham Lincoln on his office desk.
  • In 1937, Modern Review of Calcutta carried a letter, under the pen-name Chanakya, that warned members of the Congress Party against Nehru, then party president, declaring that he had "tendencies towards autocracy" and needed to be firmly checked before he "turns into Caesar". It emerged many years later that the letter was written by Nehru himself.
  • Nehru popularized the Nehru jacket.
  • Nehru's birthday, 14 November, is celebrated as Children's Day in India, in memory of his love of children.

See also

Further reading

  • Nehru: A Biography by Shashi Tharoor (November 2003) Arcade Books ISBN 155970697X
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Edited by S. Gopal and Uma Iyengar) (July 2003) The Essential Writings of Jawaharlal Nehru Oxford University Press ISBN 019565324X
  • Autobiography:Toward freedom Oxford University Press

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