By Raj Kanwar
Both the RSS and BJP suffer from a misconception that Sardar Patel and not Jawaharlal Nehru was the rightful claimant to the highest office in the country post-Independence, and that the latter had cleverly ‘manipulated’ both Gandhi and Lord Mountbatten to become India’s first Prime Minister, pushing Patel down to the number two slot.
Absurdly, both the RSS and its later appendage BJP have had to borrow Sardar Patel — Nehru’s closest colleague both in the freedom movement and the post-1947 government — as their iconic hero hailing him India’s “Iron Man”. It shows the bankruptcy of leadership in their own ranks. Ironically, it was the same Iron Man, Sardar Patel, who was instrumental in banning the RSS and arresting its leaders and cadres following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948.
At times, politicians make it convenient to forget history, even recent events. Let us at least not forget that both Nehru and Patel were not only comrade-in-arms during the long Freedom movement but were also intimate colleagues in the post-independence government. There was hardly any difference of opinion between the two colleagues and the two worked in unison with each other. Even though Nehru was the Prime Minister and Patel the Home Minister, Nehru extended due deference to Patel’s opinions on matters of policy because of the latter’s seniority in age. It would be twisting history to claim that all would have been hunky-dory in regard to Kashmir or other thorny problems if Patel had been the Prime Minister.
Now that when Machiavellian attempts are being made by the current ruling dispensation to erase from India’s political history the name of Jawaharlal Nehru, it is time to recall and celebrate his great contribution towards making India a modern secular parliamentary democracy. Nehru had considered the parliamentary democracy as critical bedrock for building a forward-looking and self-reliant country. And every possible safeguard was incorporated in the Constitution to ensure that its fundamental features were not tempered with.
Despite Gandhi’s assassination on 30 January 1948, it nevertheless goes to Nehru’s credit that he steadfastly pursued development projects despite the turmoil of the Partition and the resultant migration of populations. He left in the competent hands of Sardar Patel the issues regarding the maintenance of law and order and those related to the accession of hundreds of Indian princely states to the Dominion of India. The reassuring presence of Patel enabled Nehru to continue without distraction with his development agenda.
Those who today overtly criticise Nehru from housetops must not forget that they have been in power since 2014, thanks to the Parliamentary democracy that Nehru not only gave India but also ensured that it remained strong and durable. Now that the Nehru’s 131st birthday is around the corner, it is time that we Indians rise above our narrow political skirmishes, and stand as one man to hail Nehru as the man who made India the bedrock of Parliamentary democracy.
Let’s now celebrate Nehru’s birthday as ‘Parliamentary Democracy Day’. That is the least that the country can pay its tribute to the man who had laid a strong foundation for Parliamentary democracy in the country. Let’s salute both Sardar Patel as India’s ‘Iron Man’ and Nehru as the ‘Fountain Head’ of Parliamentary democracy in India. We must not forget that both Patel and Nehru had been comrades-in-arms for all of their political life.
The writer is a Dehradun-based journalist and author. His latest book is Dateline Dehradun
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