F“ew will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
WAS the roadmap drawn by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, accurate? Did Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi play a constructive and dynamic role in the freedom movement? Was Indira Gandhi’s stint as Prime Minister of India in the post-Independence era defensible? Delving into the past invariably yields a million debates. Innumerable books have been written on countless aspects of history. It behoves us to keep this in mind in the current context-Prime Minister Narendra Modi is rousing everybody over the contributions of Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Nehru and Indira. Who was more beneficial, Patel or Nehru? Should Indira be condemned for butchering democracy in the party and the country? There are many schools of thought, fiercely jousting away.
For the record, the Nehruvian worldview entailed pervasive state control over the economy, an idealistic stance in foreign affairs, and special consideration for certain communities in domestic policy. Decision-making is the most difficult task for any leader. He who is taking the decision knows best his circumstances. History can only analyse, appreciate or condemn the decision but the intricacy of decision-making remains within the heart of the leader. Criticising a decision is easier than courageously taking decisions one after the other at a time when the country is at a crossroads and running against both the odds and time. Analysing the past may not be comforting or invigorating; but one can do nothing about what has been except indulge in debate and discussion. History cannot be corrected.
At the time of Independence, there was intense debate over whether India should opt for a free or state-controlled economy. When the nation put up its first steel plant, refinery and hydel power projects, other countries said we did not need to build these as they were ready to provide us steel, oil and electricity. But Nehru’s mantra was to build up ‘Made in India’. And who can forget the contribution of Indira in the India-Bangladesh war, except for certain misdemeanours? Pakistanis became prisoners of war on their own soil under the Indian Army for the first time in a 2,500-year-old history. Atal Behari Vajpayee had then called her ‘Durga’.
Gaffes can, and will, be committed. Had it not been for those committed by the Congress in recent times, Narendra Modi would not have been elected Prime Minister of India. The people of India had thrown the Congress party out of power four times earlier but the past 10 years have been the worst leading to a mess that the new PM says is requiring special effort to clear.
Modi is the most popular mass leader after Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Indira. He has interacted for years directly with the masses whom the Congress ignored in its arrogance. Is Modi tactically creating a new constituency and snatching Mahatma Gandhi from the Congress by denouncing the policies of Nehru and Indira as having been devastating for India? Politically, the roadmap may benefit Modi and his party temporarily. But politics is not a case of temporary gain by analysing history as per individuals’ perception. So Modi is at liberty to debate the past and remind the nation of the blunders committed by our forefathers, but he has to move forward. Expectations are high, he has to act and speedily. He is empowered to change everything. It is a case of ‘Making New India’. However, there is one crucial aspect. After 125 years, it should not be said that Narendra Modi could not take decisions in what he was mandated for. History never forgives anybody.