Thiruvananthapuram: The role that Nehru has played in the progress of Indian democracy cannot be overlooked. So, while questioning the contributions of Nehru, his democratic views will be accepted. The session by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta at Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL) held in Kanakakkunnu Palace on Saturday was on the subject ‘What Did Nehru Do Right?’. The session explored the diverse aspects of Indian democracy.
Shashi Tharoor clarified in the beginning that Nehru is evaluated on the basis of his contributions to democracy, secularism, building a foundation of economy and science and foreign policy. Nehru was surrounded by the temptations to choose dictatorship in the independent India. Gandhi was murdered in 1948. Sardar Patel passed away after 2 years. Nehru was transforming into a most influential leader. But, Nehru didn’t lose the way of democracy. An article which was published in ‘Modern Review of Kolkata’ had stated that we don’t need Caesers. It was later revealed that the author of this article was Nehru. Tharoor pointed out that it showed the depth of democratic values in Nehru.
Nehur’s stands also took India forward in the aspect of secularism. Unlike the Western notion in which church and constitution are separate entities, Nehru gave space for religions to grow in the secularist India. He could form a firm economic and scientific basis in India when divisions and similar issues posed many challenges. Tharoor said that Nehru gave a special place for India in the world through the non-alignment movement.
Swapan Dasgupta opined that the democratic values in Nehru haven’t caused any problem instead it was his notion about India. India didn’t come into existence in 1947 or 1950. The concept of India had existed long before that. But, this past was not so important for Nehru. This attitude of Nehru is reflected in Nehru’s words when he appreciated the selection of a new city as the capital of Punjab. Nehru was interested to hand over the Somnath Temple to archaeology department after the temple renovation. But, Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad wished to make it a living shrine. Swapan said that this attitude of Nehru was questioned. “Nehru was influenced by the western culture. He was mostly one among them,” Swapan Das pointed out.
Tharoor agreed with Swapan Das and said that it is important to remind the rulers of contemporary India about this history as currently the democratic-constitutional systems are under attack. Nehru had criticized the judiciary in some stages. Also, he didn’t hesitate to apologize when he realized that the criticism had crossed the lines. Nehru knew that even the powerful prime minister is not above the democratic system. Tharoor said that these contributions of Nehru had helped him to attain the highest position in a country.
Swapan Das mentioned that it must not be forgotten that Nehru was not the only leader in Congress. There were other prominent leaders like Sardar Patel, Rajaji and Rajendra Prasad. It was not easy for Nehru to become a dictator in the scenario of independent India. Swapan pointed out that currently Congress is not following the secularist ideals of Nehru and the party stance in the Sabarimala issue is an evidence for that. Tharoor agreed that they cannot ignore the beliefs and customs of a large number of people and Congress has gone far away from Nehru’s stands. Congress is trying to find constitutional solutions in the Sabarimala issue. He mentioned that everyone knows about the party which tries to create violence in Sabarimala.
Swapan concluded the debate by stating that it was not a war but a conversation. Meaningful and healthy debates must continue. Nehru reminds about the progress of India which reflects diversity and disagreements.