Letter to BS: Nehru was a darling of the Indian masses for over two decades

Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi
This refers to the editorial “A weapon called Nehru” (February 8). The article comments on a view that Ja­wa­harlal Nehru never deserved to be given the charge of India in 1947 and that he denied Sardar Patel the position of the first prime minister by ma­ni­pu­lating Gandhi and Lord Mountbatten.

Those holding this view don’t appear to know that Gandhi, apart from being a Mahatma, was known to be one of the shrewdest politicians India ever had. More than one British vi­ceroys of India, with whom he carried negotiations, held this view of him. To say that he could be manipulated is a fantasy, if not outright stupidity.

Gandhi had chosen Nehru over other outstanding leaders to lead the post-Independence India not due to any manipulation, but he had taken into account the widely-held view that Nehru, more than any other leader then, was a pan-India personality without any regional leaning and a person with international reputation. He had been the darling of the Indian masses for over two decades. His sway over them was unparalleled — they would gather in large numbers, just to have his darshan. 

Patel, great in his own way, was not a leader of the masses. His work was essentially behind the curtains. He was not accepted by Bengal because of the hostility between him and Subhas Chandra Bose and his family (there was a patch up only a few weeks before Independence when he and Netaji’s elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose embraced each other in public view). He was hardly known in south India, while in the west, he was caught in a race between Gujaratis and Marathis. 

Patel’s greatness became apparent only after Independence as Nehru’s deputy because of his monumental work in erasing over 500 princely states from the map of India and unifying the country as never before in its long history. By this act, he brought one-third of India out of the medieval into the modern age. 

The aforesaid are some of the factors due to which Nehru and not Patel was made to lead India after the advent of freedom. These apart, Patel was 72 years old at the time of Independence and had a major heart ailment soon after.

As regards Mountbatten, he came into picture only in March 1947. At the time, Nehru was already a tall leader and the senior most member of India’s interim government and didn’t have to manipulate Mountbatten to advance his position.

RC Mody, New Delhi

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