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Role of Nehru in changing Indian society and politics
12/15/2019 10:48:09 PM

Dr. Rajkumar Singh

Jawaharlal Nehru played a very significant role in order to strengthen political institutions under the framework of the Indian Constitution. The adoption of the Constitution in its secular spirit during the years of strife and communal tension was itself a dashing step taken under his leadership. He was one of those great democrats who believed in democracy as a political system allowing the peaceful play of power, the adherence by the 'outs' to decisions made by the 'ins' and the recognition by the 'ins' of the rights of the 'outs'. In his opinion, the end of Parliamentary democracy should be the maximum good of the people and to this end he was opposed to delaying and complicated procedures. Since Parliamentary institutions reflect the character of the people, he laid emphasis on the purity of means and ends under this system.
Glaring facts of constitution and politics
But the constitutional structure of the world's newest and largest democracy as held by Sachchidananda Sinha, Provisional Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, that it all may perish in an hour by the folly, corruption or negligence of its only keepers, the people. These prophetic words came true. The foundations of the Constitution have been shaken by the folly of the people, the corruption of our politicians and negligence of the elite. It was during the closing years of Nehru regime that he felt the deteriorating phenomenon all around - in the Congress party and at the level of governments as well. The results of the second general election held in 1957 was an eye opener for Nehru and others in which the party had lost ground in several states and had been defeated by the Communists in Kerala. Now it was acknowledged that the party had been suffering from many faults, such as, poor grass-root organisation ; nepotism; the predilection for the fleshpots of some of its leaders ; who had spent long terms in jail under the British; corruption reported from a number of areas, with which Nehru failed to deal; indifference to the interests of the voters; lack of appeal to youth; and in general a condition of sloth engendered by easy and prolonged success for which the party had not had to fight.
The Indian state as it developed in the Nehruvian era, concentrated all powers of patronage in its hand. Consequently, academia with few exceptions, have tended to play the role of courtiers in the power structure. So science congresses, cultural events and conferences on arts, culture and literature are inaugurated by politicians totally unfamiliar with the subjects. A state has been reached when very few public functions are considered successful unless a politician is invited to inaugurate them or to be the chief guest. This inflates political egos, makes our elected representative feel unduly important. They then become arrogant and insensitive to democratic norms. The Indian state had quickly created a progressive constitutional framework and possessed an enlightened political leadership. While the constitution and the state structures based upon it have remained essentially intact, the quality of political leadership steadily deteriorated. The inability of the state to use its political capabilities effectively, accommodating the moderate and isolating the militant, has contributed more to the spread of insurgencies in the various parts of the country.
General elections at a glance
From constitutional points of view our elections are a guarantee against any attempt at transgression of the cherished values. It is duty cast on the intellectuals of the nation to alert the people to their rights and duties. Intelligent and discerning participation in the election is therefore at once a right and duty cast on every free Indian. The first, second and third general elections which were held during the lifetime of Nehru were a one man's show. The man was Nehru as Michael Brecher has put it, "He was the Chief of staff, field commander spokesman and foot-soldier at one and the same time. It was he who drafted the Party's election manifesto, embodying the well known principles of his foreign policy, the stress on secularism, social reform, education and economic development. It was he who set the tone of the Party's appeal for selfless service, devotion to basic principles and faith in the Indian people." However, in spite of the inexperience of the voters, remarkably few had been challenged, and even fewer had been charged with fraud, and practically no incidents involving violence or intimidation had been reported. What was particularly impressed foreign observers were the voters' enthusiasm for the electoral process, their genuine desire to inform themselves about the qualifications of candidates, and their common sense in making their selections. In the first general elections the percentage of the total number valid votes polled was 37.1 per cent, which increased to 46.6 per cent and 56.3 per cent respectively in the second and third general elections. In the first Congress got 364 Lok Sabha seats with 45 per cent of votes polled, in the second it got 371 seats with somewhat improved 47.8 per cent of votes polled and finally in the third it got 361 seats with 44.7 per cent of total valid votes polled. The results of first three general elections and their trends thereof had made it clear that whatever the reason, Nehru's post-independence leadership was no longer as effective and glamorous as it had been during the pre-independence period, though his involved leadership continued until his death.
Hard facts of politics
The death of Nehru marked the end of an era in Indian society and politics. It was he who remained a symbol of democratic norms in India and abroad. By the time the Indian society and social ingredients had signalled a drastic change which reflected in the politics of coming years. In the post-Nehru phase the political system of the country felt itself stressed. Despite marginal progress in specific fields, the overall decline in public morality, political leadership and in regard to political parties was held responsible for the chaotic condition of the system. Loyalty to the chair is a valuable trait of today while it should be, in any case, to the nation and not to some individuals. A good Prime Minister, to use Winston Churchill's phrase, has to be a good butcher. He or she must get rid of those who fail to perform and, in our context, those who persistently attract adverse attention on moral grounds. Jawaharlal Nehru was not a good butcher but he did not need to be. He had by and large a good team and challenges he faced were not as difficult to cope with as those of later years. India had ceased to be the stable society that it was in the fifties and the early sixties.
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