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Relation Between Days of Nehru and Indian Democracy
1/8/2021 11:39:56 PM
Dr. Rajkumar Singh

Jawaharlal Nehru’s idea on democracy can best be attributed to his submission to the objective laws that led him to realise the direction of the historical process, to understand as an objective and progressive course of events proceeding from the lower to higher. He proceeded to his political work not with the approach of a religious one, but went ahead scientifically, trying to bring it into line with the general objective of course of history and subjugate it to progressive trends. 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’. It was an inherent virtue of Nehru that he always gave the opposition an opportunity to express its view. 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.
Nehru’s democracy in politics
In an initial and experimental manner, we have accepted and dealt with this great world-moving force of man-on-the-March, which is democracy. We are aware that such experiment in democracy is sure to bring about revolutionary changes in our individual and social life. However, the founding fathers of the Indian republic, too, had their own fears of the future of democracy, given the backlog of the problems. They grafted a democratic political system on to a society which was in dire need of fundamental reform in the shortest possible time. It was the faith and the hope of the fathers that in India democracy would not only survive but that through it the necessary social changes would also occur. To sustain democratic institutions, in general, what is required, is a political society which shares their underlying values and constantly manifests commitment to them in its own political activities. Only such a political society can ensure the operation and survival of the democratic processes.
Democracy is meaningful only to the extent it leads to the participation of the people. Sensing the dangers of democracy in India, Jayaprakash Narayan felt that unless democratic system involves masses in its working the ideals of freedom, equality and justice could not be achieved. Following the view of Harold Laski, he, in his paper published in 1959 entitled ‘The Reconstruction of Indian polity,’ held that the worth of democracy must be judged by the amount of voluntary activities within it. It is not the formal institutions like Parliament, assemblies, elected governments which constitute democracy. It must live in the life of the people. Rejecting the theory of parliamentary democracy with multi-Party system, he advanced the system of Partyless democracy of participatory democracy. For practical purpose and in order that the people might participate in the government, the government must be brought as near to the people as possible. This would require a thorough going system of political and economic decentralisation.
Democracy in economic policy
Nehru did not confine his opinion to the realm of politics alone but the arena of economy was not out of his reach. He considered that political democracy by itself is not enough except that it may be used to obtain a gradually increasing measure of economic democracy. Nehru believed in industrialisation and a strong industrial base. The Russian five year plans and the progress made in that country had a great impact on the mind of Nehru. Though he was impressed by Russia’s economic progress he was against the dictatorial form of rule. Therefore, he was for a mixed economy and a good deal of progress was achieved but during his economic period he invested more in industry. More emphasis was laid on industry than agriculture.
Modernisation as sought by Nehru by its very nature promotes contradictory tendencies. It involves advances and retreats, hope and despair, determination to push forward and desire for escape into the past. Inevitably, India, too has experienced such contradictory pulls. Though it has moved too far on the road to modernisation to turn its back on it, it has marked time again and again. The Indian intelligentsia was full of confidence and believed that the country would industrialise rapidly and move into an era of distributive justice without going through any hardships of primitive accumulation of capital. Nehru in the fifties represented this hope and innocence. He himself was convinced that the Indian economy could reach the take off stage in a decade or two.
Initiation of decline of democracy
The lack of authority, order and discipline can adversely affect economic development as well. And as the economy becomes sophisticated, it becomes highly vulnerable to disruption. Modern agriculture, for example, needs a steady supply of power, diesel, fertilizers and pesticides, an assured market and remunerative prices. In the fifties, we had many eminent men in public life who were every inch a gentleman. In the sixties we had many public figures who were every alternate inch a gentleman. Unfortunately, in the seventies we have an unacceptably large number of politicians who are no inch a gentleman. Therefore, by the end of Nehru era, this economic optimism had begun to give way to serious doubts. The sixties and seventies saw grave economic difficulties. From the mid-sixties onwards, with the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, the massive IMF – enforced devaluation of the rupee soon after and the terrible drought that ravaged the land, it was clear that the system which had seemed hitherto to be sailing in tranquil waters, had entered a turbulent sea. It was only aroused this time that the rumblings of a system beginning to come under socio-economic stress were first quite clearly heard. Politically the most significant manifestation of this gathering crisis appeared in 1967 elections which saw the once unassailable Congress Party lose out to a motely assemble of opposition parties in a number of northern states.
All this was perhaps too good to last, though it did not last for well over a decade. Despite the scientific temper he had for the country, he was a poor judge of men, and therefore, he could not distinguish between real friends and sycophants. In the later phase of his life he took the support of undesirable elements to remain in power. Though he was popular with the masses he did not take action against vested interest which exploited the masses. He did not mind taking funds from anti – social elements. The Congress Party started accepting black money for elections during his time. Though soft, he was not always straightforward in dealing with his colleagues. The Kamaraj Plan was contrived to ease out some persons he disliked. His ‘soft pedaling’ of corruption had a disastrous effect on public morals. Nehru admitted the facts of public life then prevailing and said, ‘Unhappily during the war and afterwards various types of corruption have grown. Controls have added to them and general standards fallen, both in government servants and in the public.
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