Nehru

Nehru

Nehru

Nehru

Synopsis

This engaging new biography dispels many myths surrounding Nehru, and distinguishes between the icon he has become and the politician he actually was.Benjamin Zachariah places Nehru in the context of the issues of his time, including the central theme of nationalism, the impact of Cold War pressures on India and the transition from colonial control to a precarious independence.How did Jawaharlal Nehru come to lead the Indian nationalist movement, and how did he sustain his leadership as the first Prime Minister of independent India? Nehru's vision of India, its roots in Indian politics and society, as well as its viability have been central to historical and present-day views of India.Connecting the domestic and international aspects of his political life and ideology, this study provides a fascinating insight into Nehru, his times and his legacy.

Excerpt

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) is remembered as a major leader of the Indian nationalist movement and the first prime minister of independent India (1947-64). As a left-leaning leader of an anti-colonialist nationalist movement and an internationalist, he became well-known outside India in the 1920s and 1930s, speaking out against imperialism in other countries and expressing solidarity with anti-fascism and the republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. By the time of Indian independence in 1947, he was already a world leader of some stature. His importance grew, particularly in the context of the aspirations of other emergent nationalisms in the colonial and former colonial world, who looked to India as an example, and of the Cold War, which made the superpowers' desire to have India, strategically placed both geographically and ideologically, on their side. Within India, his reputation as one of the giants of the Indian nationalist movement and his credentials as Mahatma Gandhi's acknowledged political heir made him a dominant figure in Indian politics before and after independence.

It would not be untrue to say that educated Indians have a love-hate relationship with the figure of Jawaharlal Nehru. Much has been said, all with much emotion and involvement, about his legacy, his career, his mistakes, his failure to understand India, and so on. It is an extremely involved relationship, of filial homage or symbolic parricide in a deeply patriarchal society. He was in so many ways a positive figure: if not someone you actually admired, someone you might so easily have admired. He was the public face of India to the world for so many years - so many crucial years for our self-respect, our sense of independence, of being free. We might have wanted him to be someone else - very often: firmer, more self-assertive in his dealings with the lesser mortals, the self-interested mediocrities of his party; more radical in carrying out his various progressive pronouncements; readier to move with the left than to sit with the right; more far-sighted on Kashmir - everyone has his or her list. Few have allowed themselves to doubt his good intentions. His political opponents must bear much of the responsibility for disarming themselves in his presence: they were half in love with him themselves. 'He was our beautiful but ineffectual angel,' wrote the communist, Hiren Mukerjee,

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