“What is he aiming at with all his want of aim? What lies behind that mask of his, what will to power, what insatiate longings? His conceit is already formidable. It must be checked. We want no Caesars.”
It was 1937 when Calcutta’s Modern Review carried the article excerpted above that critiqued Jawaharlal Nehru. The article was titled ‘Rashtrapati’ and the author called himself “Chanakya.”
It was an era when dictators were running rampant in Europe. In India, Jawaharlal Nehru was President of the Indian National Congress. Already the question of “After Gandhi Who?” was in the air.
It was only some years later that Indians learned that the Chanakya who raised questions about Nehru’s potentially autocratic tendencies was none other than … Jawaharlal Nehru himself.
One of Pandit Nehru’s singular contributions to building Indian democracy was his willingness to engage with constructive criticism. Even when secure in parliament with an overwhelming Congress majority, Nehru ensured that the opposition’s voice was heard carefully and their suggestions and critiques treated respectfully.
As I dwell further on Pandit Nehru’s magnanimity, my mind goes back to a story I heard while growing up. It seems that my late uncle, M. V. Krishnappa, was a youthful thirty-something freedom fighter in the first Lok Sabha. In a debate about agricultural policy, though a Congressman, he had the guts to stand up and criticize the government’s policies. Apparently Nehru listened carefully and retorted that if my uncle thought he could do better, he should join the ministry. Which is how my uncle found himself working with Rafi Ahmed Kidwai as junior food and agriculture minister in the era before the Green Revolution.
We tip our Nehru caps to Panditji as we announce that we will be carrying articles that offer constructive criticisms of the Congress on this blog. We will show that we Congressmen can engage with multiple points of view. We Congressmen can take heed of faults that need correcting, of suggestions that need implementing, of causes that need championing. We are reasonable where others are rabid, we are engaged in nation building where others revel in dividing Indians on class or religious lines.
So if you come across reasonable, though critical, articles, do point them out to us; you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As long as they avoid name-calling and vicious personal attacks, we’re eager to check them out and learn a thing or two from them.
In the spirit of Jawaharlal.