Jawaharlal Nehru: India's first PM

  • Suman Tarafdar, PTI
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  • Updated: Aug 08, 2002 18:08 IST

India's first and longest serving Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, arguably played an unparalleled role in the making of modern India.

But his is not an uncontested legacy. Hero worshipped by many, especially during his lifetime, the era of his prime ministership is today viewed with mixed feelings.

Young Jawahar was brought up in the palatial Anand Bhawan, his politician-lawyer father, Motilal Nehru's base. Educated in England and given a wide global exposure at a young age, he plunged into India's struggle against imperialism with zeal born of a belief that his land was as good as any other and deserved to be treated as such. When he returned to India in 1912, Nehru was a rarity on the Indian scene - the most privileged of private English education coupled with a nationalistic zeal that few could match.

Despite disagreeing with Gandhi on many points, Nehru was a keen follower of Gandhi and participated in many Gandhi-led movements like the Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience. As his trusted lieutenant, Nehru led many a movement and later, the Congress party.

Post-independence, Nehru showed the way with concepts like five-year plans, heavy industrialisation, multipurpose projects, mixed economy, Panchsheel - all of which are currently facing flak from varying quarters. However the high standards he sought to set in his governments and his speeches in Parliament often set the tone for the major debates of the day.

A writer of considerable merit, Nehru's autobiography, Discovery of India, Letters from a Father to a Daughter and Glimpses of World History also give an insight into the human he essentially was. Imperfect maybe, flawed yes, but also one with a great love for humanity and life.

Nehru's death in 1964 plunged the nation into sorrow as even those who disagreed with him could not remain immune to his considerable charm. So great was his love for children, his birthday is still celebrated as Children's Day, one of the least controversial and best-remembered legacies.

-Suman Tarafdar


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