Even as political parties fight over claiming the legacies of historical figures, experts and academicians feel that there should not be any tussle as their legacies belonged to the nation and not to any particular party.
Historian Ramchandra Guha says, “Nehru was, without question, the chief architect of our democracy. It was he more than any other nationalist who promoted universal franchise and the multi-party system. Popular ideas about Nehru will continue to be shaped by propaganda and political prejudice rather than by solid scholarship.”
The Jana Sangh — now metamorphized into the BJP — takes its cue from its mother organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), that seeks to build a Hindu state in India. Dr Guha said, “Following the RSS, the BJP trains its fire on Nehru’s philosophy of secularism, which they claim rests on the ‘appeasement’ of the minorities.”
Maintaining that the political tussle on legacy of Nehru was an invention and did not have any justification, historian Mushirul Hasan said, “We need to revise the Nehru’s legacy with an open mind and not use our present prejudices and political predilections to judge a person who was truly the architect of modern India.”
Eric Gonsalves, former secretary of external affairs and ambassador to the European Union and Japan said, “This is short-term electoral politics. Political parties and leaders like to invoke the legacy of a national icon. Prime Minister Modi claims to be following the policies of Gandhiji and Sardar Patel whom the Congress would like to keep as their exclusive preserve. National icons belong to the entire nation, and in paying tribute to them, we are only recalling our common history.
Adding that Nehru had left the country in his debt for giving it direction in development, and an independent foreign policy, he said, “His major contribution was democracy which made it possible for the country to cope with major crises and change policies without internal dissension.”
“Why should there be a tussle? Sardar Patel is as important as Nehru. Each one is a giant and a great son of India. We are proud of all of them. They do not belong to any party but to the nation. On issues that affect the whole nation, there should not be any differences,” said social worker and chairperson of the guild of service, Mohini Giri.