Can a country attain greatness even if its leaders are Lilliputs; and vice versa, can the country’s leaders be considered great even if the country goes to dogs—or remains wretchedly poor and achieves only a fraction of what it could have?

You can’t do justice to evaluating a person by just talking in general terms like: “He was a great patriot… he sacrificed so much… he ensured unity of India (as if under someone else, India would have got divided) …he made India a democratic country… he was founder of India’s foreign policy… and so on.”

Often, when we talk of “greatness” of a political leader in India, it is “greatness by definition”, not “greatness evaluated by factual, material achievements”! For a fair evaluation, you have to adopt a right approach, a proper set of rules, the “dos” and the “don’ts”:

RULES FOR EVALUATION                                                                                                                                   DOs
Rule-1 (Dos)

When evaluating a national leader, evaluate his or her contribution to the nation on a set of vital parameters, for example, GDP, Per-Capita Income, Relationship with Neighbours, Internal Security Position, External Security Position, Literacy Level, Spread and Availability of Quality Education at all levels, Infrastructure, Industrialisation, Agricultural Growth, Food Security, Health Parameters, Freedom of Speech, Quality of Institutions, Quality of Bureaucracy, Police and Criminal Justice System, Quality of Life, Environment, and so on. Determine those set of parameters at the start of the tenure of that leader, and also at the end of his or her tenure. Check the difference.

Rule-2 (Dos)
The above, by itself, is not sufficient. Some progress would anyway be made with the passage of time. The point is whether the progress was as much as it could or should have been. For example, say 5 IITs were opened in 17 years. Could or should they have been 50? Were only 5 out of the possible 50 opened? That has to be evaluated. For this, also determine a set of developing, but fast-growing countries against whom you would like to benchmark your performance. Evaluate the progress of those countries for the same period. Compare.

Rule-3 (Don’ts)

Do not mix the personal with the professional or the political. There is little point offsetting poor political performance against good personal traits, and vice versa. If you are evaluating a politician, evaluate political contribution. Other aspects may be evaluated, but separately, so as not to mix up issues. For example, Gandhi as a person must be evaluated separately from Gandhi as a politician.

Rule-4 (Don’ts)
Greatness has nothing to do with popularity—media can be managed, popularity can be purchased, general public can be manipulated and led up the garden path. Nor has greatness anything to do with winning elections and ruling for a long time. Hosni Mubarak ruled for 41 years—does that make him great? Gaddafi had been ruling for decades—did that make him great? The point is, after winning an election, what you did for the people and the country. If you did little, you actually wasted the precious time of the people and the country.

Rule-5 (Don’ts)
Don’t go by generalised descriptions or attributes that don’t measure the real comparative position on the ground. For example, statements like, “He was a great democrat, thoroughly secular, highly honest, scientific-minded person, who loved children, and gave his all to the nation,” or, “He was my hero, he inspired generations, and people loved him,” don’t help the purpose of evaluation.

Rule-6 (Don’ts)
Don’t go by what the person wrote or spoke or claimed. A person may talk big on lofty ideals and make grand claims, but the real test is what concrete difference he made to the nation and to the lives of the people— that measurement alone is relevant. Did the person walk the talk? Did he really help achieve the goals he talked about?

I may make big claims on being democratic. But, is my actual conduct democratic? Do I respect the opinion of others? Or, do I act dictatorial? Am I above nepotism? Or, do I promote my own? I may talk big against social injustice. But, has it substantially come down during my tenure? Mere talking is not enough.

Unless a leader scores high as per rules 1 and 2, he or she cannot be adjudged as great. This is quite logical. You do not evaluate Sachin Tendulkar’s cricket on his personal goodness, you evaluate it on his performance on the field, on the runs scored—not in isolation or as an absolute, but in comparison with others.

On these criteria, one can say that LKY—Lee Kuan Yew—of Singapore was indeed a great leader.
You evaluate Ratan Tata for his business performance by evaluating not Ratan Tata, the person, but the Tata Group—its actual business and financial performance. What was the business and the financial status of the Tata Group when Ratan Tata took over, and what was it when he relinquished control; and how did it compare with the progress made by other business houses. If the performance of the Tata Group is evaluated to be bad, then it is the performance of Ratan Tata which would also be evaluated as bad. You would not try to lessen Ratan Tata’s bad performance by either blaming his subordinates or colleagues; or offset the same against his stellar personal qualities.

This is the right approach. You evaluate Ratan Tata or Mukesh Ambani or Narayan Murthy by evaluating the performance of the companies they are heading. If the companies are doing well, you give credit to them. But, rare is a case where a company does badly or goes into bankruptcy, and you still evaluate the person heading it as good and competent. Strangely, this common sense approach goes for a toss when you try to evaluate a political leader—a country might have gone to dogs, but the leader was great!!

Keeping the above rules in mind, and checking the major blunders of the Nehruvian era that we highlighted above, Nehru’s overlong 17-year period stretching from August 1947 to May 1964 was an unmitigated disaster! Nehru fails to measure up both as per Rule-1 and Rule-2 of evaluation explained above. Nehru’s balance-sheet is deep in red on all the major

Unfortunately for the millions of Indians, particularly its poor, Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his best intentions, ended up as an all-round comprehensive failure, unwittingly laying the foundations of India’s misery. Sadly, Nehru’s dynasty, rather than retrieving India from the mess, reinforced those blighted foundations.

As per an article by Rajeev Srinivasan in rediff.com: “Nehru himself was a disaster for the nation in almost every way conceivable… Nehru has left behind a corrupt, cronyist, decaying Stalinist ideology… Upon investigation, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Nehru was pretty much wrong about practically everything. I am sure he had good intentions, but the results are definitely wanting… Clearly, this nation has paid a very big price for believing in Nehru—we gave him our explicit trust, and he turned out to be, at best, only partly worthy of it. ”

Often, when we talk of “greatness” of a political leader in India, it is
“greatness by definition”, not “greatness evaluated by factual, material achievements”! Very often you find Nehru evaluated as per rules 3 to 6 given earlier, the “don’ts”. People—even intellectuals, social commentators, politicians, senior journalists and writers—make generalised statements to eulogise him, even as they show indulgence to his gross failures.

Unfortunately, this led to giving him a stature he didn’t deserve. Falsehood is always harmful to the nation. He was so drunk on his own false image that he arrogantly went about with his own “wisdom”, ignoring or belittling others, and committed blunders after blunders, with no one to stop him. Ultimately, it harmed the nation. It didn’t stop at that. He was given such a projection, that his descendants found it easy to claim the top- most position without working for it or deserving it. So, those who unjustly praise or eulogise a national leader do a disservice to the nation. One wonders where Nehru would have been had he not been Motilal’s son, and had Gandhi not anointed and sold him.

If we were to evaluate on the basis of a set of posers keeping the above Rule-1 and Rule-2 in mind, the questions would most likely be as under.

Were the Indian borders more secure and peaceful by the end of Nehru’s tenure compared to what they were when he became the prime minister? That is, were we better off with our external security?
The answer is a big NO: Please check Blunder#33–47.

Did India have all friends as its neighbours by the end of Nehru’s tenure, thanks to his reputed foreign policy?
NO. Friends like Tibet disappeared. China, a friend, became an enemy. Sri Lanka gave you no “bhav”—weightage. Pakistan remained an enemy. Please check Blunder#48–58.
Was India a more respected nation by 1964, thanks both to our foreign policy and our achievements?

Unfortunately, NO. It became an object of contempt, a country others ignored, and an international beggar.
Was India’s internal security better by the end of Nehru’s tenure compared to that at the beginning?
Again, NO. Please check Blunder#59–63.

Did poverty decrease significantly in the 17 long years of Nehru’s rule?
NO. Poverty and misery multiplied: Pl. check Blunder#64–70.

Did India become self-sufficient in food during Nehru’s tenure?
NO. Rather, it became a land of hungry millions, and an international beggar. Please check Blunder#66.

Did India become a highly industrialised nation during Nehru’s tenure?
NO. India’s industrial growth was actually throttled by Nehru thanks to his socialist fad and putting severe restrictions on the private sector. Only the grossly inefficient public sector expanded, financed among other sources, by the British debt-repayment. Public sector became a huge money-sink and a white elephant. Please check Blunder#65.

Compared to the nations in SE Asia, did India do better economically?
NO. It was left far, far behind by them, even though India started off with a huge advantage. Please check Blunder#67-68.

Did India emerge as a prosperous nation, 17 years after independence?
Certainly not. Please check Blunder#64–70.

Did literacy rate dramatically improve?
NO. Please check Blunder#79.

Was the curse of untouchability eradicated? Was the lot of Dalits better?
NO. Please check Blunder#63, 75.

Did minorities, including Muslims, feel more secure?
NO. Please check Blunder#63.

Did criminal-justice system improve to provide justice and security to aam-admi?
NO. We carried on with the callous colonial system, and actually made it even worse. Please check Blunder#71-72.

Did elitist babudom become service-oriented and empathetic to the poor?
NO. Among the worst things that happened under Nehru, accentuated later under Indira, Sanjay and Rajiv, was India’s Babudom: the IAS-IPS- IFS-IRS combine, those from the criminal-justice system, and the bureaucracy lower down. Babudom is very intimately related to socialism, poor rate of growth, continued poverty, injustice and misery. It became more corrupt, self-seeking, indifferent and vicious. Pl. check Blunder#71– 74.

Did corruption and dishonesty come down in the political and the bureaucratic setup?
NO. It got worse. Please check Blunder#73, 74.

Unfortunately, it’s a series of “Nos”! The above posers are not exhaustive, they are only illustrative in nature.

Dreamer & an Idealist or a ‘Nabob of Cluelessness’

Unable to rebut Nehru’s faulty handling of many issues like Kashmir, India-China war, economy and so on, his admirers have invented an innovative alibi: Nehru was a dreamer and an idealist! “Dreamer” implying he had great vision, and “idealist” implying that he was a man of high principles, lofty moral standards, and impeccably cultured and hence, thanks to the machinations of his unprincipled adversaries, he lost out on certain counts.

Rather than a dreamer or an idealist, Nehru was indeed, as someone has said, a ‘Nabob of Cluelessness ’.

One would have highly appreciated Nehru as a dreamer if he had helped millions realise their dreams that they had upon independence. Sadly, the fond dreams of millions turned into nightmares! Was dreaming of a political leader at the top-most responsible position an elitist luxury and an indulgence afforded by the exclusive environs of Lutyens’ Delhi!

Talking of “idealism” and “high principles”, may one ask what were those high principles that prevented Nehru from finding a negotiated settlement of Indo-China borders? What was that lofty ideal that allowed Nehru to mutely accept erasure of our peaceful neighbour Tibet as a nation? What were those principled compulsions that drove Nehru to refuse Tibet’s repeated pleading to raise its issue in the UN? What were those high moral standards that forbade Nehru to ensure Sri Lanka treated its Tamil citizens fairly? What was that idealism that allowed nepotistic promotion by him of his daughter? Where was the great morality in protecting the corrupt— which he tried for some of his colleagues? Was it conscionable for him to continue as a prime minister after the debacle in the India-China war? Why the cultural “finesse” of many of his acts (highlighted under the chapter “Hubris, Ill-Treatment of Others”: Blunder#108-127) questionable?

In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.

—Napoléon Bonaparte

Unable to eulogise Nehru on facts, many admirers, on the self-serving assumption that a person other than Nehru would not have been able to do what Nehru did, resort to innovative counterfactuals like: “Had it not been for Nehru India would not have remained united and secular. But for Nehru, there would have been no democracy, and the citizens would not have enjoyed freedom…” (But, Blunder#95-105 tell a different story.) If facts don’t help you, go by presumptions and probabilities!

What if one advanced an alternate counterfactual and argued that an alternate person (like say Sardar Patel or C Rajagopalachari or Dr BR Ambedkar) as prime minister would have made India more united, more secure, more secular and free from communalism, more democratic and much more prosperous, and India would have been well on its way to becoming a first-world nation by 1964!

Nehru’s leadership is unique not only in terms of the paucity of achievements, or the large gap between the potential and the actuals, or a very poor show compared to other comparable nations; but in the blunders that he made. Other leaders too make mistakes, but Nehru can beat them all hands down. The number, the extent, and the comprehensiveness of the Nehruvian blunders can’t be matched. Comprehensive? Other leaders blunder in one or two or three areas. Not Nehru. His was a 360 degree coverage. He blundered in practically all areas (and sub-areas, and in very many ways): external security, internal security, foreign policy, economy, education, culture,… it’s a long list. An examination of his record leaves you gasping. Here is a very cryptic label to capture the essential Nehru: “Nabob of Cluelessness”.

Nehru bequeathed a toxic political (dynastic and undemocratic), economic (socialistic), industrial (inefficient and burdensome public and state sector), agricultural (neglected and starved), geographic (most borders insecure), administrative (incompetent and corrupt babudom), historical (Marxist and Leftist distortion), educational (elitist, and no universal literacy), and cultural (no pride in Indian heritage) legacy.

Of course, quite irrespective of the fact that the balance-sheet of the Nehru-period was deep in red, it cannot be denied that Nehru meant well: it is another matter that his erroneous understanding of economics, foreign affairs, external security and many more things led to policies that proved disastrous for the country. Also, he was well-intentioned. But, then, road to hell is often paved with good intentions!

Said parliamentarian Dr B.N. Singh just three months before the death of Nehru, “If you take a glimpse of the rural India, you will see a more ghastly spectacle-indescribable poverty and misery in every village, a daily income of. between 19 and 31 nP for over half of the population; population increase outstripping national income growth, illiteracy still between 70 to 80 per cent, caste’s apartheid spreading within society like a fungus disease, an epidemic here and a famine there, corruption in the police, graft in Government, cynicism and patronage in higher politics, bullying and intimidation in lower, gloom and frustration written large on the face of the people.”

One may say: Why sweat over Nehru? He is long gone. Long gone— physically. But, much of his thinking and policies still unfortunately survive. It is necessary to understand that he followed a wrong path, and the nation needs to gain freedom from those ideas and forge ahead. There is nothing personal here. Nobody has anything against Nehru, as a person. But, if thanks to his policies, millions suffered, and thanks to the continuation of his policies, millions continue to suffer, then it is not a dead historical question.

Freedom is not just political freedom. The meaningful freedoms for individuals are freedom from hunger, freedom from poverty, freedom from insecurity, freedom from life of indignity, freedom from injustice, freedom from the stinking squalor of our metros, cities, towns and villages, freedom from disease, freedom from corruption and nepotism, freedom from illiteracy, freedom from ill-governance, freedom from kleptocracy, freedom to advance in life, freedom to prosper, freedom to lead quality life, and freedom to create quality life for our descendants.

Those freedoms Nehruvian policies deprived us of, and thanks to the systems put in place by him, continue to do so; though, to some extent, there has been a creative destruction thanks to the initiatives of Narsimha Rao and Vajpayee, and now Modi.

To attain those freedoms, the two necessary pre-conditions are freedom from the Nehruvian claptrap—deNehrufication, in other words; and freedom from Dynasty, that is, deDynastification—freedom from dynasties not only at the national level, but also at the state levels.

Observed Sitaram Goel on ‘Nehruism’: “Today, I view Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as a bloated Brown Sahib, and Nehruism as the combined embodiment of all the imperialist ideologies, Islam, Christianity, White Man’s Burden, and Communism that have flooded this country in the wake of foreign invasions. And I do not have the least doubt in my mind that if India is to live, Nehruism must die. Of course, it is already dying under the weight of its sins against the Indian people, their country, their society, their economy, their environment, and their culture. What I plead is that a conscious rejection of Nehruism in all its forms will hasten its demise, and save us from the mischief which it is bound to create further if it is allowed to linger.”

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