He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.         —George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara

While Nehru’s academic achievements were rather modest, his knowledge and grasp of issues that mattered were pathetic, as obvious from the net results of his policies—yet, the way he conducted himself, showed off, and belittled others, was as if he was the brightest, all-knowing, and wisest leader around!

He was a graduate and had passed the bar exams. Wrote MJ Akbar in ‘Nehru: The Making of India’:
“Eventually when he [Jawaharlal] passed in the second half of the second class, Motilal was relieved enough to celebrate lavishly…Motilal was acutely terrified that his son might fail, so even such moderate results were cause for celebrations… Motilal had set his heart on sending his son to the Indian Civil Service…He called the ICS the ‘greatest of services in the world’… But the weak Second [class of Jawaharlal Nehru] at the end of Cambridge persuaded Motilal that his son was unlikely to get through the tough ICS examinations…His [Jawaharlal’s] expenditure in 1911 was £800, enough to pay for three years of an ordinary student’s existence…”

Contrast this with Ambedkar who often skipped meals or ate frugally to save money when he was studying in London. In ‘Dr.Ambedkar: Life and Mission’{DK} , Dhananjay Keer mentions that Ambedkar subsisted in London on mere £8 a month! That amounts to £96 a year. Compare this with £800 a year of Nehru, which excluded expenses for several other requirements that were separately arranged by Nehru’s father. With all these handicaps Ambedkar graduated in Political Science and Economics from Bombay University in 1912. On scholarship from the Maharaja of Baroda, he went to New York in 1913 and earned the degrees of Master of Arts in 1915, followed by Doctorate in Philosophy in 1916 from the Columbia University. Thereafter, he went to London, where he joined the Grays Inn for Law and the London School of Economics (LSE). He earned his second doctorate from LSE. He also became a barrister.

While Nehru scraped through graduation, Sardar Patel had topped in his exams in London. Subhas Bose was a brilliant student at Cambridge who had also cleared ICS exam. Dr Rajendra Prasad was a great scholar who always topped in his class—his examiner had once written a comment on his answer sheet: “examinee is better than examiner ”.

Wrote Brig. BN Sharma: “Nehru admitted to the Harrow Public School, with the influence of his father, never rose in his studies above mediocrity and predictably had a poor legal practice later on. He never distinguished himself either in pursuit of education and knowledge or a single minded devotion to a cause. Nehru was born to greatness and a great part of the credit goes to his father… We Indians have a weakness for white skin… Nehru was inevitable beneficiary of this Indian psyche…”

Perry Anderson, a British historian and political essayist, and Professor of History and Sociology at UCLA, wrote:
“Nehru had enjoyed the higher education Gandhi didn’t have, and an intellectual development not arrested by intense religious belief. But these advantages yielded less than might be thought. He seems to have learned very little at Cambridge, scraping a mediocre degree in natural sciences that left no trace thereafter, did poorly in his bar exams, and was not much of a success when he returned to practise law in his father’s footsteps. The contrast with Subhas Chandra Bose, a brilliant student of philosophy at Cambridge, who was the first native to pass the exams into the elite ranks of the Indian civil service and then decline entry to it on patriotic grounds, is striking. But an indifferent beginning is no obstacle to subsequent flowering, and in due course Nehru became a competent orator and prolific writer. What he never acquired, however, was a modicum of literary taste or mental discipline. His most ambitious work ‘The Discovery of India’ which appeared in 1946, is a steam bath of Schwärmerei [sentimental enthusiasm]. It would be unfair to compare Nehru to Ambedkar, the leader of the Untouchables, intellectually head and shoulders above most of the Congress leaders, owing in part to far more serious training at the LSE and Columbia. To read Ambedkar is to enter a different world. “The Discovery of India”—not to speak of its predecessor, “The Unity of India”—illustrates not just Nehru’s lack of formal scholarship and addiction to romantic myth, but something deeper, not so much an intellectual as a psychological limitation: a capacity for self-deception with far-reaching political consequences.”

Nehru’s treatment of subjects in his books are superficial. You find no critical appraisals of the topics he dealt with in his books—whether on history or on politics or on economics. You find Nehru devoting several chapters to socialism and Marxism in his book ‘Glimpses of World History’ without dealing with the reported pathetic state of affairs in Russia. His treatment is more romantic than critical. He talks of Marxism, but there is no contrasting coverage on Adam Smith and others, or on the most robust economy of the time—that of the US. There is little attempt in his books to critically assess and evaluate competing options. He talks of state controls and its benefits in his chapter on Marxism, never once questioning that the state itself could be mafia-like, and the biggest exploiter. It is presumed that the state would be a nice, just, empathetic, kind do-gooder, full of compassion. Further, he does not touch upon things like entrepreneurship, individual initiative, and such other critical factors. In the absence of a holistic coverage on the vital aspects that affect economy, his treatment appears no more than just a superficial story. Nehru fancied himself to be a student of history, international relations and foreign policy—actually, a master of these subjects, going by the books he wrote and the way he pontificated—but sadly, he ignored lessons from history, as the results of his policies proved.

Wrote MO Mathai: “Contrary to the general impression, neither Churchill nor Nehru were widely-read men. They wrote and spoke more than they read in their lives.” 

Rustamji observed: “On certain occasions, when he [Nehru] had to tell a story, as for instance at a dinner party, he came out with such antiquated ones that one could hardly laugh… He [Nehru] did use wit and humour sometimes in public meetings, but there again the stuff used was juvenile…”

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