Reorganising heaven is a tricky task. Mao Zedong is still China’s top deity; an eastern version of Zeus plus Brahma on steroids. But now Xi Jinping is China’s new Market Mao, and the most powerful leader in Asia today. He has been honoured with Xi Jinping Thought—an official ideology in his own name. Only two previous leaders, Mao and Deng Xiaoping, have been honoured in such a way.
In India, there is Gandhian and Nehruvian thought. No Sardar Patelian philosophy, Boseism or Pantology exist. Phrases such as Manmohanomics and Modinomics look good on headlines, but do not represent any holistic ideology. The Indian National Congress, the sower and harvester of Indian Independence was led by a plethora of leaders such as J B Kripalani, C Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad and S Radhakrishnan, who were not in the Nehru fan club.
Since Gandhi was the final arbiter of post-Independence photo-op, it was Jawaharlal Nehru and the Nehruvian path that India adopted going forward. Even Indira Gandhi, the most omnipotent prime minister before Narendra Modi did not merit an ‘-ism’—just a craven rhetorical baptism as Emergency’s ‘Priyadarshini’. Now, the nationalist BJP is planning a coup in Paradise. It is likely that monuments and public institutions named after Nehru will be de-copyrighted. The Nehru memorial could be first. The BJP’s view, articulated openly by Prasad Bharati boss Suryaprakash, that a part of it should be made a shrine to other Indian prime ministers is not without merit.
Nehru has been called the architect of modern India by admirers, but in reality he turned it into a limping Socialist behemoth, which had to sell off its gold reserves in 1991 until the very non-Nehruvian P V Narasimha Rao came to the rescue. The country, which had been bled dry by colonisers over centuries, became even more crippled by Nehru’s Soviet-model economy.
Around the time India became independent, three powerful nations had been reduced to cinders—Germany, Japan and Italy. They were rebuilt with the help of the Marshal Plan and the Joseph Dodge-MacArthur joint rescue plan. Even after India became a Republic the Soviets did not offer similar help to India. The defeated axis powers went on to become economic powerhouses because they favoured individual enterprise while Nehru ushered in a system that was a fount of corruption, thriving on political patronage.
Nehru’s contradiction was that he was by temperament not really all Indian, as he had confessed once—“Indian by birth, but an Englishman at heart.” At that time, the Congress hagiography comprised wealthy urbane leaders. Many of them, including Gandhi, were educated in Britain. The irony of India’s Independence is that its prominent admirals had strong global sensibilities. Even B R Ambedkar favoured Western dress. Homespun leaders such as Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee simply had no connect with the ruling gestalt of the time.
India has changed. A tea seller’s son could become a world leader offering drastic economic recipes. A synthesis of temples and industries may well form the new architecture. The BJP is just the vehicle of Nehru’s de-canonisation. The economic, social and dynastic flaws in his doctrine are responsible for his fall in the Age of Modi.