I am just completing the latest voluminous book of Ramchandra Guha, ‘Gandhi, the years that changed the world 1914-1948 (933 pages), a very comprehensively documented narration of the time.I am quoting here from the book a controversial issue that is as alive today as it was then.Why did Gandhi selected Jawaharlal Nehru as his sole heir?
“Maulana Azad had served as Congress President from 1940 to 1946.In the last week of June 1946,the Cabinet Mission departed for England, having failed to bring about a resolution of the dispute between the Congress and the Muslim League.Another way would have to be found to take the transfer of power from British to Indian hands forward.A new president of Congress was to be selected in place of Azad.
Twelve of the fifteen secretaries of the provincial Congress committiees nominated Vallabhbhai Patel, in acknowledgement of his role in building and rebuilding the party. But Gandhi himself wanted Jawaharlal Nehru. In the event, his will prevailed, and the working committee nominated and selected Nehru.
Why did Gandhi choose Jawaharlal Nehru over Vallabhbhai Patel?
First, Gandhi knew that, with independence imminent, the person who became Congress president in 1946 would most likely become the prime minister of a free India.Second,for at least a decade now, Gandhi had regarded Nehru as his political heir. In statements both private and public, he made this choice clear.”
Some questions naturally comes up in my mind in context of the incidents mentioned in the book: Was Gandhi right in his pushing Jawaharlal Nehru without agreeing with the majority? But for his schooling in England and exposure to international politics, others like Patel,Rajaji,Rajendra Prasad were equally strong candidates with great scholarship. But Gandhi had special soft corner for Jawaharlal though the both had strong difference of opinion on economic policy and renewal of India in post independent India with Jawaharlal. In the CWC meeting in Poona,Nehru and Gandhi had a long argument on the subject. Gandhi believed that the village must be placed at the centre of of India’s economic renewal. Nehru insisted on modern heavy industries.When Nehru didn’t communicate with Gandhi after Poona argumentative tussle, Gandhi observed,’I have said that you are my heir. It is only proper that I should at least understand my heir and my heir in turn should understand me. I shall be then at peace.’
Interesting, the book has mention of Motilal Nehru promoting his son Jawaharlal Nehru (page 249), “Gandhi spent six weeks in Nandidurg, from 20 April to 5 June 1927for rest…..In Nandi, Gandhi received a letter from Motilal Nehru suggesting that his son Jawaharlal be made the next Congress president. The father had always had large ambitions for his son….” Gandhi wrote to Motilal a reply why he would not do that. But it seems the affluence of Motilal and the European living style and culture at home perhaps influenced the decision. It was because of Gandhi that other very contender of Jawaharlal in every respect, Subhash Bose had to leave Congress.History proved that Motilal Nehru initiated the laying of the foundation of Nehru Dynasty and the country had to bear with fifty five years of its reign. Jawaharlal never encouraged any of his younger colleagues to be become strong enough to take the top office. But Gandhi’s decision changed the course of the history of India. (more to be continued after completing the book in a week time)