The Congress and the BJP have found themselves in the middle of yet another debate featuring a late national leader. This time, it is India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who is at the receiving end as the two national parties engage in an ugly spat over his legacy to score their own political points.
Fighting over late leaders: What does it achieve?
The BJP and Congress had a bitter tussle over remembering Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel over Indira Gandhi on October 31, which is the former's birth date and the latter's death date. The Congress was extremely upset with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's act of 'prioritising' Patel over Indira Gandhi, as it was when he said Patel should have been the country's first prime minister in the period ahead of the Lok Sabha election earlier this year.
But how do these debates help us as a nation? History is a continuous process and it all adds up to what it is today. Similarly, it is the Congress, the right, the left and everybody else who have contributed to the journey of India as a state-nation since 1947.
Do we see American politicians holding some president or the other from the democracy's 227-year-old history? Then why do we intend to make a mockery of our own democracy, proudly called the largest, by picking and targetting its leaders who shared the work of nation-building together?
Late icons can't be used politically
It is disturbing to see the successors of Nehru targetting the BJP government in power on the eve of Nehru's 125th birth anniversary by saying "angry people are ruling the country" or "efforts are on to wipe out Nehru's legacy". Equally unfortunate was to hear Modi say that Patel should have been the first prime minister of India.
Should we make the occasions to commemorate our founding fathers as ones to establish political points?
Nehru was a man admired across the world
On the eve of the 125th birth anniversary of Nehru, let's understand the fact that the man should not be judged by his party as it stands today. Nehru has been a man of admiration across the world. From the iconic anti-Apartheid leader like Nelson Mandela to erstwhile USSR's last president Mikhail Gorbachev, Nehru's admirers were never short of stature and for obvious reasons. Mandela even said once that "Nehru is my hero".
Gorbachev was also influenced by Nehru after hearing him during his younger days and his handling of the smooth transition to democracy in eastern Europe could bear an impact of Nehru's reconciling politics.
Nehru wasn't just a man who lost a war: He was much more than that
So Nehru was not just a man who lost a war to China in 1962 or who flagged off a dynastic rule of the Congress. Nehru's image is mostly a negative one in today's India for he is seen as a person who led the economy towards stagnation, allowed a 'hollow' secularism to cement its place in India and it paved the way for minority appeasement and followed an idealistic Non-Alignment policy that had brought the country nothing.
But these judgements are done by time and history. No human being can be called perfect in his beliefs and actions but that doesn't mean we either disregard his legacy and try to use his legacy to remain relevant.
Nehru can never be accused of starting the Nehru-Gandhi dynastic politics
The BJP and the Congress leaderships now are doing exactly that. Since most of the country's founding fathers belonged to the Congress, the BJP is trying to hijack some of them to present its own case while a beleaguered Congress is desperate to win some public sympathy, something which it is missing badly nowadays.
Anti-thesis to Nehru's ideals yet to achieve success
Speaking of Nehru again, it is true that some of his ideals didn't help India realise its potential and it ultimately needed a prime minister from his own party to unleash the forces in the early 1990s but it is also true that the anti-thesis of the Nehruvian ideals is yet to succeed completely.
Nehru's ideas of social inclusion and religious and linguistic pluralism or non-alignment had a philosophy behind but today, everything has got lost amid a cheap political melee. Had Nehru been a personality who favoured dictatorship or had he lost power early, India's political history could have been something entirely different and her democracy might not command the same respect as it does today.
Let's not reject Nehru while rejecting the Congress
It will be good if we judge Nehru by his contemporary importance and not what he should have done then or what his successors have done to the party. If the Congress's standard has failed to satisfy us from Indira Gandhi's times onwards, then it is a problem related to Nehru's daughter and her successors. Let 's refrain ourselves from judging Nehru by the anti-incumbency mood that prevails against the family.