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Nehru legacy undermined daily by those ruling us today: Sonia

New Delhi: Congress leader Sonia Gandhi alleged that the Nehruvian legacy was being “undermined” by those presently in power who have “contempt” for the country’s first prime minister for all that he did to build an India which they want to change for the “worse”.

Speaking at an event to re-launch Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s book ‘Nehru: The Invention of India’, the former Congress president said Jawaharlal Nehru, as India’s first prime minister, “consolidated democracy and entrenched the basic values of India’s polity — values to which we are still proud to lay claim.”

 

“What are these values? Shashi Tharoor summarises them as the core pillars of Nehruvianism — democratic institutional building, staunch pan-Indian secularism, socialist economics and foreign policy of non-alignment. These values were integral to a vision of Indianness that is fundamentally being challenged today,” she said on the eve of Nehru’s birth anniversary.

But, that vision remains at the core of “our time-tested beliefs”, Gandhi said.

“We all know, as Shashi Tharoor has just said, that this precious legacy is being undermined daily by those who rule us today. They express disdain and contempt for Nehru for all that he did to build the India they are bent upon changing for the worse,” Gandhi said.

She further said, “Today we must honour him by fighting with determination to safeguard our democracy against those who are undermining it.”

Tharoor, in his remarks at the event, lauded Nehru for strengthening democratic institutions and always encouraging “constructive criticism”. Narrating an anecdote, Tharoor said Nehru was asked by an American editor as to what he wanted his legacy to be, to which the first Indian prime minister said: “330 million people capable of governing themselves.”

“A number of post-colonial heroes in other ex-colonies had gone the opposite way. They started off as democratically popular heroes and headed in an authoritarian direction…Nehru ji never fell into that trap. So if today, we have a chaiwala as prime minister, it is because Nehru ji made it possible to create the institutional structures through which any Indian can aspire to and rise to the highest office in the land,” the MP from Thiruvanathapuram said.

Talking in detail about the four Nehruvian pillars, Gandhi said democracy could not have been taken for granted in 1947 that a country beset by acute poverty and torn apart by partition would become or remain democratic. It was Nehru who instilled a democratic culture in our country by his regard for democracy, she said.

Nehru’s regard for Parliament, his regard for the independence of the judiciary, his courtesy to those of different political convictions, his commitment to free elections, his faith in a free press and his deference to institutions over individuals — have all left a precious legacy of freedom, Gandhi said.