The Indian National Congress High Command has sent a show-cause notice to the Mumbai Congress chief, Sanjay Nirupam, for publishing an unsigned article in the November 2015 issue of “Congress Darshan”, a mouthpiece of the Party in Mumbai, denigrating the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Party’s current president, Sonia Gandhi. While the periodical said that Sonia Gandhi’s father, Stephano Maino was a fascist and that Sonia Gandhi became President of the Congress Party within 62 days after becoming one of its members, it went on to say that Nehru’s faulty Kashmir and China policies have tied down the country during the last sixty-odd years and their repercussions may hobble it for years to come.
As was rightly pointed out by reporters, the periodical did not reveal any secret that was not generally known. Sonia Gandhi became a member of the Congress Party only after its rank and file kept persuading her to lead the Party as most of them had lost faith in its senior members. She had refused to join the Party or to take part in politics after Rajiv Gandhi, her husband, was assassinated. Having witnessed two assassinations (including that of Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1984) in the family she, apparently, had no stomach for politics. But the insistence of the party members, mostly ambitious sycophants, brought her round and she joined it after as many as eight years of Rajiv’s death. Then the Party voted for her to be its President. They had felt at that time that without a member of the Gandhi family at the helm the party would go nowhere. The cult of the Gandhi family, its legions of sycophants is also legacy that Nehru bequeathed
That her father, Stephano Maino, was a soldier in the army of fascist Benito Mussolini and was a prisoner of war in the then Soviet Union is also well known. Reports of his swearing allegiance to the fascist regime and then later promoting the Soviet line were, however, not quite well known. Before he joined the fascist army he reportedly was of modest means living in an Italian village. The Maino family is now surprisingly said to be worth $2 billion. That is saying quite a lot about the family and its extension to the Indian ruling family that was probably profitably used by the KGB. No wonder, the diaries of a Soviet sleuth Mitrokhin made mention of KGB’s penetration in the PM’s House.
What was written in “Congress Darshan” on Nehru for which eventually the editor was sacked is also largely true. It is true that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel differed with Nehru in respect of the latter’s Kashmir and Tibet policies. While Nehru was a romantic living in his own make-believe world where everything was hunky dory and where there were no enemies, only friends and well-wishers, Sardar was a realist and practical and knew how nations play the power games. Nehru deluded himself by believing that India had no enemies even as Pakistan-backed raiders were committing aggression in Jammu & Kashmir.
While Nehru did not protest against invasion of Tibet by China, Patel saw clearly what was coming. His letter of 17th November 1950 to Nehru is an exceptionally clear-headed exposition of external and internal implications of Chinese occupation of Tibet. As China was exterminating a buffer state, bringing the unfriendly neighbour right to the Himalayas Nehru, taking no note of Patel’s letter, was still singing of “Panchsheel” and “Hindi Chini bhai bhai”. Only the humiliating 1962 defeat knocked him back into senses. But it was too late – the animus between the two countries has continued.
Patel, on the other hand, successfully integrated 561 princely states in the Indian Union by August 1947. These were rendered free after the lapse of Paramountcy – the supremacy of the British Crown over them. Keen on saving India from balkanization, he had announced that he did not recognize the right of any state to remain independent and in isolation within India. With strong-arm methods he broke the separatist princes’ union and by 15th August 1947 all princely states except Junagarh, Hyderabad and Kashmir had joined the Indian Union.
As for Junagadh, a Hindu majority state wth a Muslim Nawab, Patel saw to it that conditions were created for a forcible takeover despite the fact the Nawab had opted for Pakistan. Hyderabad was, however, a tough nut – a state with Hindu majority surrounded by India from all sides. Its Nizam tried all the options, from remaining independent to opting for Pakistan or remaining as a dominion under the British Commonwealth. All this was not so difficult to fathom as was the opposition from within the Indian Government. While Patel wanted to send in the Army, Nehru would have none of it. There were reportedly sharp exchanges between Nehru and Patel in a cabinet meeting over sending the Army during which Nehru is said to have called Patel a “total communalist”. Soon, however, a report of rape of a British woman in Hyderabad provoked him to take a “U” turn and the Indian Army, made to wait battle-ready in the wings by Patel, was asked to march into Nizam’s Hyderabad.
Like all other princely states Kashmir surprisingly was not being handled by Patel who used to be the Home Minister. Nehru, though was the Foreign Minister apart from being the Prime Minister, for no rhyme or reason kept “Kashmir” in his portfolio - and made a thorough mess of it. Firstly he seems to have been instrumental in having the Kashmir accession delayed because of his close friend Sheik Abdullah whom he wanted to be freed from the prison term he was undergoing. (Ironically, he had to put Sheikh back under arrest in 1953.) Thus on 26th October 1947 when the instrument of accession was being signed Pakistan Army-backed raiders were already in Kashmir. In the ensuing war Nehru prevented the Indian Army to push the raiders back to where they came from. Instead he, ill-advisedly, took the matter to United Nations – and that too not under Chapter VII under which the UN could take armed action against the aggressors but under Chapter VI for resolution of a dispute. Kashmir was a case of Pakistani aggression, not a dispute about determination of sovereignty over the state. The so-called “dispute” has been festering all these years like a cancer - and there is no end in sight. As if all this was not enough, Nehru later put another albatross round the country’s neck by forcing Baba Saheb Ambedkar, despite his vehement protests, to include Article 370 in the Constitution awarding a special status to Kashmir.
Curiously, the Congress Party is unable to accept the truths about the mistakes made by Nehru. Despite all his good work in many other spheres, Nehru was a failure in dealing with Pakistan and China. But for him we would have been free of many of the serious seemingly intractable issues that have been plaguing us in respect of our relations with these two countries. His many other failings and foibles, including dislike for certain of his contemporaries during the freedom struggle, are narrated in detail by RNP Singh in his intensively researched book “Nehru, the troubled legacy”.
On hindsight, Sardar Patel with much greater administrative acumen may well have made a better and far more effective prime minister. But all that is among the numerous “ifs” of our post-independence history.