The Legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi Family

On August 15, 1947 when India became independent, Jawahar Lal Nehru became the first prime minister of our nation. Although, his leadership and policies are indeed debatable, it is undoubted that he and the Nehru-Gandhi family have had a profound influence on not only Indian politics but everything to do with India as a nation. This ruling “dynasty” was formed when Indira, Nehru’s daughter, married Feroz Khan and then later the family adopted the surname of “Gandhi”. Today, with elections due in a few months, the legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi family still lives on. There have been controversies and camps have been divided over whether or not the Nehru-Gandhi family is good for India. But it seems imperative that in order to understand the influence of this single family on India, one needs to see things in grey, rather than in black and white, as most experts do. Those who oppose the Nehru-Gandhi family cite the failures of Nehru to begin with. It is often pointed out how the Indo-China War of 1962 was a complete failure of foreign affairs, diplomacy and leadership under the then prime minister, Nehru. He had expected India and China to be cordial socialist allies and made popular the phrase “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai”. To his utter surprise, China declared war on India and thanks to the unprepared Indian military under Nehru, India faced a humiliating defeat. Apart from foreign affairs, Nehru did not match up to the expectations at home as well. He failed to pay emphasis on mass education in the early independence era, the result of which we see today as mass illiteracy. Also, under him, the Kashmir issue could not be solved which later resulted in two gory wars with Pakistan. However, it is indeed ignorant to overlook Nehru’s success as a leader. Through his vision of a united India, he united states ruled by maharajas to form India, the nation. He took bold steps to address rampant poverty and try to restructure the battered economy.

Next Indira Gandhi became the prime minster of India. She was the first woman to take the post as well. Her leadership, like her father was also two-sided. On one hand there was the Green Revolution and the nuclear tests while on the other hand were the 1971 war with Pakistan, the failure of the Shimla Agreement and the infamous Operation Blue Star. She brought India and the USSR close together and her personal acrimony with Richard Nixon showed in the unfriendly relations between India and the US. When she imposed President’s Rule in Congress-minority states like Tamil Nadu, critics labelled her as an authoritarian. Mrs. Gandhi had ups and downs in her terms as PM until she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, fallout of the storming of the Golden Temple by military.

Following Indira, her elder son Rajiv Gandhi became India’s 9th PM. Like other members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, he also had a term full of ups and downs. Under him, the Indian economy suffered and there was a currency crisis when the Indian Rupee depreciated alarmingly. However, it was under his leadership that the Licence Raj was done away with. In foreign affairs, his intervention by sending Indian troops to Sri Lanka, resulted in his assassination by a suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Also, the infamous Bofors scandal tainted his clean and honest image forever. His widow, Sonia Gandhi became the next President of the Congress and critics have since pointed out that she, being a foreigner, hardly understands Indian values. Today, Rahul Gandhi is the youngest member of the Indian Parliament. His sister, Priyanka Gandhi is also active in politics and supporters of the Nehru-Gandhi family taut them as the next heirs to the long-running legacy. However, there are many critics who have and always will oppose the NehruGandhi family’s domination over Indian politics. Like it or not, it is indeed a fact that the Nehru-Gandhi family has played a central role in India’s development as a nation and may very well continue to do so in the near future. Whether it is for the good or the bad of India still remains a matter of opinion.

Sainyam Gautam

*This piece has been selected as the Winning Entry of the Day for the ‘Viewspaper Express Yourself Writing Competition’*