Portraits of Six Exceptional Twentieth Century Premiers
Chapter 5 The Visionary Humanist: Jawaharlal Nehru of India (1947–1964) 151
CHAPTER FIVE The Visionary Humanist: Jawaharlal Nehru of India (1947–1964) Jawaharlal Nehru has been de scribed by a friendly biographer as ‘one of the few great men of the age’.1 Another biographer has compared him to Roosevelt, Churchill, Lenin and Mao, ‘men who guided their people through a period of national crisis’.2 For long Nehru enjoyed iconic status in India, both as a hero of the Indian liberation movement and as the country’s premier during the first seventeen years of independence, from 1947 until his death in 1964. By the late 1950s he had become a ven erated figure, almost deified. Some Indians even thought he might be a prophet, a yogi reincarnated.3 This, though, was a veneration that he never courted or cultivated. The reputations of such figures who are so revered in their own life time invariably come up against the critical scrutiny of later generations of scholars and analysts. So it has been with Nehru. He came to be criti cised as weak and indecisive, prone to agonized selfdoubt, liable to poor judgement in his choice of lieutenants, and failing to bring significant 1 Sarvepali Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 471. 2 Michael Brecher, Nehru: A Political Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 229. 3 M.J. Akbar, Nehru: The Making of India (London: Viking, 1988), p. ix. 152 CHAPTER FIVE relief to India’s poor. His obvious shortcomings and failures might seem to disqualify Nehru as an ‘exceptional’ twentieth-century...
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