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The Socialist Opposition in Nehruvian India 1947–1964

Boris Niclas-Tölle

This book examines the political and developmental thought of the democratic socialist opposition party of India during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. It thereby contributes to a modern global history of political ideas and examines the role of Marxism, Gandhi and modernisation theory for the political development of India during the Cold War. The study focuses on the modernisation policies implemented by the Nehru government: Increasingly facing competing claims from Nehru to be pursuing socialist policies after the mid-1950s, the movement eventually broke apart and large numbers of socialists were assimilated by the Congress Party where they continued to shape Indian politics.
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5. Epilogue: The Socialists and the End of Congress Unity


5.1 Introduction

Given the inability of the socialist oppositional parties to revive their political movement in the 1960s, this chapter serves as an epilogue in which I provide a condensed overview of the political polarisation within the INC and its eventual split under Indira Gandhi in the late 1960s. Contemporaries perceived the split and its conflict-laden aftermath as the outburst of tensions which had risen between the INC’s left and right wing since the late Nehru Era. Frequent debates about the implementation of socialist policies as a heritage of the Nehru Era became a crucial aspect of Indian politics. Between the late 1950s and 1977, the term “socialism” was frequently used as its meaning was heavily contested throughout the political landscape.

As described in the previous chapter, the promise to establish a “socialist pattern of society” had secured Jawaharlal Nehru the support of a significant number of socialists. Joining the INC, they strengthened its left wing and strengthened Nehru against the increasing pressure from the right in the late 1950s. After Nehru’s death, the INC was destabilised by increasing conflicts between the right and left wing. A rising dissatisfaction with the methods of economic planning clashed with the growing demand to realise a sustained reallocation of wealth and equality in Indian society. In 1969, the INC split into a powerful organisation under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the INC (R) for “Requisition”, and an ousted oppositional group, led by Kumarasami Kamaraj and former deputy prime...

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