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Since 1st March, 1999
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NEHRU REVISITED Edited by M.V. Kamath, Nehru Centre, Rs 650

Modern India cannot do without Jawaharlal Nehru. He is the ultimate icon and his ideas are the touchstone of policymaking. P.V. Narasimha Rao, who as prime minister initiated the process of dismantling the socialist structure of the economy established by Nehru, considered liberalization to be part of the Nehruvian legacy. Manmohan Singh remains an admirer of Nehru despite being a champion of economic reforms that undo Nehruís vision. The retrieval of Nehru has acquired a certain edge as India moves further and further away from all that Nehru stood for. Nehru is the last resort of leftists in India. Even quondam leftist critics of Nehru seem to have gone soft on him.

This volume aims, through a series of essays by eminent specialists, at analysing the relevance of Nehru in contemporary India. It looks at various aspects of Nehruís achievements in various fields ó from science to education to foreign policy to history and so on.

Some of the essays run on very predictable lines. Prabhat Patnaik looks at Nehruís achievements in laying the foundations of a self-reliant economy. He takes on the current neo-liberal critics of Nehru. The problem is that the left, or at least that strand of it which became the CPI(M) in 1964, was a more strident critic of Nehru during Nehruís own lifetime and has now suddenly discovered virtues in Nehruís economic policies. If indeed the foundations of a self-reliant economy were laid by Nehru, then the foundations must have been very weak since within two years of his death, India was living, in the memorable phrase of one economist, from ship to mouth. Moreover, Patnaikís assertion, based on K.N. Raj, that Nehru believed in the reality of class conflict and class struggle no more raises even a laugh.

Bhiku Parekh writes on Nehru and secularism. The latter was arguably Nehruís greatest contribution to Indian public life. It embodied his vision of India as a modern nation state. But it had serious limitations. Parekh sums it up well: ďin its relation to non-Hindus, Nehru government found it difficult to be wholly secular.íí

The real achievement of Nehru was not in this or that sphere but in what he stood for. He was a cultured man who had a remarkable sensitivity to Indiaís past and its relationship to the present. He was committed to the civilizing thrust of human agency. It is impossible, as Romila Thapar reminds us, to imagine such a prime minister today.

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