A Pointless Comparison!
Nowadays, it is increasingly being observed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is often being referred to as the true architect of modern India. Well, this, in turn, seemingly brings forth somewhat an unwanted comparison between him and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (November 14, 1889 – May 27, 1964), the first Prime Minister of India. In fact, it is being hammered that Indians have never seen a politician with such an image, after Nehru. From building a new Parliament House in New Delhi to constructing the world’s tallest statue in Gujarat, the 14th Prime Minister of India has implemented various projects that have symbolic significance. By laying the foundation stone of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, building a corridor to the Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, and making the ancient pilgrimage sites of the Himalayas easily accessible to the pilgrims through Char Dham Highway project, PM Modi has been able to secure his place in Hindu hearts (some say his vote bank).
Significantly, the Modi Government in New Delhi has planned to invest a huge amount in improving the South Asian country’s geographical infrastructure, in terms of resources. For example, one can mention projects, such as connecting Betwa Rivers with Ken River (which is at the top of the list of 30 unrealistic projects), constructing new highways and expressways, launching Bullet Train service, making corridors suitable for running high speed freight trains, building new airports, and constructing bridges for better connectivity in North-eastern part of the country.
These multifaceted projects, initiated by the current PM, have brought forth (amongst the masses) a comparison between Modi and Nehru, as regards to who stands to be widely considered as the builder of a strong base for modern India. In the last seven years, Modi has been concentrating on both the ground reality and religious-cultural atmosphere in India. The religious-cultural atmosphere is important for him, as Modi knows that he can portray an extraordinary and magnificent self-image by playing the Hindu cards. It may be noted that Nehru, too, had emphasised the construction works, describing them as the Temple of Modern India. Examples of his construction works are major hydropower projects, such as Bhakra-Nangal multipurpose dams, Hirakud dam, Rihand dam and Damodar Valley project. At the same time, former Prime Minister Nehru had built the foundation of Heavy Industries in the country, by setting up factories for producing steel, machineries suitable for thermal power projects, steam and electric locomotives, railway compartments, armoured vehicles for the Armed Forces, apart from establishing cities, like Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar.
It may be recalled that different types of infrastructures, built by Nehru, had triggered a Socio-Political-Economic change in India soon after it became an Independent Nation in 1947. One should not forget that Pandit Nehru was the founder of India’s Space and Nuclear Research Institutes, Institutes of Engineering & Technological studies, Agricultural Universities, and the Indian Statistical Institute. Through nationalisation and consolidation, he had initiated the creation of organisations, like the State Bank (of India), Life Insurance Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation, Oil and Natural Gas Commission and Air India. During the Nehru era (1947-64), Air India was so advanced that it had helped Singapore build its international airline.
Of course, comparing Modi with Nehru is not fair, as Nehru had served as Prime Minister for almost 17 years, while Modi has completed just seven years. It can also be said that Nehru had taken most of his initiatives during the first decade (1947-57) of his tenure as Prime Minister. Most importantly, 80% of the Indian population was illiterate at that period of time, and life expectancy was just around 30. Surprisingly, Nehru had managed to increase savings and investment by 50% (in terms of GDP), and to quadruple the rate of Economic Growth in those 10 years!
As a visionary leader, Modi’s contribution to building digital infrastructure is notable. He has completed the digitisation of the financial sector, encouraged start-up businesses, and boosted the State-run profit-making organisations. Prime Minister Modi has also made a serious attempt to restructure the Indian Economy, keeping in mind the Climate Change-related issues. Further, he has been promising huge financial assistance to signal a new phase of industrial development.
There are similarities, as well as differences, between Nehru and Modi. Both of them are in favour of modernisation of India. However, Modi is also eager to trigger a renaissance. Both of them have ignored some of the basic areas, which have been improved upon by the East Asian countries. For example, ensuring a high quality public education system, public health system and nutrition. Critics of PM Modi may argue that he is interested only in building the jungle of concrete and steel, but not in setting up institutions necessary for good governance. However, Nehru had taken the second issue seriously.
At the same time, one should acknowledge the fact that Modi’s initiatives would further consolidate India, integrating one part of this vast country with the other. While doing so, he has divided the Indians, communally. As giant dams are no longer considered the pinnacle of development… connecting one river with another, too, cannot be called an initiative of development. Nehru had emphasised on the Public Sector, because that was the demand of the time. In the 1950s and 60s, the Private Sector had a very limited scope in India. However, Nehru’s policy did not work well in the end. It has to be seen whether Modi’s policy delivers positive results…
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