Myth 1: Nehru promoted a `dynasty’
This myth draws support from the fact that Nehru’s daughter and grandson also served as Prime Minister, that his grand daughter-in-law has sought that post too, and, most recently, that her son, Nehru’s great-grandson, has joined politics as the heir-apparent of the Congress party.
In truth, Nehru had nothing to do with the “dynasty”. He had no idea, nor desire, that his daughter would become Prime Minister of India. It was Mrs. Indira Gandhi who converted the Indian National Congress into a family business. She first brought in her son Sanjay and, after his death, his brother Rajiv.
In each case, it was made clear that the son would succeed Mrs. Gandhi as head of Congress and head of Government. Thus, the “Nehru-Gandhi dynasty” should properly be known as the “(Indira) Gandhi’” dynasty. [Five myths about Nehru]
In their book Six Thousand Days, Amiya Rao and B.G. Rao refute this fairy tale. As Nehru became the supreme leader of the country and the party becoming a rubber stamp to his whimsical ideas, there were questions as to who his successor would be. The clues lay in Nehru’s actions.
Indira Gandhi went with him to all political and administrative functions and got introduced to all the state leaders of the Congress party. She addressed election meetings, presided over Congress women’s committees, was the hostess when Nehru entertained visitors and he took her with him when he traveled abroad. With her pedigree, she was able to waltz into the Congress President U.N.Dhebar’s Working Committee without holding any junior position. On June 18, 1957, after checking with Maulana Kalam Azad and Rajendra Prasad, Durga Das wrote the following line in his weekly column in The Hindustan Times, “if he (Nehru) is consciously trying to build anyone as his successor, he is building up his daughter.”
Nehru’s colleagues have acknowledged another thing as well. If he wanted to get something done and was uncomfortable doing it, he would get others to do it. The Congressmen were only too willing to oblige. Six months after she was nominated to the Working Committee, Nehru resigned from the powerful Central Parliamentary Board and Dhebar on cue, nominated Indira Gandhi. This was the committee which picked the candidates for elections and decided on the political fate of thousands of Congressmen and women. In 1959, while the father was Prime Minister, the daughter became the president of the party. Nehru expressed “surprise” and spun it as the desire for a section of Congressmen to see young leadership.
Following this Indira was everywhere: on the executive board of UNESCO, traveling East Africa on Nehru’s behalf, as special messenger to President Johnson, as chairman of National Integration Committee and even on the National Defence Committee, which did not have place for Gen. Cariappa. It was obvious that the daughter was being groomed to occupy the Prime Minister’s chair. A 1961 report from Palam airport observed Cabinet ministers, fixers, chelas and about two hundred odd people walking behind her as she skipped the customs shed and walked directly to the aircraft.
According to the Raos, Nehru had molded the party to accept Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister. He skillfully removed all the strong contenders to the post like Jagjivan Ram and Morarji Desai by making statements that Congress does not encourage people getting addicted to power. He kept people like Gulzarilal Nanda, who would not be a strong contender, but would be a stop gap arrangement. All of Nehru’s actions indicated that he was promoting the dynasty, but it is strange that modern historians have no recollection of all these events.
- Adapted from Rao, Amiya Rao, B. G. Six thousand days : Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister, Sterling Publishers, 1974.