Passing Nehru by
It is perhaps history’s unbearable irony that Narendra Modi, India’s 15th Prime Minister, was sworn in exactly a day before the world marked 50 years of Jawaharlal Nehru’s death. The former, undeniably the torchbearer of new, aspiring and burgeoning India, certainly bringing about paradigm shifts in the way the ship of the nation is steered along uncharted waters of 21st century contingencies, couldn’t be more different, indeed the very antithesis of, from the latter. One the architect of the newly-independent India, nursing the deep wounds of Partition and ideals of the anticolonial struggle, emphatically secular, radical, modernising, nation-building, institution-building behemoth. The other is a technocratic and political mastermind, extraordinarily driven and determined to truly usher in 21st century mode of governance in a hitherto reluctant India. Modi’s landslide victory, indeed his galvanising of the masses, especially its bulging middle sector that has an abiding fascination with size and scale, confirms that everything ‘Nehruvian’, including the Ambassador car, gets confined to the pages of history. In a country which has consciously and democratically elected, in a first, a prime minister was born after 1947, and which has decided to stop eulogising, being awed and terrified by history’s many shackles, epitomised by the hold Nehru-Gandhi family had on the collective imagination until Referendum2014 demolished that longstanding tradition, India’s first prime minister has, fortunately or unfortunately, lost his erudite, cosmopolitan sheen. As the former tea-seller takes charge of Parliament and 7 Race Course Road, Nehru the statesman gets buried under Nehruvian, the historical anachronism, as outmoded in today’s corporatised and slimmed-down ‘smart’ government as the Ambassador is before Mahindra Scorpio, Modi’s chosen vehicle. Perhaps, Panditji can look forward to being freed from the ghosts of his descendants now.