Why is Jawaharlal Nehru not being loved today ?
A tale of two leaders
Indian social media is abuzz today with various unsavory tags and pictures of who was at the time of this nations infancy an absolute rock star. Before we thumb our noses at the disrespectful chattering masses, lets understand the factors that are causing this.
In this short post, I try to contrast the popularity trajectories of two of Asia’s most influential leaders.
Aristocrat, suave, educated, highly articulate, intellectual, published, unprecedented stature, unchallenged leadership as long as he lived, comfortable with western way of thinking and life, ladies man, player, handsome, powerful debater, natural orator, Brahmin but beef eater, dams, IITs, Hindu but befriended Muslims, North Indian but did not impose Hindi, pity for the weak, mercy for the destitute.
Contribution : Nehru’s simultaneous celebration and nurturing of that other critical ‘D’ word: Diversity. Democracy and diversity, or better still, democracy with diversity—that is Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy to India. We should defend it to the last. [ Historian Ram Guha ]
Park Chung-Hee of Korea
Military background dictator, raised in crushing poverty, undernourished, short statured, cleared competitive exams to join Japanese colonial teacher training school, then army, imperious, ever suspicious, took over in coup, first arrested then arm twisted business leaders, tortured people, proclaimed himself permanent leader, killed by own intelligence officer.
Contribution : Miracle on the Han. He took what was a piss poor country, amongst the worlds poorest, poorer than India or even North Korea and transformed it, placed it on an automatic path to First World status. Today Korea is a gleaming confident country with 10 times the per capita of India.
Koreans love this man today.
Personal charisma and expansive idealism about international order will always come a distant second to “Okay fine, why are we third world again ?”
Unfair ? You bet.