Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian National Congress

Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian National Congress maintained a close relationship that lasted for more than four long and eventful decades of Indian history. Nehru's relationship with the Indian National Congress officially started in 1919, two years after the birth of his daughter, Indira Priyadarshini, and seven years after his return from England. However, his close association with the Indian political scenario started much before his official initiation.
Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal's father, was a veteran Congressman of the moderate school and closely associated with the cause of India's freedom. Soon after his return from England in 1912, Jawaharlal found himself at the very midst of the Indian political scenario.

However, Jawaharlal was not very sure of the ideological position that would be effective for a rapid attainment of Indian Independence. On one side, there was his attachment to the extremist mode of protest, and then there was his loyalty towards his father. His initial dissociation from the ground realities of India also worked as a hindrance for him taking any definitive position. He was overall disturbed at the state of the inane Indian response to the British rule, with Anglophile Indian elite at the helm. The emergence of Gandhi worked as a great impetus to the Indian freedom struggle, and provided Nehru with the much needed direction that he was in search of. Gandhi's success at Champaran in Bihar and Ahmedabad in Gujarat introduced the power of Satyagraha to the Indian masses. Civic resistance seemed to be a new political weapon that was powerful enough to put even the greatest imperialist power on the back-foot on issues of rightful governance and public rights.

Apprentice Congressman: Jawaharlal Nehru as a Congress apprentice started his political career soon after he returned from England. Although he worked in the legal firm of his father, yet it was India's predicament that concerned him more than his legal career. He was highly impressed by the Gandhian philosophy and way of life, and soon found in Gandhi the direction that he long yearned for. The entire Nehru family adopted Gandhian ways, however, but it was Nehru more than others who heartily accepted the Gandhian way of life, much to his father's dismay.

Nehru traveled the country extensively to preach Gandhi's ways and participate in the nationalist movements. The way he was received by the masses filled him with new confidence in his abilities and popular appeal. Gandhi himself was not slow to realize the great popular support that Nehru could harness with his background, charm and liberal education. These sojourns also provided Nehru with an opportunity to see the widespread exploitation that plagued every sphere of Indian civil life. The perils of the Indian populace that he witnessed first hand in these formative years shaped his policies during his tenure as a prime minister later on.

Jawaharlal Nehru participated whole-heartedly in the Non-Cooperation movement. However, he did not join his father to part ways with Gandhi when Motilal Nehru formed the Swaraj Party with CR Das after the movement was called off by Gandhi following the Chauri Chaura incident. Jawaharlal Nehru was caught between divided loyalties between his father and Gandhi. However, his strong faith in Gandhian methodologies made him close ranks with Gandhi in this crucial period of his life. This tension between father and son would be a regular feature in Jawaharlal's life, and it was only after the death of his father that Nehru despite his grief, felt fully free to pursue his own political course. The ascendancy of Nehru in the fullest sense happened only after the death of Motilal Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru as INC President: Jawaharlal Nehru's rise within the Indian National Congress (INC) was meteoric in the years following the Non-Cooperation movement. He, along with Subhas Chandra Bose, became two dynamic young leaders of the Congress to whom the Indians were glad to look up to for guidance. The Calcutta Congress of 1928 saw the Congress divided on the Nehru report prepared by Motilal Nehru on India's being awarded dominion status by the British government. Jawaharlal himself took exception to the steps laid down by the Nehru report. Mahatma Gandhi worked towards a compromise, and also single handedly worked for Jawaharlal's election as the Congress President in the historic Lahore Congress in 1929. Despite the universally accepted organizational prowess of Vallabbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru was elected as the Congress president at a young age of forty, prior to the extremely significant Lahore Congress of 1929. Nehru was prompt to use the platform in order to declare his dream of Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence.

Nehru's Prison Days: The monumental Lahore Congress introduced the Civil Disobedience Movement. Nehru plunged himself into the movement and courted arrest. It was not the first time Nehru went to prison, and it would not be the last time either. Over the period of the next decade, Nehru would spend most of the time of his life in prison as a political prisoner. However, he was determined to make his solitude count. During the days of imprisonment, Nehru wrote extensively on a number of topics, particularly history and other social issues. He read a lot and often lectured fellow prisoners. However, with Motilal, Gandhi and Nehru imprisoned, the Indian freedom movement suddenly found itself without a clear direction. A number of factions both within Congress and outside were trying to undermine Satyagraha and offer alternate ways to India's freedom.

Nehru and the INC in the Years before Indian Freedom: Nehru spent most of the 1930s in prison, far from the Indian freedom struggle and the Indian National Congress. However, he kept a close watch on the course the movement was taking. On his return from prison to mainstream politics, Nehru had to employ all his reconciliatory skills to bring the warring factions within his party to a common platform. Although his Socialist ideals differed significantly from Gandhi's spiritual bent of civil resistance and the cultural aspects that came along with it. His differences with Gandhian modes came into the open in the Lucknow Conference of 1936.

Throughout the early forties, Nehru visited other Nationalist states as the Congress representative. He returned from China just before the World War II. The World War II brought in new problems for the Indian National Congress. Bose and his followers were willing to cooperate with the Axis forces in order to create pressure on the British officials, a move that Nehru summarily disapproved of. In the mean time, the Second Round Table Conference failed, and the Quit Quit India Movement was launched. Nehru was imprisoned once more. He was released in 1945 after the end of the War. Soon he started to work relentlessly towards forming the INA and preparing India for the hour of Independence. The end of the war brought the new Labor government in Britain, and the long held dream of Indian independence did not seem very far from then on.

The Indian Independence and the INC: The new government was willing to provide self dominion to India. With Nehru as the Congress president, negotiations were being worked out between the British government and the Congress Party, which was by then elected to be the single most popular party in India. However, the British were willing to play the waiting game and see the outcome of the elections. Moreover, a common ground between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League was yet to be reached. Nehru tried his best to work out a solution through talks with Jinnah. The talks, expectedly failed. There was an absolute deadlock between the parties, and Partition seemed to be the only way for India to finally attain freedom.

The Indian Independence finally came in the year 1947; although the conditions of the much awaited freedom were far from what was expected. For Nehru as the President of the Indian national Congress, it was a bitter-sweet moment of truth. As the President of Congress, Nehru was the automatic choice as the first Prime Minister of Independent India. On 15th August, 1947 Nehru gave his famous 'Tryst with Destiny' speech from the Red Fort. However, it was hardly the end of his troubles. Mahatma Gandhi was murdered soon after and Patel died in 1950. Nehru was vested with the duty of steadying the rocking boat of the tottering economy of a newly emergent nation. This started the second phase of Nehru's work within the folds of the Indian National Congress, the post Independence phase.

Post-Independence Phase of INC and Nehru: Indian National Congress was committed to the primary idea of freeing India from British rule. Nehru thought otherwise, and he realized that the widespread popularity of the Congress could be used as a platform to address and solve much of the nation's problems. However, a sudden loss in a sense of direction was imminent in Congress. The Congress party itself had its due share of problems too. The Leftist forces provided a constant threat to the Party, as was the right wing within the Party who opposed Nehru's socialist ideals. At such a time, it was much because of Nehru's personal charisma that the integrity of the Congress could be successfully maintained.

Nehru's imposing internationalism somehow helped to soothe the problems back home. In fact, problems as mounting as the division of the provinces on linguistic lines and the Kashmir debate were also taken care of by Nehru's formidable success in foreign policies. It was with his stature, that Nehru managed to forge together the various warring forces within the Congress. However, Nehru himself was well aware of the decadence that has infested the party ranks and is known to have warned his party members after the Congress victory of 1957.

Nehru's commitment to the Congress party was life-long, and he is still considered to be one of the greatest Congressmen. However, the greatness of Nehru remains in the fact, that he successfully transcended his Congress identity to become a major international political figure.

Last Updated on : 10/08/2012