- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Limited (25 October 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143425773
- ISBN-13: 978-0143425779
- Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 2.5 x 14.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Letters for a Nation: From Jawaharlal Nehru to His Chief Ministers 1947-1963 Paperback – 25 Oct 2015
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In his immensely accessible volume, Khosla reacquaints us with Nehru the architect Mint A timely reminder of how much we owe to [Nehru s] foresight, sagacity, self-restraint and generosity of spirit --Outlook
This sensitively edited collection shows the scale and power of Nehru s thinking --The Hindu
About the Author
Madhav Khosla, a graduate of Yale Law School and the National Law School, Bangalore, is currently a PhD scholar at Harvard University, where he studies modern Indian political thought. He is the author of The Indian Constitution (2012) and the co-author of Unstable Constitutionalism: Law and Politics in South Asia (with Mark Tushnet, 2015). He is currently co-editing The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution.
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Such centralization of power in a person was not unique to India. Rather it was the norm in Post-colonial societies in Asia and Africa. But what was different was how Nehru exercised his power. And in that single difference lies the reason as to why India could build a robust democracy, whereas other Post-colonial societies floundered and continue to flounder.
Reading Nehru’s letters to chief ministers is an extraordinary experience in many ways.
First, despite of unrivalled personal power, Nehru acted with a deep sense of responsibility. He repeatedly reminded the CMs that what could appear as mundane administrative and political decisions of their governments were highly consequential; they will set the ball rolling for public institutions of India; and that their action will set the norms for the future. If Institution-building is true sign of a statesman, Nehru did know the alchemy of statesmanship.
Second, consider these questions. Why would a person with unchallenged power deliberately submit himself to scrutiny and public justification? Why would the first leader of a newly independent society not treat it like a clean slate and remake it in his own image? What does it mean to lead a country facing overwhelming challenges- poverty, hunger, communalism, communism, illiteracy etc.? And finally, what kind of confidence in the future of one’s poor and unlettered country it takes, for leader to raise the banner of non-alignment in an ideologically over-determined geo-politics?
Nehru’s letters do answer these questions and much more. They tell you the story of not just a Prime-minister leading his country. But of an elder brother who laboriously imparted political values and skills to next generation of leaders; of an Indian who despite his aristocratic aura belonged to his ordinary and under-privileged fellow Indians; of a patriot who could be clear eyed about the wrongs and failures of his country and yet could take pride in the remaining good; and of a statesman who even in the face of overwhelming immediate challenges would not reduce his ambitions for his country. Nehru’s was to transform India into the ‘light of Asia’.
In our contemporary political discourse there is a lot of muckraking and mudslinging on Nehru. Some of the criticism may well be justified on some grounds- his economic policies, his reading of China’s intentions, his idealistic view of UN etc. But as Nehru writes in one of his letters it is easy to be wise after an event. Politics does involve risk taking and some leaps of faith. And some failures and miscalculations are absolutely inevitable. So when we indulge in condescension of history we reveal our own narrow appreciation of the way politics work.
Today when our politics is a daily bonfire which burns trust and dreams, these letters will leave one with a deep sense of nostalgia. For a politics not caught up in here and now, but with one eye on eternity. For a leadership which can evoke awe and respect. For political debates not limited to petty goal scoring, but about world-moving ideas. But most importantly they leave one with a rankling introspection: are we up to being the deserving heirs to these grand figures in history? If you care enough this question will unsettle and unease you. Well Nietzsche could not be truer when he wrote that being heir to something great is a dangerous thing.
Nehru found of writing letter to his CM and share his idea about Nation Building
I am talking about AGE where no WHATSAPP, TWITTER, FACEBOOK rule the world
What a communicator
From the book it is clear that Jawaharlal Nehru laid great stress upon institutional and democratic approach towards solving problems. He laid great stress upon independence of judiciary, security forces, importance of executive and individual responsibility. He was clearly disturbed by domestic and international events. His primary focus was to ensure food security and prevent social disorder in the country after independence. One can sense that the former prime minister would have hesitated taking any dramatic step lest it should weaken the democratic acclimatization in the country. He clearly defended his non-allingment stating that it would have created an entire generation which would have grown up with war psychosis.He clearly rejected the Communist ideology and was anti-reservation. His deep understanding of affairs within Europe, Soviet union, USA, Africa, China is impressive.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading the book