It is clear that to demolish anti-Hindu Congress, the myths of Nehru and Gandhi that the party has created, have to be demolished. Just like the demon’s life was trapped in a parrot, Congress’ life is trapped in the myths of these two people (both of whom were actually British creations). Similarly, the life of Christianity is in the Jesus myth. To convert Hindus, Church spreads the caste myth. It is really interesting to see which structures are built on which myth. To demolish the structures, you simply have to target the myth that they are based on.
Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for external affairs, got it both right and wrong on Jawaharlal Nehru because he forgot a basic piece of wisdom: you don’t fight foundational myths.
Myth-busting is for scholars, authors and retired politicians, whose ranks Tharoor may soon be forced to join given his controversial twittermania. It’s not for active politicians who want to leave their mark on history.
His remarks on Nehru —- to the effect that he followed a wishy-washy foreign policy driven by Gandhian morality — are a case in point. If you are a Congressman, you have to believe in the Nehru myth.
The Nehru myth states, inter alia, that modern India was entirely hiscreation (only slightly true), that he was entirely secular and democratic (not always), that the Nehru family is the only one that has the whole of India’s interests at heart (absolutely untrue), that non-alignment was a wonderful thing, and so on.
If you are part of a dynastic party, you cannot survive by challenging the Nehru myth. If you do, you challenge the very basis for its existence.
No Nehru myth, no dynasty. This is why the Congress cannot put any leader — Sardar Patel, Ambedkar, Jinnah, Rajagopalachari or Rajendra Prasad — on the same pedestal as Nehru despite the fact that they all contributed much to the making of India.
Besides, Nehru himself was no perennial success icon. His foreign policy blunders culminated in the humiliation of 1962. His economic policies were equally flawed, as Nehru believed in the Soviet model with minor roles for the private sector.
His daughter initially compounded his economic follies, but after the 1980s she started changing course. It took a bankruptcy in 1991 to finally abandon Nehruvian socialism.
The reason why Nehru made colossal blunders was simple: he was vain and hence sycophants could take him for a ride. This is why he persisted with VK Krishna Menon long after events proved him to be a liability; Chinese leader Zhou Enlai pulled wool over his eyes by pretending to be a novice in international affairs.
Nehru held forth about his views on the world believing Zhou to be a genuine admirer when the latter was actually playing to his ego and neutralising him on Tibet.
In course of time, the Nehru myth has been extended to the whole family, from Indira Gandhi to Rajiv to Sonia and now Rahul and Priyanka.
Thus, Indira is the social messiah (bank nationalisation, garibi hatao), Rajiv Gandhi is the moderniser and reformer (though Narasimha Rao actually did more in reality), and Rahul the new youth icon and emancipator. You question these myths at your own peril. Tharoor got a rap on the knuckles only for this.
Without myths there would be no institutions, for myths are the glue that holds disparate elements together. Whether it is a religion or a corporation, myths are essential and beyond reality.
Management writers Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (Built to Last) discovered that successful companies that have survived for over 100 years tended to have cult-like cultures that you could not question. People who questioned the corporate myths (“we are a people-oriented organisation”) were ejected fast. You can’t be in Wal-Mart and not participate in the company’s theme song. You can’t be in HP without kowtowing to the HP Way.
In Pakistan, they have a Jinnah myth — he was never a pious Muslim, but given his role in the creation of the state, you can’t mention it. In India, Jinnah has been demonised (often for good reason), but a rational reassessment is not possible either by the Congress (which believes in the Nehru myth) or the BJP (which has to follow the RSS, which believes in Akhand Bharat, where Jinnah has been given the villain’s role).
It doesn’t matter that Partition has actually created a huge Hindu majority India, of the kind that the RSS could not have dreamed of in a united India. But myths do not need to have a rational basis.
It’s the same with the major organised religions. You can’t be a Christian without believing in virgin birth and resurrection, never mind that these myths are far removed from the message of Jesus Christ and invented much later.
You can’t be Muslim without believing that before the prophet arrived it was all jahiliya — the age of ignorance — even though common sense tells us humanity always had its dark and bright spots in all ages. Hindus have too many myths to count, but the point is that a thought gets institutionalised only with the help of myths.
Myths work best when you pay lip service to them, but don’t get hemmed in. If Tharoor wants to change Nehruvian ideas, the best way is to lionise Nehruism and then dump his ideas in practice. This is what we have done with Gandhi. So why not Nehru?