Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] India’s tryst with Nehruvian ideology

Nehru’s ideology of secularism remains essential even today to fight against the dark forces of communalism and to kindle the light of harmony among the citizens of India.
By IASToppers
May 27, 2020


  • Introduction
  • Approach of Nehru
  • Approach of Patel
  • Secular India
  • Need for science and logic
  • Hindu Code Bill
  • Conclusion

India’s tryst with Nehruvian ideology

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Fifty-six years after Jawaharlal Nehru left the world stage on 27 May, 1964, his ideology stands apt and necessary in a country as vast and diverse as India. There is no doubt that he was a man with a far-sighted vision.

Approach of Nehru:

  • Nehru was a proponent of socialist and secular India.
  • Nehru’s sincere commitment to secularism, evinced in his espousal of the principles of religious equality, is often criticised as “pseudo-secularism”.
  • It has been accused of being biased in favour of the minorities or as an impractical exercise in futility given how the majority’s religion is compared to the minorities.
  • The criticism is touted as if Patel and Nehru had divergent opinions on the meaning of secularism even though there is no such evidence.
  • As per Granville Austin’s observation: Nehru and Patel were the focus of power in the Constituent Assembly, when they were divided on an issue, as in the case of property clause, factions could line up behind them and the debate would be lengthy.
  • But when they settled their differences, the factions among the rank and file would do little else but shake hands and make the decision unanimous.
  • Nehru used every available opportunity to not only propound the benefits of a ‘socialistic democracy’ as opposed to the ‘Hindu Nation’ prescribed by the Hindu Mahasabha, but also to reassure India’s Muslim minority of their future in India.

Approach of Patel:

  • Patel’s view on secularism is moderate and as chairman of the advisory committee on fundamental rights, he had to review the report of the sub-committee on minorities in the Constituent Assembly.
  • His tenor there was very much that India should follow the principle of secularism.
  • Nevertheless, Patel is often identified as a Hindu traditionalist.
  • On the other hand, on June 6, 1948, Sardar Patel urged the Hindu Mahasabha to amalgamate with the Congress. He made similar pleas to the RSS.
  • Patel’s favourable inclination towards the RSS reached its peak when a resolution was passed in the Congress Working Committee on October 10, 1949, authorising Swayamsevaks to become members of the party — all during the absence of Nehru who was then travelling abroad.

Secular India:

  • It is a historical fact that Hindu traditionalist leaders like Madan Mohan Malviya and Lala Lajpat Rai favoured the idea of an Indian nation built around the majority (Hindu) community to which Nehru was strongly opposed.
  • When K.M. Munshi (then a Union Minister) tabled in Parliament the matter of reconstruction of Gujarat’s Somnath Temple which had been damaged by the army of Mahmud of Ghazni in the 11th century, Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel announced in November 1947, that the government would provide funds for rebuilding the temple.
  • However, at the insistence of Nehru, Gandhiji suggested that the project should be financed by public subscription.
  • Nehru was strongly committed to keeping the government distanced from religion — an attitude that defined the character of new-born India.

Need for science and logic:

  • The approaches of Nehru and Patel in dealing with Hindu nationalist ideology may be divergent but they are clearly two sides of the same coin — that coin being secularism.
  • History recounts that Patel’s approach was based on his faith and trust, not on logical inferences.
  • Nehru felt that India needed to favour science and logic instead of orthodox religiosity.
  • He believed that ‘education is meant to free the shackles of the human mind and not to imprison it in pre-set ideas and beliefs’.
  • His motto, namely cultivating scientific temper and nurturing the spirit of tolerance are the foundations of his concept of secularism.

Hindu Code Bill:

  • Nehru was committed to the adoption of the Hindu Code Bill introduced by the then Law Minister B.R. Ambedkar.
  • According to Ambedkar, “The Hindu Code Bill was the greatest social reform measure ever undertaken by the legislature in the country…..”
  • The Bill was vehemently resisted by every Hindu nationalist in the Congress.
  • President Rajendra Prasad even expressed apprehension that it may cause disruption in every Hindu family.
  • However, Nehru’s continuous struggle to get the Bill passed (even if with some amendments) is credible testimony to his commitment to uphold secularism.
  • Nehru had dreamt for a modern India to have an exalted position on the world stage, rising above sectarian politics and divisive forces.
  • In January 1948 he said, “As far as India is concerned, I can speak with some certainty. We shall proceed on secular lines… in keeping with the powerful trends towards internationalism.”


An effective democracy and the nurturing of unity and solidarity are the need of the day for our nation. Nehruvian ideology continues to remain essential even today to fight against the dark forces of communalism and to kindle the light of social harmony.

Mains 2020 Editorial Notes

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