The Similarities and Differences of the Idea of a Nation of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

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The country that we today see as India was formed as a result of the decisions and deliberations of many eminent leaders of the sub-continent. Their contributions have, no doubt, influenced the way in which our nation came into being. In this essay I will examine the similarities and differences of the idea of a nation of two such leaders, namely Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Nehru and Gandhi, both, were well-educated men and spearheaded the Nationalist Movement against the British. Even after Gandhi’s death in 1948, Nehru carried his vision of a secular India forward. They both shared the desire for an independent and secular India, an India where people would not be discriminated against and would have religious and cultural freedom. They agreed upon the fact that such independence must be gained solely through the method of non-violence or satyagrah, owing to their rejection of the idea of using brute force to gain anything. When India gained independence, the world political climate was tense because of the Cold War. The determination to not align with the US or USSR was also mutual and was carried forward by Nehru, who went on to become one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. The two leaders enjoyed popular support of the masses and wanted to ensure development of the people at the lowest levels, leading to the strengthening of the Panchayat system. They wanted people to govern themselves, leading to the huge success of the three-tier system post-independence. Their ideas of a ‘state’ differed on various platforms. Nehru’s idea of India’s modern nationhood consisted of four key dimensions: democracy, secularism, socialism, and non-alignment.

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The ‘Nehruvian’ model of democratic secularism included a strong center that would map out long-term plans for the country, aiding in industrialization and development of the country as a whole. On the other hand, Gandhi believed that instead of development which should be controlled by the center – ‘swaraj’ or ‘self-rule’ should be practiced as made people self-reliant.

Their views are greatly influenced by their backgrounds – Nehru was British-educated and hence his idea of ‘development’ was greatly ‘Western’. He supported industrialization and economic development, saying that once economic justice is achieved, social justice will follow. On the other hand, though Gandhi lived abroad for quite some time, he belonged to the small town of Porbandar, Gujarat. He firmly rejected the ideas of modernity and called the professions of lawyers and doctors “evil”.

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