When Nawab Nehru Feared a Coup: His Ultimate Nightmarish Legacy

After India's humiliation at China's hands in 1962, Nehru was a broken man. Instead of resigning owing moral responsibility, he stuck to his power and till the end of his life, he feared that a military coup would unseat him.
When Nawab Nehru Feared a Coup: His Ultimate Nightmarish Legacy

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When Nawab Nehru Feared a Coup: His Ultimate Nightmarish Legacy

UNTIL HE USURPED THE PRIME MINISTERSHIP, Nehru had always needed strong men around him. The record of what he did when he used his brain without external help is well-known.  

Left to his own devices, Nehru’s cluelessness flowered disastrously. While several examples abound to prove this, we can consider some lesser-known ones. 

The mammoth, uphill task of integrating 550-odd Princely States into the (new) Indian Union was accomplished by Sardar Patel as if it was child’s play. Likewise, the full credit for integrating the intractable Hyderabad State also goes to Patel. But the moment Nehru’s blundering hands touched Kashmir, it blew up in his face. It took more than seven decades to finally reclaim Kashmir. 

The second example of Nehru using his own brain is available in his decadal interactions with the Communists. More than anybody, it was the Communists — both foreign and Indian — who had grasped how easy it was to brainwash Nawab Nehru. The early bouts of this brainwashing occurred in the 1930s when he was a frequent flier to Europe. By playing to his egomania — a product of his inferiority complex — the Soviet communist leadership was able to convince him that prisoners were treated like royalty in the USSR. Stalin’s henchmen created elaborate prisons which resembled five-star hotels. Nehru was taken on a guided tour where he witnessed with his own eyes prisoners lounging on plush sofas and beds, reading magazines and smoking and joking with the guards. These sights convinced the Nawab that such magic was only possible in a country under unadulterated Communist rule. Nehru returned to India a week after this visit but he had mortgaged his brain and soul to the USSR. He vowed to replicate this Soviet magic in India after the British left.  

Then there is a little-known instance that illumines another dark corner of Nehru’s mindset. Here’s what he did on the eve of Indian Independence. This was a sort of precursor of things to come if he was given power.

On March 23, 1947, the day after Mountbatten arrived in India for the first time, an Asian Relations Conference was held in Purana Qila, Delhi. While other freedom fighters and Congress leaders were busy shaping strategies to combat Mountbatten, Nehru was busy attending this Conference and giving interviews to The Hindu and The Manchester Guardian. He waxed eloquent that an Asian Federation was a “possibility in the near future.” In hindsight, this “Asian Federation” was an idea that had been seeded in the Kremlin. If it had been realised, the whole of Asia would have resembled the former Eastern Bloc, a euphemism for Soviet satellite states. Nehru’s utterings in that Conference obviously gained him significant popularity in the Communist circles.

The Conference had been meticulously planned. It was the brainchild of an amorphous organisation called Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), which met in April 1946 and chalked out the full details of this event. Among the various Left-leaning political figures in the world, it enlisted Nawab Nehru and Sarojini Naidu from India. In return, an overwhelmed Nehru threw his full weight behind it and went on whirlwind fundraising tours to South East Asian countries. 

But that is not the real story. The real story is the timing of his tours. This was the period when the whole of undivided India had exploded in an orgy of communal violence because the Partition had been announced. All patriotic leaders within and outside the Congress were furiously trying to contain the violence. Yet, none of this mattered to Nawab Nehru who was busy promoting himself as some kind of an Apostle of World Peace on the global stage. This had two simultaneous outcomes: while the Communist Bloc regarded him as a useful idiot, the so-called Capitalist Bloc regarded him a joke.  

Even on the domestic front, Nehru was an unqualified disaster because he never cared to understand his own country and its people. He had a stock term for the unwashed masses of India: kaminey

Nehru’s overall failure on the domestic front became magnified after he became Prime Minister. But nowhere was it more pronounced than in the realm of India’s defence. No other Prime Minister wrecked India’s defence as much as Nehru. India’s avoidable humiliation at China’s hands is the greatest monument to this wreckage. But it is really the run up to that humiliation that holds the key.

The shameful episode of how Nehru humiliated someone of General Thimmayya’s stature needs to be repeated and repeated more often. When Thimmayya’s resignation created a public outcry, Nehru, instead of doing the honourable thing, decided to isolate this distinguished soldier. He brazenly lied to the heads of the Air Force and the Navy who had decided to follow Thimmayya and made them withdraw their resignations. Two reasons motivated Nehru’s shameless behaviour. The first was Nehru’s incurable fondness for his blue-eyed boy, V.K. Krishna Menon. The second: letting Thimmayya remain in his post meant admitting that Nehru was wrong about China. 

General Thimmayya’s resignation had far-reaching consequences.

The armed forces became thoroughly politicized because General Thimmayya’s exit paved the way for the incompetent B.M. Kaul to replace him. That appointment delivered victory to China. It is not incidental that Kaul was Nehru’s distant relative. This is how Edwardes describes the disgusting episode: 

It is difficult to believe that in any other democratic state, [Nehru] and his cabinet could have survived…his survival was due to the fact that the Sino-Indian imbroglio had left the mass of the Indian people untouched and those inside the Congress who might have wished to topple Nehru and were in a position to do so were unwilling to lose their greatest electoral asset.

In other words, by 1962, Nehru had established his cult so decisively that none could challenge it. It had become indispensable. If he could demoralise and politicise even the armed forces and get away with it, he could do anything

The China disaster had broken Nehru visibly. In spite of this, he still didn’t think of doing the honourable thing by resigning. An old fear haunted him: in his last years, he actually believed that the armed forces would stage a coup and unseat him. He directed the Intelligence Bureau to subject senior army officers to physical and electronic surveillance and ordered battalions of the Central Police Reserve to be stationed near Delhi. In what I feel is a great tribute to our Armed Forces, Edwardes writes:

The Government had in fact nothing to fear from the highly professional officers who now commanded the army. They were so pleased at having the war material they wanted that apart from requiring non-interference in purely technical matters, their interest in the political process was almost non-existent.

Nehru died in 1964. 

But during his Prime Ministership, he had laid a durable foundation for the all-round ruin that his dynasty would inflict on India. 

Nehru’s words were always contrary to his deeds. When he said democracy, it meant the Nehru Dynasty. When he said secularism, it meant Hindu hatred. When he spoke about constitutional institutions, he meant having absolute control over them. Like a banyan tree, he never allowed anyone to grow. He deliberately surrounded himself with third-grade minds so that his power would remain unchallenged. He is the progenitor of separatism and the heartless impoverishment of India.

In a line, Nawab Nehru is solely responsible for every ailment that has plagued “independent” India.  

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the true nightmarish legacy of Nawab Nehru. The rest are all mere details. Nehru court chroniclers like Ramachandra Guha can fill them in for you.

Series concluded

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