Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of independent India, was also the longest serving Prime Minister, holding the office for a total of seventeen years.
A barrister by profession, Nehru was drawn towards the political front upon overhearing British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer boast about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, which left hundreds of unarmed Indians dead and thousands injured. The sentiments awakened by this incident, coupled with the influence exerted by Gandhi, brought Nehru on to the political landscape which culminated with the drafting of the Purna Swaraj, the declaration of complete independence from British rule.
Despite being designated Gandhi’s political heir, Nehru and Gandhi approached politics differently - with Nehru taking a modern, forward looking, secular view as opposed to Gandhi’s more traditional, conservative, religious attitude.
His journeys across the world and the revelatory trip to Uttar Pradesh in 1920, where he became aware of the destitute village life, shaped his political ideology. His understanding of world politics started with his education in London, increased on his tour of European countries in 1927– in particular during his visit to Brussels where he attended the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities where he heard about communism as a governance ideology, and culminated in his visit to Russia later in the year, during which the effectiveness of communism was further reinforced. Aware of the significance of foreign affairs, Nehru always paid close attention to India’a place in the world community, prompting his policy of Non-Alignment.
Amongst his lesser known, but heavily influential contributions to India, is his role in the Constituent Assembly. The aspirational basis of the Constitution, the ‘Objectives Resolution’ was moved by Nehru, giving the Assembly a direction to proceed. He endeavoured to create a strong central government and a working Centre-State relationship, ensuring citizens’ right to freedom and minorities’ rights, and establish an independent judiciary.
As Prime Minister, Nehru was determined to make India a mixed economy, instituting substantial agrarian reforms and rapid industrialisation, with the aim of raising the per capita income in the country. He voiced strong support for a Uniform Civil Code, and ensured the passing of the Special Marriage Act in 1954 to that end. Nehru was a passionate advocate of children’s education, and proposed making primary education free and compulsory. His term saw the establishment of several premier educational institutions such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Institutes of Technology,and the Indian Institutes of Management.14th November is celebrated in India as ‘Childrens’ Day’ in honour of his work towards the welfare of children and their education.
Read Nehru’s biographical details here.