Jawahar Lal Nehru was the first prime minister of Independent India. He served from August 1947 till his death in May of 1964. He was Mahatma Gandhi’s chosen favorite. He spoke for all Indians when he gave his “Tryst with Destiny speech” on the eve of the independence:
Nehru provided political leadership at the most crucial time for India. He was a Pan-Indian leader and Congress Party under him was also a pan-Indian party. He guided India through early constitutional process, resulting in the first elections in 1952. He is credited with nurturing India’s nascent democratic institutions. Free India’s second and third elections were held on schedule in 1957 and 1962, giving democracy a chance to take root under him. Parliament and other institutions survived him in good working order. Nehru was a quintessential modernizer and an idealist. He was a man in the hurry. He set IITs, Atomic Energy Commission and various national science labs to give India what he called a scientific temper.
That is about the best that can be said about him.
Nehru was steeped in the Fabian Socialism and saw state as a tool to speed-up economic development. Congress Party adopted a resolution at the Avadhi party conference in 1955 to give the state a control “over the commanding heights of the economy”, thereby adopting Soviet style command and control economy. It specifically adopted the “5 Year Economic Plans”. India was to become a developed economy in 25 years. As per Nehru, India was to have a mixed economy but in practice public enterprises, mostly run by incompetent bureaucrats were favored over the well run private enterprises. This gave India its famous “Hindu Rate of Growth”. This proved to be disastrous and India was doomed to slow growth for generations to come. Nehru’s Socialism eventually degenerated into “License Raj” and was the great source of corruption.
Teddy Roosevelt once described the Foreign Policy as speaking softly but carrying a big stick. Nehru had turned this dictum on its head. He strutted on the world stage speaking loudly but carrying no stick at all. His “Non Alignment Movement” tried to find space between east and west where there was not any! His “Hindi-Cheeny Bhai Bhai” resulted in a losing war with China in 1962. His Kashmir policy of calling for a ceasefire and plebiscite in Kashmir after the Indian Army had cleared the Kashmir Valley of intruders in 1948 has resulted in ever simmering conflict.
Nehru died a broken man. India was both economically very weak at the time of his death. On the back of him leaving India a functioning democracy I give him 6 on the scale of 1 to 10 and rate him as the third best Prime minister