Very few are as admired in India as our late Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ( 1889-1964). As a school boy, I remember how thrilled we were when he visited our school in 1959, complete with that rose adorning his jacket. It was in 1962 however when his image took a beating in public for the first time. This followed the disastrous India-China War which saw our Army grossly humiliated. It was the same Army which as the British Indian Army had gained tremendous respect during World War II across different battle theaters, not to mention the sacrifices made in World War I as well. The blame for the 1962 blunders rest squarely with Nehru.
Puranik’s book was first published under the title of “Nehru’s 97 Major Blunders” in 2016. In 2018 it was “revised and enlarged” ( to score a century?) to become “122 Major Blunders”! Be that as it may, the book is an eye-opener for students of Indian history and politics, especially during the first two decades post-Independence. It is a well researched book and not written off the cuff. There are citations given for detailed linkages to published articles and the like.
Perhaps to soften the blow, the author writes, ” It is not the intention of this book to be critical of Nehru, but historical facts, that often have been distorted or glossed over or suppressed must be known widely, lest the mistakes be repeated, and so that India has a brighter future”! This sentiment is supported by two apt quotations : ” Study the past, if you would divine the future” by Confucius, and ” Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” by George Santayana.
The book is in different sections: Pre-Independence India; Integration of the Princely States; External Security; Internal Security; Foreign Policy; Economy; Misgovernance; Educational & Cultural Mismanagement; Dynacracy & Dictatorial Tendencies; and ends with Hubris & Ill Treatment of Others.
Some of Nehru’s blunders are all too well -known to be repeated here. You need to read the book for yourself for that. However, for perspective, it must be noted that the Nehru dynasty came to power mainly because of the push provided by his father Motilal Nehru. The senior advocate from Allahabad persuaded Gandhi to make his son the Congress President in 1929-30, though many including Netaji Suhas Chandra Bose believed that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was far more deserving of the post.
Nehru passed away in 1964, more than five decades ago, yet his name is talked about or written about in India almost everyday. That’s why I feel Puranik’s book should be read by all students of Indian history and politics. I am sure, based on their ideology and experience, readers will agree or disagree with the author’s analysis and choice of incidents but it cannot be denied that Puranik’s book provides detailed information of events as they then took place, including the consequences of decisions then made.