President: 1889 - 1964
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first and longest serving Prime Minister remains etched in history as the country’s foremost visionary and leader of the nationalistic movement. He is credited with steering India’s fledgling democracy and firmly establishing the edifice of a plural democratic polity.
Born in India but educated abroad, Pandit Nehru quit his practice as a barrister in England and returned to India in 1912. He was married to Kamala Kaul 1916 and had a daughter, Indira Priyadarshini. Although Pandit Nehru dabbled in political affairs after his return, his full fledged political career only began in 1919 after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He was exposed to Gandhi ji’s philosophy early on in his career and therefore became an avid follower. He was imprisoned for participating in the first civil disobedience campaign as general secretary of the United Provinces Congress Committee in 1921.
Over the next 2 decades, he spent 9 years in jail. After several years of working with the Indian National Congress on several agitations and protests, Pandit Nehru was elected as the President of the party in 1929. Rejecting the proposal of dominion status offered to India, he argued against the Nehru Report submitted by Motilal Nehru and demanded full independence for the country instead.
After India gained independence in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru became the country’s first Prime Minister. Widely respected for his crucial role in the independence struggle and regarded as one of the most charismatic leaders, his appeal extended to all classes and sections of the society. He committed himself to laying the foundations of a self sufficient, industrialised economy and a robust military and promoted scientific development.
Although faced with the challenge of uniting a vast population diverse in culture, language and religion, he successfully established various economic, social and educational reforms that earned him the respect and admiration of millions of Indians. His policies of non-alignment and Panchsheel—principles of peaceful coexistence—guided India’s international relations until the outbreak of the Sino-Indian War in 1962.
Nehru was not just a stalwart of the Indian freedom struggle but also the maker of modern India. His biggest achievement in terms of domestic politics in independent India was to protect the secularism and diversity of the country. A believer of socialism and pluralism, he moulded the country through its initial years into a secular nation strongly rooted in its constitutional ideals.
He was awarded the Bharat Ratna on 1955. He died on 26 May 1964.