03 August, 2021

The Rites Of Passage

Shastri and Gulzarilal Nanda, the men who wouldn't be 'king'

Homi Vyarawalla
The Rites Of Passage

THE first, soft blush of idealism was by now paling, and pangs of self-doubt ever lurked beneath the surface of a maturing India. By the 1967 Congress defeat in half-a-dozen states, the coalition of middle peasantry and intelligentsia that had brought freedom to India had begun to splinter. A decade inaugurated by the "temples of modern India"—Bhakra Nangal, the Damodar Valley project and Farakka Barrage—ended with India turning in desperation to the IMF in 1966 for loans to meet the massive fiscal deficit. From the apogee to the eclipse of Nehruvian consensus, it was a rude awakening.

Till the spoils of the Green Revolution—overflowing god-owns after years of drought—brought a whiff of optimism in the '60s, this was the decade when the gods died. The Chinese invasion of '62 reduced the pious slogans of NonAlignment and Panchsheela to tatters. V.K. Krishna Menon, Nehru's advocatus diaboli, lost both his portfolio and dubious claim to greatness and at the Bhubaneshwar session in 1963, Nehru had a stroke. Once the dashing heir of the...

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