The history of Bharat during the last thirty years or more is inextricably intertwined with the life and activity of Jawaharlal Nehru. He has been in the forefront of the struggle for freedom of the country, having courted imprisonments more times than I can recall and spent more time in jail than I and perhaps even he can mention off-hand. For many years he has been the chief draftsman of the resolutions passed by the Indian National Congress and its All-India Committee and Working committee, as also of the most important statements of its policy. He has presided over four sessions of the Congress, and in that capacity, and also as its Secretary in the earlier days, by his untiring work, great powers of organisation, sense of discipline and extensive whirlwind tours helped not only in rousing the spirit of the people but also in building up the organisation that the Congress has proved itself to be. He has on many important occasions not only influenced but laid down the policy which the Congress has adopted. Only one instance of this may be mentioned here. The Congress had adopted as its objective the attainment of Swaraj. The expression Swaraj is a most comprehensive expression, and its full meaning cannot be brought out by any single work in English. But it was felt by many that while it meant full and complete independence without any connection with the British Empire, it might also include and mean Dominion Status. They, therefore, wanted to amend the first article of the Congress Constitution and substitute it by some expressions which would include Dominion Status. Resolutions to this effect began to be moved at the sessions of the Congress in 1921 and they became a sort of an annual ritual. But the idea gathered strength and came within the range of practical politics when he took it up at the Madras session of the Congress in December 1927. The first article was amended when he presided over the Lahore session of the Congress in December, 1929. Not that many other notables in the Congress did not have their share in changing and converting the mass of Congressmen, but there is no doubt that Jawaharlal Nehru was largely responsible for the amendment of the Congress Constitution.
It is well known that he did not accept Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, instinctively as it were. His life and training had not prepared him for any such sudden conversion. He accepted them to the extent he did after much mental struggle and cogitation, and I feel I shall not be misrepresenting him if I state the he had never accepted them even mentally in their entirety. It is this gift of discerning and discriminating between differing ideas and principles that distinguishes him at once from what may be called a bhakt or devotee and an unsympathetic and un-understanding critic of the great Master. His transparent integrity and capacity to see and understand the other point of view have, in spite of his not-infrequent, immediate and adverse reaction to many a proposal expressed with firmness not-unmixed with outbursts of temper, enabled him to adjust himself and bring about a common course of action on many an important turning point in our history. When once he has accepted a proposition he has thrown himself heart and soul into action to implement it. He holds strong views, but has not allowed himself to be identified with any group or party within the Congress.
Since September 1946, when he with his colleagues first entered the Government of India, and more particularly since August 1947 he has been at the helm of affairs, and has been responsible for all that the Government has done or omitted to do as the Prime Minister of any other independent country would be. The country has had to take momentous decisions and face tremendous aftermaths of those decisions. Any lesser man would have long ago broken down under the strain. But he has stood like a firm rock and stuck to what he has felt to be the right course, despite mounting opposition by some of his intimate co-workers. We are not yet out of the woods. The problems which independence and partition of the country have created, many of them still remain to be solved. We have achieved independence, but it still needs constant and careful watching and nursing to be firmly established and able to withstand and counter and conquer all forces of aggression from without and of disorder from within. We have succeeded under the guidance of his great colleague, co-worker – and if I may be permitted to put it – counterpart – in integrating the whole of Bharat as it is today. But the great task of conquering and removing poverty, disease and ignorance and establishing a society which will ensure to all, in the words of our Constitution, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, still remains to be accomplished. Indeed, we have only just launched our boat of independence on the limitless ocean, and the great work of making Bharat worthy of its great past and fit for a greater future has just begun. It needs a great vision to peer into the future, and a greater determination and capacity to act in the present to fulfill and complete it. Jawaharlal Nehru possesses these in abundance, and has been hailed not only by his own countrymen but by others who count in the world today as a great leader of men and statesmen. He needs all the support that we can give him. The country and the world need his services for many-many years to come. May he live long to shape and guide our destiny and to see the Bharat of his dreams, the Bharat of the dreams of the Father of the Nation, as a living, functioning reality – this is the wish and prayer of countless men and women on this, the sixtieth anniversary of his birthday!