Chacha Nehru, Nehruvian-Socialism & Lee Kuan Yew: Perils of a Statist Economy – notes

March 5, 2022

Now, I know that Singapore is a very small, not a very significant, mustard-seed of a nation and we can’t really compare the way it is governed, to our Bharat with its history, geography, social structures & what not.

It is not even the question of a mere Scale. It is massively complicated, across many, many axes – compared to a rather simplistic State of Singapore.

And, No. I am not even a great admirer of Lee. He perhaps was not corrupt may be, but there were other issues. But, it is about the strength of resolve, political will and his solid character; about Raj, Kshatra-dharma that he oozed & practiced, given (or, in spite of) his limited context. And the fact that, Lee has always been a well-wisher of India, consistently so, for like decades.

Yes; enlightened leadership IS enlightened leadership. And, Singapore has had that, which India couldn’t for some 50+ years, right from its independence for some reason, I mean, the same reason, that continued across generations of the same family, now faithfully replicated in many such families, all over Bharat. The background for this post is about that, and the terrible stagnation that, it naturally resulted-in, and the angst of a wellwisher.


It is not that Jawaharlal ‘Chacha’ Nehru wasn’t aware of his terrible inadequacies. He has even gone on ~record about them. Like his incompetence in his chosen profession – litigation/lawyership. Like how he was forced (actually parachuted) into Congress leadership by his ‘Helicopter Parent‘ Motilal Nehru. Like as to how Mohandas Karamchand ‘Bapuji’ (who was himself parachuted into the leadership of INC earlier) was instrumental in his rise to power (and its consolidation) during crucial times. Like how he could not suffer in jails like a normal prisoner-next-door, and needed some comforts. Or so, the confessions go on…

But the fact is that, he chose to inflict himself upon Bharat, to which he did not relate much because he assumed that he was a Fabian Socialist, had ton-loads of ‘scientific’ temper, was the most tolerant, was for Freedom-of-expression, was against nepotism, for social justice, for secularism, for indigenous growth, for soviet-style massively centralized planning, for international-brotherhood and therefore giving primacy to international(!) interest, as opposed to Indian ‘national interest’ +++… the list goes on.

May be, he was also smoking some powerful weed, along with his courtiers. Possible.

Yes. He failed not only Bharat, but also himself again and again. But, surprisingly (um, not really) still chose to continue to force himself on India, and then forced-in his dear daughter also on to the hapless, already much reduced India.

Having a very little understanding of either Bharat & Sciences – but suitably armed & primed with ‘Socialist’ aims (which had already failed everywhere) that could merely only exist in the wet-dreams of an impressionable adolescent, he brought in a terrible License-Raj, what with a zillion rules and regulations along with it – meant not to exercise reasonable control, but to squish growth and entrepreneurship; which, in turn made the rulers & the bureaucracy obese & bloated via enormous corruption – when they were not tamassic/inactive otherwise.


By some enormous luck (or some karmic effect, if you will) somehow, currently, none of his descendants are lording it over Bharat. So, my hope is that, there shall be a significant & meaningful resurgence in Bharat.

Also. Meaningful capitalism, entrepreneurship + needed/effective egalitarian measures + continuous, conscious push towards excellence, growth, security, honesty-in-public-life (mostly) and all that.

But this blog is about Lee Kuan Yew and his comments on Nehruism. So let me not digress much more.


I provide a Cartoon and extracts from this very scholarly, and surprisingly much readable book: Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India Paperback (2010) by  Sunanda K. Datta-Ray.

This auteur does seem to know what she is talking about.

The blurb says:

When P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh launched India’s “Look East” policy, it was only the first stage of the strategy to foster economic and security cooperation with the United States.

But “Looking East” became an end in itself, and Singapore a valid destination, largely because of Lee Kuan Yew. He had been trying since the 1950s to persuade India’s leaders that China would steal a march on them if they neglected domestic reform and ignored a region that India had influenced profoundly in ancient times. With his deep understanding of Indian life, close ties with India’s leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru on, and sound grasp of realpolitik, Lee never tired of stressing that Asia would be “submerged” if India did not “emerge”.

Looking East to Look West recounts how India and Singapore rediscovered long-forgotten ties in the endeavour to create a new Asia. Singapore sponsored India’s membership of regional institutions. India and Singapore broke diplomatic convention with unprecedented economic and defence agreements that are set to transform boundaries of trade and cooperation.

This book traces the process from the earliest mention of Suvarnadbhumi in the Ramayana to Lee Kuan Yew’s letter to Lal Bahadur Shastri within moments of declaring independence on 9 August 1965, from the Tata’s pioneering industrial training venture in Singapore to Singapore’s Information Technology Park in Bangalore.

It explains the part Lee played in India’s emergence as a player in the emerging Concert of Asia. History comes alive in these pages as Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, who had eight long conversations with Lee Kuan Yew, tells the story in the words of the main actors and with a wealth of anecdotes and personal details not available to many chroniclers.

I couldn’t agree with the-drift-of-the-book more, mustard-seed comment notwithstanding. This book is strongly recommended for any person who wants to know more about the connections between Bharat and Simhapuri – as also, as to how Bharat lost many an opportunity because of the rank opportunism of the ruling/nepotistic elite, the self-serving bureaucracy, judiciary that is hyperactive when it comes to things unrelated to it (but which snores away contentedly, when it comes to its own responsibility of providing justice; since it is happy with its backlog of cases), massive corruption and the tamassic nature of the leaders, otherwise.


Lee Kuan Yew, looked up to Bharat – as a great leader of the Area, also as an Ancient Cultural Benefactor to whom South East Asian civilizations, owe their traditions & cultures. He also saw it as the only counterpoise to the Chinese expansionist pushes.

Hence, quite a few times (sometimes, of course, unsolicitedly) he gave its supine, snoring, tamassic leaders – some harangues, because of his angst, and/or perhaps because of his/Singapore’s needs of self-preservation, given China; and, this resulted in caricatures like the following.

(Hindustan Times cartoon, from the year 1966: WAKE UP! – here, Nehruvian-Socialist CONgressoBureaucratic complex/edifice is modeled after the image of Chacha himself, and correctly so!)

A cartoon in the Hindustan Times newspaper showed a tiny Lee perched on a recumbent giant, bearing a striking resemblance to Nehru (who had been dead two years by then), prodding him with a pencil and yelling, ‘Stand up!’

Shown the drawing over forty years later, Lee stares at it for a long time before admitting he ‘became worried, not worried, resigned’ to India ever getting out of the rut of a statist economy.

India needed an economic system that promised hardworking Indians the same reward at home as abroad, an efficient and impartial civil service and a unifying language.

‘I gave up,’ he says. ‘I got resigned. India was not going to break through. I mean it was so obvious what the problems were. It was not that Indians couldn’t perform. It was their system that was wrong!’

(ibid., p.151-2)

Oh, well.

But. Our Chacha NEVER woke up, because he was bloody busy being an Uber-Woke, a harbinger of current Woketitis; interested mainly in such causes as will cause enough PR for him, like for example, being an ‘International Statesman.’ Though, with his powerful position and support from all directions, he could have made India take giant strides. Poor Bharat.

Chacha NEVER saw India, that is Bharat – as a true State (in letter and spirit, anchored in its Civilizational past but progressing along all possible directions), his lip-service(s) notwithstanding. (will handle this at some other point of time)

And so. The corrupt & inept folks of the Nehruvian-Socialism slept the sleep of the dead, ably aided by a supine, self-surviving bureaucracy – while the rest of the world sped fast at hypersonic speeds.


However, not all is lost. Nehruvian-Socialism is in its death-throes. Rightly, well-deservedly so.

It will eventually be consigned to the dustbins of twistory, of course.

We, the people of Bharat, as a nation – have a lot, whole lot to catch up on.

And, we do seem to have begun the journey. We have already made significant strides, thanks to the current ruling dispensation, riding on reforms. (of course, there were earlier attempts, a notable one during the times of PV Narasimha Rao + – but then, he was no Nehru dy-nasty fellow.)


Let us wish ourselves good luck & continued acceleration.

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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