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What PM Modi may want to learn from Jawaharlal Nehru

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s six years in office has been marked by what the Congress sees as consistent attempts to appropriate its icons and stalwarts — from M.K. Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri to P.V. Narasimha Rao and Pranab Mukherjee. How much of this is because of the opposition party’s refusal to promote anyone outside the Nehru-Gandhi family is another story. At a time when the coronavirus crisis threatens to imperil the India growth story, Modi may want to appropriate one more Congress figure — Manmohan Singh.

The Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hold Jawaharlal Nehru responsible for everything that ails India today. But, for once, Modi could take a leaf out of Nehru’s book on national reconstruction.

Nehru’s first Cabinet had three political adversaries — R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, the minister of finance; Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the minister of industries; and B.R. Ambedkar, the minister of law. The idea was to put aside political differences for the larger national goal. Does Modi have it in him to send out a similar nation-over-politics message?

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