Was Nehru jealous of Ambedkar? - Samved Iyer
That Nehru made Ambedkar the law minister is no evidence that Nehru was not jealous of him. Perhaps he was not jealous, but it appears as if he was insecure. After all, Ambedkar was a double doctorate (with a PhD and a DSc, both in economics). His ideas, presented in two of his books: The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India and The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and Its Solution, paved the way for the formation of the RBI. He was also quite authoritative on law, history, political science and religion.
Nehru, on the other hand, possessed no such stellar education. It is true that he had studied law as well and had become a barrister. His own Wikipedia page mentions that while at Cambridge, he studied subjects such as political science and economics only desultorily (without interest). I do not think this is a result of his Wikipedia page being vandalized, for it is protected.
Dr. Subramanian Swamy time and again calls Nehru as someone who failed in Cambridge. He goes on to state that no one in the Nehru-Gandhi family ever passed college. In consideration of the fact that the Congress party cherishes Nehru very much (and understandably so) and that they have not been able to repudiate him, I am compelled to consider Dr. Swamy’s statements as genuine, although I shall not come to a decisive conclusion in the absence of documentary evidence.
On one hand, therefore, we have Dr. Ambedkar, easily amongst the most educated men on the planet of his times. His extensive study of subjects is evinced by the fact that he has, at the lowest estimates, twenty-two published books (while others could unfortunately not be completed). On the other, we have Mr. Nehru, who was inarguably not as erudite. None discredits that Nehru, too, was an intellectual in his own way. After all, if anyone was the face of the Indian National Congress in the international arena, it was Nehru.
Now, after independence, Nehru made Ambedkar the first Minister of Law and Justice. Dr. Anand Ranganathan says that Ambedkar was disappointed, for he was of the opinion that he would have rendered services to the nation in a better manner as the Minister of Finance. But let us disregard this contention for the sake of argument, which I think is not documented. There are nonetheless some points, which I shall quote from Ambedkar’s own resignation address, that must be taken into consideration. Dr. Ambedkar, describing the circumstances, states:
“As a result of my being a Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, I knew the Law Ministry to be administratively of no importance. It gave no opportunity for shaping the policy of the Government of India. We used to call it an empty soap box only good for old lawyers to play with. When the Prime Minister made me the offer, I told him that besides being a lawyer by my education and experience, I was competent to run any administrative Department and that in the old Viceroy’s Executive Council, I held two administrative portfolios, that of Labour and C.P.W.D., where a great deal of planning projects were dealt with by me and would like to have some administrative portfolio. The Prime Minister agreed and said he would give me in addition to Law the Planning Department which, he said, was intending to create. Unfortunately the Planning Department came very late in the day and when it did come, I was left out.”
This very paragraph would engender a credible suspicion to the effect, “Did Nehru intend to make a show to the public that he had included Ambedkar in the cabinet, while really relegating him to a position of no consequence?” Do remember that although he played the most crucial role in the creation of our most cherished Constitution as Chairman of the Drafting Committee, he could not have played a much crucial role thereafter had he been restricted to the same. Later extracts from his speech would confirm this:
“During my time, there have been many transfers of portfolios from one Minister to another. I thought I might be considered for any one of them. But I have always been left out of consideration. Many Ministers have been given two or three portfolios so that they have been overburdened. Others like me have been wanting more work. I have not even been considered for holding a portfolio temporarily when a Minister in charge has gone abroad for a few days. It is difficult to understand what is the principle underlying the distribution of Government work among Ministers which the Prime Minister follows. Is it capacity? Is it trust? Is it friendship? Is it pliability?”
Very genuine questions. I am confident that no historian can really answer these questions satisfactorily and simultaneously exonerate Nehru. I would, however, be glad to be disproved.
“I was not even appointed to be a member of main Committees of the Cabinet such as Foreign Affairs Committee, or the Defence Committee. When the Economics Affairs Committee was formed, I expected, in view of the fact that I was primarily a student of Economics and Finance, to be appointed to this Committee. But I was left out. I was appointed to it by the Cabinet, when the Prime Minister had gone to England. But when he returned, in one of his many essays in the reconstruction of the cabinet, he left me out. In a subsequent reconstruction my name was added to the Committee, but that was as a result of my protest.”
This is stranger still! Why would a double doctorate in economics be left out of the Economic Affairs Committee?
There are other reasons pertaining to his dissatisfaction with safeguards for the Depressed Classes and the extant foreign policy, but I need not include them in my answer for they are not as relevant.
Another paragraph is very significant:
“I will now refer to the Fourth matter which has a good deal to do with my resignation. The Cabinet has become a merely recording and registration office of decisions already arrived at by Committees. As I have said, the Cabinet now works by Committees. There is a Defence Committee. There is a Foreign Committee. All important matters relating to Defence are disposed of by the Defence Committee. The same members of the Cabinet are appointed by them. I am not a member of either of these Committees. They work behind an iron curtain. Others who are not members have only to take joint responsibility without any opportunity of taking part in the shaping of policy. This is an impossible position.”
Why must it not be construed that the inclusion of Ambedkar in the cabinet was but a show of magnanimity? It may well have been independent India’s finest cabinet as asserted by some people. It, however, does little to discredit Ambedkar’s scathing observations with regard to the same.
What is the rationale behind giving him a position, but excluding him from important responsibilities? That Ambedkar could have probably dwarfed every other minister including the Prime Minister himself is a supposition that has a very credible possibility at this point.
Was Nehru jealous of Ambedkar? Hindol Sengupta, the Wilbur Award winner, hints, in the biography of Sardar Patel written by him, that Nehru could never dream of playing second-fiddle to anyone. Evidently, he would not have the top position for anyone else but himself.
But with an erudite and able man like Ambedkar handling important portfolios, it could well have been the prevalent talk of the town that Ambedkar was the real Prime Minister and that Nehru was as such only in name.
When the mediocre inherit power, they do everything in their capability to not let the stellar subordinates excel. A simple illustration from school may evince this. Why would a mathematics teacher feel hurt and vent out her frustration on a student’s grades, in the event that said student came up with a shorter method to solve the same problem? I daresay this stems from a sense of insecurity.
Am I, therefore, calling Nehru mediocre? The answer to this question depends on the scale one chooses. So far, my examination leads me to the deduction that Ambedkar was undoubtedly much more qualified than Nehru. If you consider Nehru a mediocre man, Ambedkar would be a genius, which he was. If you consider Nehru a highly intelligent man, I would be compelled to describe Ambedkar’s intellect as superintelligence.
Perhaps Nehru was not jealous of Ambedkar. The aforementioned facts and suppositions therefrom, however, do indicate at least a trace of, if not outright, insecurity. POST SCRIPTUM: The content of this answer cannot be hidden, no matter how much vested interests try to have it suppressed through downvotes. At the outset, I doubt whether my answer would really be read in the first place, with it being so long and in very formal, disenchanting English. However, assuming that some people do read and attempt to get it collapsed, it would well be remembered that I have the content with me. I can have it reproduced anywhere on the internet, if only on my personal blog. Therefore, please spare your most esteemed selves the trouble of rallying around cyber-warriors in great numbers merely to get the answer collapsed.