Some would say, India has made impressive progress since the day it attained independence from the British clutches despite of the fact that the country had to start from scratch and would like to give much credit to the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru for keeping India together regardless of much turmoil and giving it the initial shape. Some on the other hand would like to differ and say that if it weren’t for Nehru, India would be in a far better place today and Nehru actually held the country back from the progress it could have achieved.
Though how would the country have fared if instead of Nehru someone else would be the first Prime Minister of India is an impossible assessment to make, here are some things that would be different if Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, popularly known as Sardar Patel or Muhammad Ali Jinnah had become the first Prime Minister instead of Nehru.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Jinnah was the most important person behind the partition of India on the basis of religions and he went on to be the founding father of Pakistan. Recently, Dalai Lama made a comment that Gandhi had but offered Jinnah to be the first Prime Minister of India and this claim is valid. Gandhi had offered him the top seat but Jinnah had refused. But what if he had agreed and seized the offer?
1. India would not be the secular country that it is today
Despite of many a criticism that can be put against Jawaharlal Nehru, it is also but a fact that if India is largely a secular country today in truth and in spirit, Nehru deserves to be appreciated. He was instrumental in holding all the communities and religions together in a freshly independent country marred with violence. But instead of Nehru, if India had but Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the first Prime Minister, India would not be the country it is today for it was Jinnah who indeed had proposed the division of India on the lines of religions in the first place. True, Jinnah did show secularist traits in the beginning, but by the time the British left, he had become divisive.
2. India would never be divided
On a positive note, if Jinnah had become the Prime Minister of India, there would not be any partition of the country. Though it cannot be told that there would not be clashes between the Hindus and the Muslims if India hadn’t had been divided, the riots would be but on a small scale unlike how things unfolded right after the partition and the issue of Kashmir wouldn’t be there. Also, Sardar Patel wouldn’t have to have taken up the daunting task of integrating the states to the extent he did and his capabilities could have been channelized in more productive efforts.
3. Jawaharlal Nehru would have been an outstanding Foreign Minister
Nehru was a learned man and an absolute intellect. Though much of the earlier foreign policies of the country were directly influenced by the thoughts of Nehru, if Jinnah had but become the Prime Minister of undivided India, Nehru as the Foreign Minister of India would have been an excellent choice. Nehru was a renowned statesman because of his vast knowledge and oratory skills and made the world realize that India was in safe hands despite of the many controversial moves that it made in places like Hyderabad and Goa. India would have been a bigger player in world politics much earlier if Nehru had been the Foreign Minister rather than the Prime Minister.
4. India’s national policies would be influenced heavily by religions rather than other issues
If Jinnah had become the Prime Minister of India, it would be the country with the largest Muslim population and much of the energy of the country would be wasted on keeping Hindus and Muslims together. Though it is still the case, but if India wasn’t divided, it would be more severe a case and all political debates and national policies would be religious centric and making a public opinion even on simple topics would have become an overwhelming task, thereby containing the growth of the country in the long run. Jinnah realized this much before than Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi did.
5. India would be the highest populated, as well as, poorest country in the world
If Jinnah had become the Prime Minister of India, the country would have had better relationships with the Arab countries from the beginning and a direct pipeline from Iran would have encouraged more gas based automobiles. Also, with Karachi and Chittagong being a part of undivided India, the country would be a major maritime trade destination. Nevertheless, an undivided India would be the world’s largest country in terms of population and at the same time the world’s poorest country in terms of the number of people who go to sleep hungry.
Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel
It is no secret that Sardar Patel was the first choice for many to be the Prime Minister of India but he settled for the position of Home Minister eventually and was the most important person to stitch the whole country that we know together in the present form. Here are how India would be a different country now if he had actually become the Prime Minister.
1. India might not have sought after Kashmir so hard (at least in the beginning)
Though Sardar Patel wanted Kashmir to be a part of India, he didn’t aggressively seek Kashmir as he didn’t want to mess up the situations in the princely state with Muslim majority. It is believed that when the Nawab of Junagarh, a princely state with Hindu majority ruled by a Muslim ruler, decided to accede to India, the idea that Kashmir could be a part of India took hold in his mind. Meanwhile it was always Nehru who wanted Kashmir to be a part of India and actively sought it. Yes there were differences in the approaches of the two regarding the accession part and at times Patel seemed more in favour of military actions in the state, but if Kashmir is a part of India today, it is because of Nehru. If Patel had been the apex decision maker, the story of Kashmir today might have been different.
2. The entire Jammu & Kashmir would be a part of India today
If Sardar Patel would have been the Prime Minister of India instead of Nehru, the Kashmir issue might not have escalated to such a critical state as it is today. Contrary to Nehru, Patel was more in favour of military actions in the state and he might not have rushed to the United Nations when Pakistan invaded Kashmir unlike Nehru but go on a full scale war and possibly the entire Kashmir would be under the Indian occupation. The involvement of UN froze the situation and it has remained an unsolved situation ever since.
3. A single family would not have had hijacked the oldest political party in India
Jawaharlal Nehru becoming the Prime Minister of India resulted in one family hijacking the Indian National Congress and for years to come the democratic India was governed by a single family and the internal democracy of the Congress thereby doesn’t seem like very fair a system. If instead of Nehru, Patel had been the Prime Minister of India, the internal democracy of Congress would have been in a far better state and this would have impacted the leadership of India eventually. In fact, most of the Pradesh Congress Committees had opted for Patel as the Prime Minister, but their decision was overridden by Mahatma Gandhi.
4. India’s economy might have leaned towards capitalism from the beginning
For the Indian business persons, Patel was the first choice for Prime Minister as he was more of a capitalist comparing to Nehru who was inherently socialist and had Patel been the first Prime Minister of free India, he would have taken more industry friendly decisions and India would be on a capitalistic track from the beginning. But that being said, Nehru could but still take it on the socialistic path after Patel’s death in 1950 as he was certain to take over Patel as the second PM. In fact, India became more like a socialist nation only after 1950.
5. India might have lost the Commonwealth membership
If Patel had become the first Prime Minister of India, India wouldn’t have listened to Lord Mountbatten’s advise and go to UN regarding the Kashmir issue and might even took control over all Jammu & Kashmir as he was more aggressive comparing to Nehru when it comes to using military power. This would but eventually create problems for India as most of the West was pro-Pakistan at that time and India fighting on multiple fronts against Pakistan, China, Hyderabad might cost India the Commonwealth membership and alienate it. Also, as a new nation, India could not afford long term military engagements. Thus, if estimation is to be made, Patel’s policies as PM might actually have been disastrous. Nevertheless, it’s just a speculation and things could have been completely different.