Nehru’s Word: Each one of us has to think of our country’s problems as personal

"On no account should factions and groups in the Congress be tolerated in the future. We have to function as a disciplined army now, with definite objectives and with continuous work to attain them"

Jawaharlal Nehru making the famous 'Tryst with destiny' speech in the Constituent Assembly
Jawaharlal Nehru making the famous 'Tryst with destiny' speech in the Constituent Assembly

Jawaharlal Nehru

The elections are over and the road ahead is demanding. The Congress and other opposition parties have to work at keeping the INDIA bloc intact, while voicing people’s concerns within Parliament and outside, and ensuring that all those who actively defended the Constitution and democracy stay active and enthused. We bring you the second and concluding part of a letter Jawaharlal Nehru wrote on 11 February 1952 after the first general elections to each candidate who had contested on the Congress ticket, pointing out the need to build a strong base among the people through a personal investment of time and effort, solving problems, keeping in touch, avoiding factionalism and much else.


It is perfectly clear to me that the Congress, as it is organised today, is a feeble instrument for carrying out national work, especially among the people. We have therefore to think hard as to what changes we should make in the Constitution in order to make it a better instrument for this purpose.

The Working Committee has appointed a small committee to consider this question. But that will take some time and, even so, a great big organisation moves rather slowly. It falls into ruts and all kinds of personal vested interests grow. The individual counts and must count. Leadership counts. But the strength of a democracy does not come from an odd leader; it comes rather from a higher standard in the lower ranks. I remember that thirty years ago we had a rule in the Congress of the United Provinces.

This rule laid down that no person could be the president of any Congress committee, provincial, district or other, for more than one year at a time; and no person could be a secretary of any such committee for more than two years running. This was a salutary rule which did much good to our organisation and trained many people in local leadership. I think that it will be a good thing if this rule was adopted everywhere in the Congress organisation.

Our work must lie to a large extent in the various Legislatures. But it is at least as important, and indeed more so, that we should work among the people. The two have to be coordinated. Members of Legislatures must keep in close touch with local Congress committees. I suggest, therefore, that, pending any change in the Constitution, every Member of the Central or a State Legislature should be associated with his district and taluka or tehsil Congress committee….

It is essential that every Member of a Legislature should visit his constituency periodically and as frequently as possible. Members of State Legislatures should endeavour to visit each polling area in their constituency every six months at least.

The Congress organisation has, for some time past, functioned chiefly at the top. Hence, to some extent, it lost touch with the people. It seems to me that the basic unit of the organisation should be a group of 20 or 30 villages. That group should function effectively and keep in constant touch with every family in that area.

In UP, there used to be Mandal Committees like this and they were a great source of strength. For some reason, which I do not know, these were abolished, much to the disadvantage of the organisation. I hope that some such unit will be formed in all our states and that it will be an active and working unit….

I have put some thoughts before you for your consideration. We must remember, however, that we cannot wait and have interminable debates about these matters. Time passes and, with it, goes opportunity. We have been given an opportunity to pull ourselves up and to function effectively and with something of the old spirit which made the Congress the vanguard of the Indian people in their onward march. We have to seize this opportunity immediately and not allow it to pass us by.

I suggest to you immediate action in this respect. I have referred above to the ad hoc committees of election workers which were formed for the purpose of these elections. These must not be allowed to fade away. Each Congress candidate for election, whether he has succeeded or not, must therefore keep these election workers together for other work now. Immediate steps should be taken for this purpose. It may be that all of these election workers are not in a position to give much time.

But there must be a considerable number who would welcome this opportunity. It should be made perfectly clear that all of them, whether they are formal members of the Congress or not, will be welcomed. For the moment, and till further ways and means are devised, they should form an ad hoc committee to work in that area.

While they should work together, it is desirable to allot particular parts, like each polling area, to a small group of workers. They should make themselves responsible for these and they should report frequently about the work done by them and the needs of that area….

An immediate effort that they should undertake is a revision of the electoral rolls. This should be easy in view of the experience gained during the elections. We have found that many of the electoral rolls were imperfect. We should try to correct them and make them as full as possible.

Our workers should understand our problems and policies and explain them to the people. For this purpose, it would be desirable to supply them with material in the shape of talking points, which can be issued periodically. This is important from the point of view of making the people more and more politically conscious and prepared to cooperate in the solution of these problems.

The real and basic work will be the actual tackling of some of the local problems in village or town. Our workers must remember that the best way to ask people to do something is to do it oneself. They must be prepared for manual labour. They must make our people think that they are one of them and not a class apart, that gives directions to others….

Wells can be dug, roads made, houses built and so on. The government will certainly help. But the essential part of it is that the people should learn to rely upon themselves. Help should be given in cultivating new land or in harvesting or in cleaning up the village….

On no account should factions and sectional groups in the Congress be tolerated in the future. We have to function as a disciplined army now, with definite objectives and with continuous work to attain them….

I am addressing you personally and I have written to you a long letter, and yet it contains only some of the ideas that struggle in my mind. I want you to think of this as a personal letter and a personal appeal, for though we may be a multitude, each one of us has to think of this problem and his or her duty in regard to it as something personal.

If you have any specific ideas on the subjects touched upon in this letter, I shall welcome them. I would like you to send me full lists of the workers who would join the ad hoc committee, which I have suggested above.”

(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former professor of history at JNU and former director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library)

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