What Nehru, Indira actually said and what PM Modi says they said

When PM Modi took it upon himself to interpret what former PMs Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi said

(From left) Nehru, Gandhi, Modi: Direct and reported speech
(From left) Nehru, Gandhi, Modi: Direct and reported speech
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NH Political Bureau

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his reply to the motion of thanks on the President’s address in the Lok Sabha on Monday, named former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and called out the "inadequacies" of the chair that they held.

Mocking the Opposition for a "lacklustre performance in an election year" in the Lok Sabha, PM Modi touched upon the supposed statements by the two former Congress prime ministers to point out their "lack of faith" in their own citizens.

In a clear reference to Nehru’s Independence Day speech of 1959, Modi said: “Nehru had said from Red Fort that Indians don't have a habit of working hard. He said that we Indians don't work as hard as those in Europe, Japan, China, Russia and the US. Nehru thought Indians were lazy.”

Here's what Nehru actually said, in his Urdu-Hindi speech: "In India, we have not been in the habit of working hard. It’s not our fault, sometimes such habits are formed. But the fact is we don’t work as hard as Europeans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians or Americans. Don’t think those countries developed by some magic, they became so because of hard work and intelligence,” Nehru said in his Independence Day speech of 1959.

"Nehru thought that Indians were lazy and of lesser intelligence," PM Modi said on Monday amid slogan-shouting and angry protests by Congress parliamentarians.

Modi also stated how former PM Indira Gandhi once said Indians "run away" from difficulties and obstacles. Apparently quoting from Gandhi's speech from the Red Fort ramparts on Independence Day 1974, he said: “Unfortunately, our habit is that when some auspicious work is about to be completed, we become complacent, when any difficulty arises, we become hopeless, sometimes it seems that the entire nation has failed. It seems like we have adopted the feeling of defeat.”

Lambasting the Congress leadership for prioritising "one family over everything", PM Modi said the party never trusted the countrymen and its capability.

Once again, and without providing context, the PM appears to have been referring to the speech that Gandhi delivered against the backdrop of Jayaprakash Narayan's burgeoning JP movement in 1974, which saw students in Bihar rise up against perceived corruption in the state government, and with Gandhi herself facing large-scale opposition across the country.

Speaking in Hindi, she had said: “Today, we need to realise how to rid society of its ills. Can it happen through violence and protests? By fighting each other? Of course, the government has a responsibility, but can’t every person play a part?”


She then said: “Unfortunately, whenever a good job nears completion, we become complacent, and when a difficulty arises, we lose hope. Sometimes, the entire country seems to have accepted a defeatist attitude... I want to tell you all, don’t lose courage, keep your faith in the future of the country and countrymen.”

But even as he ignored the rest of Gandhi's remarks, PM Modi said the Congress was "launching and re-launching" one particular leader — presumably Rahul Gandhi — despite repeated "failure", and never felt the need for introspection.

He also held the Opposition parties responsible for their current state of affairs and said despite this being an election year, they hadn’t set their house in order.

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