During the period from March 1936, when he returned to India, to August 1942, when Congress went into revolt, Nehru acquired and retained popularity and power mainly by avoiding taking sides. Nothing pressed on his mind but the need for national unity, which in the circumstances, so he believed, could be served best by inaction. ‘It is something at least to avoid a wrong step although one may not take the right one.’1 This act of avoidance must not take the appearance of a positive policy, lest the impression were created that one option was rejected in favour of another. Inaction must be performed in slow motion, in drifts rather than jerks. This method may have served the national interest; certainly it enhanced Jawaharlal’s popular image. He attained great speed by riding two horses and even greater heights by standing on two stools. And to his own surprise he never fell. Such delicate balancing came to him naturally, but during this period he performed with greater agility and a greater sense of purpose, though with less than usual enthusiasm. Never before had he been so mercilessly torn between idealism and reality. This period also marked for him a comparably long respite from prison (he was in jail for just over twelve months only from November 1940 to December 1941); he was thus obliged to evolve a strategy to enable him to face likely problems as and when they arose.
KeywordsCivil Disobedience Working Committee United Province Provincial Governor High Command
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