India: The Case of Nehru's Dog

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In India, cried a socialist politician last week, 270 million people exist on 4¢ a day, while it takes 63¢ daily to feed Jawaharlal Nehru's dog. Not so, retorted Nehru: daily subsistence for 70% of the population is all of 20¢. (He did not deny his canine food costs.) The accusation, and the Prime Minister's reply, were fair samples of the acrimonious personal attack on Nehru last week during the first censure motion against the government in India's 16 years of independence.

With a 229-seat plurality, Nehru's Congress Party was in no danger. Nevertheless, the debate, which followed three shattering by-election defeats for the government, vented Indians' wide and rising dissatisfaction with the Congress Party policies that led to the nation's humiliating defeats by the Chinese last October. The attack on the government was led by J. B. Kripalani, long time friend of Nehru and onetime president of his Congress Party, who was elected to Parliament recently as an independent.

Whole Skins. "This government has failed in its domestic policy," declared Kripalani. It "has failed in its foreign policy, and it has failed in its economic policy. The people feel depressed and frustrated, and believe the country has slid back during the past 15 years." The government's longtime policy of "non-alignment," Kripalani argued, no longer fits "national needs." Said he: "You can not coexist with someone who does not believe in coexistence. We are at war with China."

The government's case was not notably helped by Krishna Menon, who, in his first major speech in Parliament since he was sacked as Defense Minister last winter, made the curiously unguarded admission that the government's nonalignment policy was based, not on principle, but merely on "our desire to keep our skins whole and entire."

The Communists, who refused to associate themselves with the no-confidence motion but made the most of it anyway, bitterly condemned the air-training exercises that are to be held jointly with the U.S. and Britain in India, probably in November. The Communists also baited Food Minister S. K. Patil for his "annual pilgrimage to America to beg for more food." Retorted Patil: "Moscow is a delightful city. I wish I could go there all the time. But there are no surpluses of food in Russia."

Departing Ministers. Nehru's rebuttal was a rambling, schoolmasterly homily on India's "vision of the future" and the need for hard work; while he spoke, at least two members of his party slumbered in their seats. The censure motion was defeated 346-61, with the Communists abstaining.

The heat of the attack on the once-sacrosanct Nehru dismayed many Congress Party officials, and led to the resignation of six Cabinet ministers, who announced that they would concentrate on rejuvenating the party. The departing ministers were the strongest men on Nehru's team, although some were in political trouble. Among them were two strong pro-Westerners, Food Minister Patil and Finance Minister Morarji Desai, widely criticized for food shortages and high prices, as well as Home Minister Lai Bahadur Shastri, Nehru's likeliest successor.

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