Let’s go back to the Prime Ministers we have voted for.
As a nation, we first voted for Jawaharlal Nehru. That was our first collective mistake. Of course, we did not have a choice. Gandhi had made that decision for us – by unilaterally vetoing Vallabhbhai Patel for the top job of the Congress a few years earlier. So, Nehru it was. His two biggest blunders were picking the British Parliamentary system for our fledgling democracy and the Soviet model of central planning for the economy. In both cases, there were better alternatives – the American model, with a constitution that split the powers between the different arms in a Presidential government and guaranteed individual rights, and which would have guaranteed economic freedom to the people to pursue their individual dreams.
America had just shown itself as one of the most powerful nations at the end of the Second World War. India should have copied the American Constitution and economic model. But India was pushed down the wrong path. A Parliamentary model without limits on the PM’s powers (as we saw during the Emergency) and an economic model which put power in the hands of those who thought they knew better than the decision-making abilities of free individuals interacting in the market via a price system.
More than anything, Nehru’s decision to pursue socialism is perhaps the greatest economic blunder in the history of the world – for it created an anti-prosperity machine that has been difficult to destroy, and which destroyed hundreds of millions of lives since India’s independence.
Once the course was set, it was difficult to reverse. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, took it much further as Prime Minister. The government grew – banks were nationalised, the licence-permit-quota-raj gained even greater strength, until one day, when all our fundamental rights were taken away under Emergency Rule.
Of course, we Indians had voted for her, and we were to vote for her again a few years later. By now, the anti-prosperity machine had gained enormous strength.