A good mix of both Gandhian and Nehruvian socialist ideals has ensured the development fruits to reach all citizens. Discuss the difference in the approach of Gandhi and Nehru to the issue of Socialism as a goal of National Policy and also discuss the impact of their views on our Constitution and Government policy. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • Bipin Chandra, India after Independence
  • The question is about comparison of the methods of Gandhi and Pandit Nehru and more so specifically with respect to Socialism as a goal of Nationalism and about how they have left an imprint on our constitution even today.
  • The answer should highlight the approach of Gandhiji towards socialism as a goal of Nationalism and then Pandit Nehru’s views towards it and his approach. The answer must also bring out how today’s constitution also manifests their contributions towards the idea of socialism, and not only that but even in government policies.
  • Start with the importance of socialism as a goal of Nationalism then and today.
  • Discuss the different approaches of the 2 in the main body:
  • The policy of Nehru was based upon the fact that there must be industrial development at all costs. Nehru wanted a country with Modern Large Scale Industries, while Gandhi, who was in favour of autonomous villages. Gandhi wanted the village as an independent unit, while Nehru wanted it as a subordinate unit to a higher organization. Gandhi wanted a cottage based economy etc. 
  • Then move on to discuss their impact on the constitution – the socialist principles of the constitution that are enshrined because of them, and even the government policies of today. A good answer should have examples of both to justify better. For eg, the recent ban of liquor in Bihar was a socialist principle-based policy as suggested by Gandhiji.
  • Conclude with how the image of the two has imprinted in our society even today.


Socialism in India is a political movement founded early in the 20th century, as a part of the broader Indian independence movement against the colonial British Raj. It grew quickly in popularity as it espoused the causes of India’s farmers and labourers against the zamindars, princely class and landed gentry. It shaped the principal economic and social policies of the Indian government after independence until the early 1990s when India moved towards a more market-based economy. However, it remains a potent influence on Indian politics, with a large number of national and regional political parties espousing democratic socialism.

Socialism was a global fashion in the first half of the 20th century and was even stronger in the British Commonwealth than in other parts of the world. Though Gandhi and Nehru were both great leaders of the Indian nation toward an independent state, their values and the methods they embraced, and their notions of the term “progress” vastly differed. India chose to embrace a Nehruvian development scheme meant it is vital we analyze the two possibilities that could have been; essentially comparing the ideations of Nehru and Gandhi.

  • Nehruvian Socialism:
    • Nehru pressed for a socialist development in the country with the ‘touch’ of capitalism.
    • Nehruvian development implied a model following the Soviet and Chinese examples of that time. He believed that the large scale industrial development and the planning based economic growth models they followed was the best method by which to take the Indian Economy forward and onto the global field.
    • Newly independent India needed to be delivered from its tattered past marked by colonial and feudalistic exploitation and humiliation.
    • For him, socialism and the state were unsurpassed tools of making a tired, exploited and humiliated people into a modern, self-confident, progressive nation.
    • Nehru created a mechanism forcing the individuals and businesses to conform to a state determined planning process.
    • Nehru used whatever tools his Western education exposed him to—greater role of the state in production and planning. The state would create a fair and prosperous world for all.
    • Socialism, whose essence is the removal of poverty and establishment of equal opportunities if not of equality in the strictest sense, has necessarily to suit the conditions of each country, and Nehru’s constant effort was to bring about changes without destroying the fabric of Indian society, even if certain parts of that fabric were to be replaced.
  • Gandhian Socialism:
    • It is largely characterized by its affinity to the principles and objectives of nonviolent humanistic socialism.
    • It rejects any form of favouritism or violent class war.
    • It also promotes socio-economic harmony- especially the village economy.
    • It emphasises on Decentralization of power, where each village is a self-sufficient unit with utmost autonomy.
    • Gandhi’s economic ideas also aim to promote spiritual development and harmony with a rejection of materialism.
    • Gandhi’s emphasis on peace, “trusteeship” and co-operation has been touted as an alternative to competition.
    • Gandhian focus on human development is also seen as an effective emphasis on the eradication of poverty, social conflict and backwardness in developing nations.
    • The value of an industry should be gauged less by the dividends it pays to shareholders than by its effect on the bodies, soul and spirits of the people employed in it.

Impact of the Gandhian and Nehruvian Socialism on Constitution and Policies:

  • Nehru focused on the development of heavy industries which would produce capital goods, a move intended to create a base of capital stock on which the production of consumer goods could steadily take place.
  • Nehru also directed investment towards higher education, setting up institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) and the National Institute of Design (NID), in a bid to ensure that the human capital levels in India would be high enough to prevent the market from being dominated by just a handful of players.
  • Nehru’s unflinching commitment to democracy, his unwavering belief in secularism and his emphasis on scientific research and development.
  • Nehru’s vision incorporated a strong state which would help develop a foundation on which a market economy could later flourish.
  • In the 42nd amendment, the phrase ‘socialist’ was added to the preamble of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, India became a “democratic socialist” country.
  • India’s socialist pattern of society will be classless and casteless. Her socialism will be based on noble means, guaranteeing freedom of thought and conscience.
  • A comprehensive policy of social reorganization has been taken up in the form of Panchayat Raj, Co-operative Farming and community Development Projects to quicken progress towards Socialism and strengthen parliamentary democracy.
  • In the Indian framework, the “socialist” gives a positive direction to State activities. They include:
    • Eradicating poverty; increasing production; Modernizing the economy; preventing the growth of monopoly; Reducing disparities and inequalities between different classes, castes and religions.
  • It is appraised that socialism in the Indian Constitution seeks to establish a welfare State.

Despite the economic reforms of 1991, India still follows the Socialist principles of both Gandhi and Nehru seen in the forms of Public-Private Partnerships, State support to the weaker sections of society, strengthening the local governments, promotion of MSMEs and village industries etc. A good mix of both Gandhian and Nehruvian socialist ideals has ensured the development of fruits to reach all citizens.


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