|Review of Profiles in Courage : Dissent on
Indian Socialism by Dr. (Mrs.) Louella Lobo Prabhu in Freedom First (A Liberal Quarterly),
No:456, January-March 2003
PROFILES IN COURAGE
DISSENT ON INDIAN SOCIALISM
Edited By Parth J Shah
Published By Parth J. Shah on behalf of Centre
for Civil Society
Year of Publication: 2001. No. of Pages; 184. Price: Rs 350
Dr. (Mrs.) Louella Lobo Prabhu, a leading member of
Swatantra Party; Editor, Insight. She Contributes the column,
"Reflection- Serious and Facetious" in Freedom First.
This is not an easy book to review, and is not for
anyone, who wants lights reading. The whole structure of the book is ideological and needs
to be taken chapter by chapter. It details the history of planning, and legislation in
post- Independence India. This view is afforded by the lives, times and thoughts of the
characters, selected for portrayal.
One thing between the is common: they all perceived
that enlarging the framework of the socialist state, would destroy the Indian economy and
the Indian Polity as Well. They arrived at this conclusion for different backgrounds urban
and rural. In some of them, the history of the freedom struggle. Rajaji fulfilled the
prediction made at his birth, the he would hold the highest office in the land. He went on
to the top: the office of the Governor General, and Indias highest honour, the
" Bharat Ratna". The one factor, in and between these inspiring lives, is, that
while the persons in question saw some success, they also gave up great material reward by
opposing Indias first Prime Minister and his love affair with socialism. This
perception from a person with a rural background, is understandable. But coming from urban
sophisticates, like Minoo Masani and A.D.Shroff, represent an uncanny foresight about the
shape of things to come, in which both the economy and would be shattered: and a clamp
down on personal freedom, would follow.
Masani and Rajaji were the most articulate defenders
of individual freedom and private enterprise or free competition. Among the lives selected
for out reading pleasure, Rajajis is not the most impressive. He managed to attain
the highest office, while still retaining dissenting views.
While some of the people profiled entertained
dissenting views, they did suffer too much, for their fall from grace: " grace"
being the favour of Indias first Prime Minister. Had he wanted to, Masani could have
held the highest offices, but chose to oppose Nehru, in every issue, which involved
government takeover of land and private enterprise, ending by forming the Swatantra Party.
The Party proceeded to stop Nehru inhis traces, and became the first recognised opposition
in Parliament (1967-71). Though recognised, it was, it was not " official",
because the Swatantra Party in the Lok Sabha fell short of the 50 by 6. The Party had 44
seats. It also formed the government in Orissa, and the main opposition in various states.
It collapsed prematurely, after it joined the Opposition- combine of 1971, when Indira
Gandhi won the election under the slogan " Garibi Hatao".
In the profiles, two make really deary reading, but
those, which try to give a picture of theman behine the ideology come off much better. I
particularly liked S.V.Raju on the like of Minoo Masani and G. Narayanswamy on the life of
Rajaji, R.K.Amin, writing on the Piloo Mody, gives us some hilarious anecdotes the only
ones in the book. Rajajis biographer also manages to do a biography at the same
time, that the he traces Rajajis ideological reaction to momentous matters. He was
often misunderstood, but seems to be the only southerner, who had a secure place on the
Indian national scene. One thing rather disorienting about the books is, that the chapters
are not put together in any logical sequence. Perhaps they should have been done
chronologically. I also thing, that I would have put some other biographies into the book.
That is beside the point. One gets a wonderful re-creation of the Nehru era, its great
ideological conflicts and the people who came forward to stop his mad social philosophy,
inspired by Russia, without adaptation to Indian to Indian conditions. Each person
profiled, can receive the accolade, " I stood up and was counted. I made a