Jawaharlal Nehru (14 November 1889 - 27 May 1964) was the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics for much of the 20th century. He emerged as the paramount leader of the Indian Independence Movement under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi and ruled India from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death in office in 1964. Nehru is considered to be the architect of the modern Indian nation-state; a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic. He was the father of Indira Gandhi and the maternal grandfather of Rajiv Gandhi, who were to later serve as the third and sixth Prime Ministers of India, respectively.
The son of a prominent lawyer and nationalist statesman, Nehru was a graduate of Cambridge University and the Inner Temple, where he trained to be a barrister. Upon his return to India, he enrolled at the Allahabad High Court while taking an interest in national politics. Nehru's involvement in politics would gradually replace his legal practice. A committed nationalist since his teenage years, Nehru became a rising figure in Indian politics during the upheavals of the 1910s. He became the preeminent leader of the left-wing factions of the Indian National Congress during the 1920s, and eventually of the entire Congress, with the tacit approval of his mentor, Gandhi. As Congress President, Nehru called for complete independence from Britain, and initiated a decisive shift towards the left in Indian politics. He was the principal author of the Indian Declaration of Independence (1929).
Nehru and the Congress dominated Indian politics during the 1930s as the country moved towards independence. His idea of a secular nation state was seemingly validated when the Congress under his leadership swept the provincial elections in 1937 while the separatist Muslim League failed to form a government in any of the Indian provinces. But, these achievements were seriously compromised in the aftermath of the Quit India Movement in 1942 which saw the British effectively crush the Congress as a political organisation. Nehru, who had reluctantly heeded Gandhi's call for immediate independence, for he had desired to support the Allied war effort during the World War II, came out of a lengthy prison term to a much altered political landscape. The Muslim League under his old Congress colleague and now bte noire, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had come to dominate Muslim politics in India. Negotiations between Nehru and Jinnah for power sharing failed and gave way to the independence and bloody partition of India in 1947.
Nehru was elected by the Congress to assume office as independent India's first Prime Minister although the question of leadership had been settled as far back in 1941, when Gandhi acknowledged Nehru as his political heir and successor. As Prime Minister, Nehru set out to realise his vision of India. The Constitution of India was enacted in 1950, after which he embarked on an ambitious program of economic, social and political reforms. Chiefly, he oversaw India's transition from a monarchy to a republic, while nurturing a plural, multi-party democracy. In foreign policy, Nehru took a leading role in Non-Alignment while projecting India as a regional hegemon in South Asia.
Under Nehru's leadership, the Congress emerged as a catch-all party, dominating national politics and winning consecutive elections in 1951, 1957, and 1962. He remained popular with the people of India in spite of political troubles in his final years as exemplified by the defeat in the Sino-Indian War. Guha writes, " Nehru retired in 1958 he would be remembered as not just India's best prime minister, but as one of the great statesmen of the modern world." Nehru, thus, left behind a disputed legacy, being "either adored or reviled for India's progress or lack of it." What is not disputed, however, is his impact on India, with it being observed "that if Nehru had been a different kind of man, India would have been a different kind of country."