Quick edit | Pandit Barack Obama

Quick edit | Pandit Barack Obama

More than eight out of 10 Indians were born after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, so it is very difficult to imagine the influence he had over a young republic.

Nehru-baiting is a popular sport today. There is no doubt he made several mistakes in his economic and foreign policies, but his vision, leadership and patriotism need not be doubted.

One way to understand the paradoxes of Nehru is to compare him with a modern political icon: Barack Obama, both eloquent orators, with support bases that cut across traditional divisions and the ability to use their personal charisma for politics.

The parallels run deeper. Nehru and Obama are part of a long tradition that believes public policy run by experts can solve pressing national problems. They were/are liberal internationalists who used personal popularity to influence countries, though there is also a healthy dose of realism. To critics, they are woolly romantics with their heads in the clouds.

One difference: Nehru led an emerging nation, Obama leads a nation in crisis.