The Greatest Indians
* The final, cumulative ranking following the three-way poll (jury, online and on-ground) in two phases
Ranking By Jury
1. Jawaharlal Nehru
2. B.R. Ambedkar
3. Vallabhbhai Patel
4. J.R.D. Tata
0. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam
0. Indira Gandhi
0. Mother Teresa
0. Sachin Tendulkar
0. Lata Mangeshkar
0. A.B. Vajpayee
In the second phase, the jury voted only for Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel and JRD. Five members of the jury failed to cast their vote for anyone.
Ranking By Popular votes
After weeding out duplication and doubtful votes, 4.3 million popular votes by phone and on the website were finally taken into account
Ranking By Market Research
The survey was conducted by AC Nielsen in 15 cities with a sample size of 1,027 in the second phase, the same as the first one
“I am no worshipper of idols. I believe in breaking them.... I have hopes that my countrymen will some day learn that the country is greater than the men; that the worship of Gandhi or Jinnah and service to India are two very different things and may even be contradictory....”
—Dr B.R. Ambedkar, 1943
—Dr B.R. Ambedkar, 1943
What a juvenile idea!”—so exclaimed many Outlook readers when the poll to determine the Greatest Indian after Gandhi, conducted in conjunction with CNN-IBN and History18 Channels with BBC, was first announced. India, they said, is a great country with great many contributions from extraordinary men and women. But to choose just one of them and anoint him or her the ‘greatest’? The idea appeared absurd to many, frightened others, while the more paranoid saw in it a conspiracy to divide the country.
The majority were plainly outraged or sceptical. The greatest Indian after Gandhi is yet to be born, a few of our readers said acerbically. Others questioned the ‘infantilisation’, the ‘crass commercialisation’ of the great while yet others remonstrated that singling out the ‘greatest’ amounted to belittling the contribution of the rest. Another section added their own names of the greats they felt we had missed out on, or ignored.
That the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had perfected the format over a period of time, in 21 countries, and that the hunt for the greatest Indian would be made once and only once, only partially put the doubters at peace. That such a poll had earlier been successfully conducted in Great Britain, Germany and South Africa—throwing up Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer and Nelson Mandela as the greatest Briton, German and South African respectively—elicited the standard response: those countries were smaller, more homogeneous and arguably far less complex than India.
Quite clearly, the search in India was not going to be easy. The greatest Indian would have to be one who had affected the lives of the “maximum number of Indians for the better, since independence”. Leadership, genius and compassion were to be the parameters.
It is interesting to note that similar polls in Europe had thrown up Alexander the Great in Greece and Leonardo da Vinci in Italy. The possibilities in India would have been endless with Vyasa and Valmiki vying with the Buddha and other all-time greats.
Conscious of the challenge and aware of the scepticism, Outlook and CNN-IBN settled on a three-way voting process, with a 33 per cent weightage for each of the three constituents.
The response to the poll in the social media was electric. The official ‘handle’ of History TV18 reached out to a staggering 2,18,690 Twitter users every day during the first five weeks, the first phase in June. The Greatest Indian page on Facebook was shared over 16,000 times and registered over 2,00,000 ‘likes, comments and shares’.
Despite such efforts, it’s possible that some groups took the poll more seriously than others. There is also a regional skew, with people in some states casting far more votes than in others and far few in others. The nominees too received more votes from some states. The highest number of missed calls were received from Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
Polls are rarely perfect. But they are the best indicators we have of how people view things. Dr Ambedkar led the pack almost from the start, polling more popular votes in the final phase than the nine others polled together. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Vallabhbhai Patel were the other favourites; the rest lagged far behind. How they fared in each of the three rankings is explained here.
Popular Votes: Over 1.8 million votes were cast during the two-phase polling. Missed calls totalled more than 8 mn in the second phase alone and constituted more than 95 per cent of the votes polled. Besides, there were online votes and endorsements on Facebook.
All votes were then audited by Grant Thornton to weed out duplication, bulk and doubtful votes. Eventually, 4.3 mn votes were considered for the final reckoning in the second and final phase.
Only four of the 10 finalists, however, turned out to be serious contenders. While Ambedkar was a runaway winner with 1.9 mn popular votes in the second phase, Kalam (1.3 mn), Patel (5,58,000) and A.B. Vajpayee (1,67,000) were the only ones who received some semblance of popular support.
Astonishingly, the widely acknowledged first family of Indian politics fared poorly. Jawaharlal Nehru was left tottering last in the list with less than 10,000 votes. Indira Gandhi fared marginally better, polling over 17,000 votes.
The remaining four in the top 10 were not statesmen or politicians. A cricketer, an industrialist, a saintly social worker and a legendary singer were the others in the reckoning. While Mother Teresa led this pack with over 92,000 votes, J.R.D. Tata followed with just over 50,000 while Sachin Tendulkar secured 47,000 votes. Curiously, the singer who continues to move and stir the nation with her melodious voice, Lata Mangeshkar, received only 11,000 votes.
Market research: The ground survey conducted by Nielsen, however, placed Kalam at the top, with 19.8 per cent of the respondents describing him as the greatest Indian after Gandhi. Significantly, the random survey with a sample size of 2,000 placed Indira in second place and Mother Teresa in the third. Tendulkar and Nehru occupied the fourth and fifth slots, securing 12.6 and 12.5 per cent of the endorsements.
Dr Ambedkar, who received the highest number of popular votes and was ranked second by the jury, occupied the sixth slot in the survey. Indeed, compared to the 12.5 per cent endorsement for Nehru, Ambedkar was endorsed by only 7.7 per cent of these respondents, indicating that top-of-the-mind recall is still higher for Nehru.
The jury: The members were overwhelmingly of the opinion that Nehru remains the greatest Indian after Gandhi. And while the members did place Dr Ambedkar in second place, he actually received just six votes compared to the 14 for Nehru.
While two of the jury members voted for Vallabhbhai Patel and one for J.R.D. Tata, none of the others cut any ice with any of the jury members. Neither Indira nor Vajpayee or anyone else received a single vote from the jury.
Apropos A Measure of the Man, compare the market research with the jury votes. The latter’s top 3 are No. 5, 9 and 6 on market research ranking. And all three died decades back. Obviously, this is too distant for the general population which lacks a historical perspective.
Ravi Metre, San Francisco
As Ramachandra Guha says, a proper evaluation of Dr Ambedkar has been marred by the intense zeal of his followers amongst the Dalits.
Ajit Mishra, Nagpur
A great leader lives on in the hearts of the people. Dr Ambedkar must not be seen as just a Dalit leader or a great reformer. He deserves to be the greatest Indian.
Anbalagan Durai, Tirunelveli
Buddha, Mahavira, Ambedkar, they all tried to abolish Brahminism but while doing so added more vested-interest groups. Which has left people like me having to face majority oppression by coherent minorities: Brahmins (in private sector), Dalits (in govt services), Muslims and Jains (in business). I’m looking for any new group that will have me.
Do we really need to consider India’s great personalities through caste spectacles?
Pramod Srivastava, Delhi
As an 88-year-old who lived under British Raj for 23 years and the rest in free India, I feel very sad that the popular vote put Nehru at the bottom of your survey of the ‘Greatest Indian after Gandhi’—for he was the statesman who laid a solid foundation for parliamentary democracy in India, the basis for all the progress we have made. In contrast, so many nations have fallen to civil or military dictators. His other big contribution was non-alignment. For these two things alone, Nehru deserves to be treated as the ‘Greatest Indian after Gandhi’.
Dr M. Krishnamurti, Secunderabad
It was fascinating to read S. Anand and Chander Suta Dogra’s pieces in your I-Day Special. Ambedkar was an iconoclast in his time and an icon for all Indians. I personally think the word “Dalit” should be done away with. I also salute editor Lahore Ram Balley’s devotion to Bhim Patrika and Ambedkar.
Dr Simmi Waraich, Chandigarh
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
As few observations about studies based on internet/ phone call dependent polls:
(a) Howsoever large a sample one may finally achieve it is not necessary that it should be reperesentative of our heterogeneous universe - even if it were to represent only the literate ones.
(b)Most of the respondents to the polls are likely to be those who are strongly moved by the issue (of leadership in this case) - like polling on the final selection of persons in TV Show based competitions like Big Boss for instance.
(c)One important outcome of this polls seems to be the emergence/arrival of newer groups which are able to effectively use internet and mobilephones, in articulating their opinions in the larger National scene, as much as other existing user groups, who more often, likely to be on the idealogical extremes..
Honourable Anwaar:"We all know that paranoid, conspiratorial and accusatory themes permeate your mind. Your protestation is not convincing."
Ofcourse, it is not convincing. We are not professional paranoids like you and Teesta and Shabnam Hashmi.
Remember about all that paranoia that led to the mid-night crackdown at Ramlila and the one about the anti-corruption movement being a safforn jig.
Leftism is just a wonderful profession for them to justify their existence and kill their time. Indian Leftists like Jyothi Basu or MS Aiyar are feudal satraps living high out of the effort of others.
And that is exactly what the trade union leaders follow in our country. All privileges and bargaining power without any responsibility is the hall mark of Indian Trade unionism. Except for lecturing and haggling for more benefits for themselves, has any one seen leftist guys doing dedicated social service for the deprived classes they shed crocodile tears so much for?
@ 86/D-48 Ramki:
By that measure, the greatest Indian should be Motilal Nehru. A rich lawyer who could start a dynasty that is still ruling one sixth of humanity, without resorting to swords or guns.
I think I would disagree on this point.
There is an argument forwarded by apologist of dynasty politics that one should not be at disadvantage, for being a son or daughter of a politician.
In my understanding, JLN is the only one who can claim that.
Agreed that Motilal Nehru was rich lawyer and important figure in Congress.
Agreed that young JLN had easy access to top people at that time
But we cannot deny that Jawaharlal earned his place, mainly with Gandhi, who was late entry than Motilal himself.
Unlike Indira, who was gifted that place and power on platter.
>> I only said that the Nehru-Indira-Rajiv-Sonia family immensely benefitted by the untimely deaths/assasinations/murders of many leaders.
We all know that paranoid, conspiratorial and accusatory themes permeate your mind. Your protestation is not convincing.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT