She said Nehru not only etched an eternal mark in the history of the country but in his time he went on to consolidate India's democracy and entrench the foundational values of the polity, "values to which we are still proud to lay claim".
She said the values can be summarised as the four pillars of Nehruvianism - democratic institution-building, staunch secularism, socialist economics and a non-aligned foreign policy.
"These were integral to his vision of India. Today, this vision is fundamentally under attack, but it remains at the core of the true India that we must continue to fight for," she said.
Gandhi said it is lamentable that those who were in power today were blind to this truth and their idea of unity was uniformity.
"They lack the capacity, the vision and the wisdom to uphold this legacy. The forces unleashed by our present rulers want to dictate to us what we can do, say or think. Their idea of unity is uniformity. They disrespect and fear diversity which means they deny our pluralism, our freedom of choice, which are integral to our fundamental rights. Their language may be modern, but they seek to take India backward, not forward. For, after all, they made no sacrifices to shape India's destiny," she said.
Gandhi said the past six years have seen "bigotry, injustice and mismanagement".
"It falls on each and every one of us to pull away this hypocrisy and reveal the darkness lurking beneath. We must unite and speak up against the bigotry, injustice and mismanagement of the last six years Not just for ourselves, but for the millions of our fellow brothers and sisters who continue to suffer," she said.
Gandhi said the annual lecture was a welcome opportunity to revisit the "timeless legacy of one of India's greatest sons".
"In today's times, it has become fashionable to decry Nehru's contributions. It is all the more important to reiterate the very idea of India that he dedicated his life to.
"Today, when we take our democracy and pluralist social fabric for granted, it is easy to forget the magnitude of contributions made by titans like Nehru and others of his time. It is easy to forget the challenges these men and women were faced with, the complexity of the questions they had to answer, and the arduous project of nation-building they embarked upon. It is their lifelong labours that have brought us to the India we recognise and cherish today," she said.
Gandhi said even as Nehru memorably proclaimed a 'tryst with destiny' on midnight of August 15, 1947, it is important to remember that at the turn of the tide, the very future of India was anything but guaranteed.
"Nehru would go on to lead a country that had not just been ravaged by colonialism and Partition, but had been reduced by 1947, into one of the poorest, most exploited societies on earth. Indeed, under similar circumstances, in many other countries, such conditions led to the suppression of democracy in the name of unity and development," she said.
Gandhi said even as Nehru was confronted with challenges "that would have crippled the very best of us", he chose instead to put his faith in a democratic system that treated all citizens as equal and trusted the collective wisdom of their electoral choices.
"Rather than compromise on this commitment, he would go on to launch India on a remarkable experiment in democracy. That was his own tryst with destiny," she said.
The lecture was delivered by Madhavan K Palat, who is editor of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru.