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02/11/2014

Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

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Was Nehru unanimously elected as


Indias first Prime Minister?
Dr. Ashok Jahanvi Prasad
Recently I witnessed two interviews of
Congress (I) personnel on different
channels. They were incisively quizzed on
whether their sole reliance on the
members of the Nehru-Gandhi family was
desirable given their inability to provide
direction and leadership needed in the
contemporary context. Both Manish
Tewari and Rita Bahuguna Joshi became
extremely defensive and came up with a
similar logic -which was that the NehruGandhi family was the only family that had an umbilical link with the Indian
people but that the people had repeatedly posed their trust in them ever since
they appeared on the political horizon.They went further to state that the party
had always given primacy to the family ever since Jawaharlal Nehru was
unanimously chosen as the Prime Minister immediately prior to
independence.Even the language was identical which lead me to suspect whether
a script had been prepared which both of them were reading out.
What was troubling here was that there was no challenge to this inaccurate
statement by the moderators. Jawahralal Nehru was not unanimously elected as
the only choice for the Prime Ministerial position; Bipin Chandra has written and
lectured extensively on this topic and lest this inaccuracy acquire validity, I think
it would be apposite to produce some substantiated facts which the learned
professor had come up with in a lecture he delivered way back in 1992 in New
York that I was privileged to attend. I still have the transcript with me.

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02/11/2014

Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

According to Chandra, the country was deeply polarized along communal lines
following the defeat of Muslim League in 1937.Mahatma Gandhi at the time felt
that the best person to lead Congress at the time would be Maulana Azad. He was
elected President of the Party in 1940 just 15 weeks before the Lahore Resolution
for the creation of Pakistan which had been moved by Jinnah.
The Second World War was in full swing and with most of the Congress
leadership in gaol, the next elections for the post could not take place until April
1946.The Maulana had represented the Party in various negotiations with the
British government and its Missions.When it became very clear that India was
going to be granted independence, It also became very clear that whosoever was
heading the Congress would be invited to form the Interim Government.
In India Wins Freedom, Maulana states:
The question normally arose that there should be fresh Congress elections and a
new President chosen. As soon as this was mooted in the Press, a general demand
arose that I should be selected President for another term. There was a general
feeling in Congress that since I had conducted the negotiations till now, I should
be charged with the task of bringing them to a successful close and implementing
them.

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02/11/2014

Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

Rajmohan Gandhi in his book Patel:A Life states that this move agonized Azads
close friend and colleague Jawaharlal who had his own expectations.
Gandhi intervened and made his preference for Nehru known on the 20th of April
1946. He wrote to Azad stating:
Please go through the enclosed cuttings. I have not spoken to anyone of my
opinion. When one or two Working Committee members asked me, I said that it
would not be right for the same President to continue. If you are of the same
opinion, it may be proper for you to issue a statement about the cuttings [the
news item Gandhiji had sent him] and say that you have no intention to become
the President again. In todays circumstances I would, if asked, prefer
Jawaharlal. I have many reasons for this. Why go into them?
(Reference:Rajmohan Gandhi, 1991, Patel: A Life, Ahmedabad, p. 370)

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Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

Despite this unequivocal endorsement, the party overwhelmingly wanted to see


Vallabhbhai Patel as the Congress President and the Prime Minister.The last date
for the nominations for the post of the President of Congress, and thereby the
first Prime Minister of India, was April 29, 1946.12 out of 15 Pradesh Congress
Committees, the only legal bodies having power to nominate and elect President
of the Party, nominated Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Two were in favour of Rajendra
Prasad but there were none in favour of Jawaharlal Nehru.
J.B Kripalani took the lead in finding the proposers and seconders for Nehrus
candidacy, in deference to Gandhis wishes, during the Working Committee
meeting on 29.04.1946 in New Delhi. Kripalani succeeded in getting a few
Working Committee members and local members of AICC to propose Nehrus
name for the post.
According to Rajamohan Gandhi ,the Mahatma had acted in this manner because
'Jawaharlal will not take a second place but by giving Jawaharlal the first place
India would not be deprived of Patels services and the both will be like two oxen
yoked to the Governmental cart. One will need other and both will pull together
It would be instructive to note what the Maulana had to say about the matter in
India Wins Freedom which was published after his death:
After weighting the pros and cans I came to the conclusion that the election of
Sardar Patel would not be desirable in the existing circumstances. Taking all facts
into consideration it seemed to me that Jawaharlal should be the new President.
I acted according to my best judgment but the way things have shaped since
then has made to realize that this was perhaps the greatest blunder of my
political life. I have regretted no action of mine so much as the decision to
withdraw form the Presidentship of the Congress at this junction. It was a
mistake which I can describe in Gandhis words as the one of Himalayan
dimension. My second mistake was that when I decided not to stand myself, I did
not support Sardar Patel. We differed on many issues but I am convinced that if
he had succeeded me as Congress President he would have seen that the Cabinet
Mission Plan was successfully implemented. He would have never committed the
mistake of Jawaharlal which gave Mr. Jinnah an opportunity of sabotaging the
Plan. I can never forgive myself when I think that if I had not committed these
mistakes, perhaps the history of the last ten years would have been different.
Maulana is generally perceived to have been antagonistic to Patel.His comments
therefore acquire even greater meaning as do those of Rajagopalachariar who
again had good reason to feel peeved with Patel as he always believed it was
because of the Sardar he was denied the presidency of India:
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Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

When the independence of India was coming close upon us and Gandhiji was the
silent master of our affairs, he had come to the decision that Jawaharlal, who
among the Congress leaders was the most familiar with foreign affairs, should be
the Prime Minister of India, although he knew Vallabhbhai would be the best
administrator among them all Undoubtedly it would have been better if Nehru
had been asked to be the Foreign Minister and Patel made the Prime Minister. I
too fell into the error of believing that Jawaharlal was the more enlightened
person of the two A myth had grown about Patel that he would be harsh
towards Muslims. This was a wrong notion but it was the prevailing
prejudice(Swarajya, 27.11.1971)
It would also be instructive to delve into the most favourable of Nehru's
biographies - the one authored by Micheal Brecher:

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In accordance with the time-honored practice of rotating the Presidency, Patel


was in line for the post. Fifteen years had elapsed since he presided over the
Karachi session where as Nehru had presided at Lucknow and Ferozpur in 1936
and 1937. Moreover, Patel was the overwhelming choice of the Provincial
Congress Committees. Nehrus election was due to Gandhis intervention. Patel
was persuaded to step down.
One month after the election the Viceroy invited Nehru, as Congress President,
to form an Interim Government. If Gandhi had not intervened, Patel would have
been the first de facto Premier of India, in 1946-7. Gandhi certainly knew of the
impending creation of Interim Government. One must infer, therefore, that he
preferred Nehru as the first Prime Minister of free India. The Sardar was robbed
of the prize and it rankled deeply. He was then seventy-one while Nehru was
fifty-six; in traditionalist Indian terms the elder statesman should have been the
first primer and Patel knew that because of his advanced age another
opportunity would probably not arise.
There is striking parallel with Congress election of 1929; on both occasions
Gandhi threw his weight behind Nehru at the expense of Patel.
In effect, the proposition repeatedly put forward by the Congress (I) worthies
that Nehru's election to the prime ministerial position was spontaneous and
unanimous is not supported by evidence. I believe the best and the most befitting
tribute we can pay to the great Sardar is to set this record straight- particularly as
the present government seems to have embarked on a project to adumbrate
Patel's seminal contribution to nation-building which is not generally
appreciated. In all fairness, the government needs to be commended for this
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Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

exercise especially as it was Patel who had banned the Rashtriya Swayamsewak
Sangh, the organization that has always been the metaphorical foster-mother to
the Bharatiya Janata Party and its predecessor the Jana Sangh.
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Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

Join the discussion


Madd Dogg

2 days ago

Basically, this means that we shouldn't be blaming Nehru for the mess; instead it is the saint
who foisted him on the country.
5

Guest

Reply Share

2 days ago

"I acted according to my best judgment but the way things have shaped since then has
made to realize that this was perhaps the greatest blunder of my political life"
"My second mistake was that when I decided not to stand myself, I did not support Sardar
Patel."
This SOBs are such hypocrites!!!
1. Make a decision to the best of knowledge. But then say, oh my my...i made such a
mistake!!
2. Again make the same decision, and then say oh my my!!!
Such hypocrites are full in Indian society - they want to seen as saints from both ends. No
one should blame them you see. Bunch of egomaniacs, who simply can not say this - "I
took the decision in my best interest". That is what all they did - including Gandhi. So, stop
this nonsense of playing both sides. Gandhi's experiment with truth is filled with such
hypocrisy. Take both sides, play from both angles and then act saintly. In today's age, even
kids are smarter to see this hypocrisy.
It is simple. All of them were acting in their own interests. Period.
2

Reply Share

Anil Prasad

2 days ago

Very informative, recommended to be read to know our political history!


1

Ranbir42

Reply Share

3 hours ago

I do not wish to be a critique of historical facts, one way or another. I would rather let
contemporary historians do that, as indeed, they have done so in their valuable comments.
Theoretically speaking, if Sardar Patel had become the first prime minister of the country,
we may have been singing paeans to the Gandhi / Nehru family today, as favouring the
"under dog" ( no insult, metaphorically speaking) is our national characteristic.

Reply Share

Prof. Makkhan Lal

a day ago

Prof. Makkhan Lal a minute ago


Well Dr. Ashok Janhvi Prasad's story or even Bipan Chandra's construction of events are
only as good a half truth as a photograph showing Gandhi and Nehru and having cut out
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02/11/2014

Was Nehru unanimously elected as Indias first Prime Minister?

only as good a half truth as a photograph showing Gandhi and Nehru and having cut out
Patel on the other side. Dr Prasad's story would have been complete had he narrated the
story prior to the decision of Gandhi's preference for Nehru as Premier. Be it as it may. Here
is the story of how Nehru came to become Prime Minister based on Congress Party
Documents:
By the time World War-II was coming to an end, it was becoming clear that Indias freedom
is not very far. It was also very clear that it will be the Congress President, due to the
number of seats the party had won in the 1946 elections, who shall be invited to form the
Interim Government at the Centre. Thus, suddenly the position of the President of the
Congress Party became a matter of great interest.
Once the election to the post of Congress President was announced, Maulana Abul Kalam
Azad expressed his desire for re-election. This move of the Maulana agonized Azads
close friend and colleague Jawaharlal who had his own expectations.1 However, Gandhi
had made his choice known in favour of Nehru on 20th April, 1946. This was not the first
see more

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Ashok Jahnavi Prasad > Prof. Makkhan Lal

a day ago

My sincere gratitude to all who have taken the trouble to provide valuable commentsspecially to Professor Lal! His comments although from a source that I had not
perused are illuminating. By and large they tend to support the position taken by
Professor Bipin Chandra ,whose transcript was my main source .The only point of
diversion it seems is that while the Congress (I) documents state that the
Committees which did not nominate Patel presented no other nomination ,Professor
Chandra had a different take.I still retain the transcript of the talk which at the time I
found very helpful. Be that as it may, the broad adumbration is similar . And I would
not like to indulge in any blame game here. The Mahatma may have his own reasons
for taking the position he did but I would not question his motives. Even his
'conscience-keeper' Rajagopalachariar accepted the error as his article in Swarajya

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