Jawaharlal Nehru 1940-1950

While Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi and all were busy pressurizing the British to concede for Swaraj British were busy building up public opinion in favour of Division of the Country into two halves. Dr B R Ambedkar wrote a book titled “Thoughts on Pakistan” in 1940 after passing of Lahore resolution of the Muslim League. And in his booklet Ambedkar argued why Congress should concede to the demand for Pakistan. He furnished a map showing the lines of division of India. So we shall understand that British have decided to divide the Country of India on Communal lines (Religious Lines) 7 years before Pakistan was created.

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee demanded the partition of Bengal in 1946 to prevent the inclusion of its Hindu-majority areas in a Muslim-dominated East Pakistan. In May 1947, he wrote a letter to Lord Mountbatten telling him that Bengal must be partitioned even if India was not. 

And regarding war effort of the British against Axis powers, initially Gandhi believed that whatever support was given to the British should be given unconditionally and that it should be of a nonviolent character. Nehru held that nonviolence had no place in defense against aggression and that India should support Great Britain in a war against Nazism but only as a free country. If it could not help, it should not hinder. That was the stand taken by Nehru.

As British did not budge and not agreed for National Government before conclusion of the War. But promised Dominion status after war. Gandhi decided to launch a limited civil disobedience campaign in October 1940, in which leading advocates of Indian independence were selected to participate one by one. Nehru was arrested and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. But released after one year. Let us take a break.


And regarding the controversy of Gandhi nominating Nehru as PM of India we have to refer to what actually happened in those days. Gandhi actually made this remark on 15 th January, 1941 and he said like this,

“Some say Jawaharlal and I were estranged. It will require much more than difference of opinion to estrange us. We had differences from the time we became co-workers and yet I have said for some years and say so now, that not Rajaji but Jawaharlal will be my successor”. So Gandhi chose Nehru as his political and moral heir. He referred here to Rajaji (C Rajagopalachari) not Patel.

Actually Gandhi advocated Stateless society for India based on trusteeship. But here we are seeing Gandhi declaring Nehru as his Political heir. That means by 1940 Gandhi accepted Democracy and Republican form of Polity as envisaged by Nehru for post British India. And we have to note that Nehru or Gandhi did not pursue their principles clandestinely but candidly and openly. And we have to understand that by electing Nehru’s Congress in the first General elections people have endorsed his principles of Democracy.

Quit India movement 1942

And in 1942, Gandhi called on the British to leave India; Nehru, though reluctant to embarrass the allied war effort against the Fascists, Nehru had no alternative but to join Gandhi. Like that “Quit India” resolution was passed by the Congress party in Bombay on 8th August, 1942. But swift action was taken by the British and the entire Congress working committee, including Gandhi and Nehru, were arrested and imprisoned. All were kept in Jails till their release in 15 June 1945.



During the absence of Congress leaders, the Muslim League under Jinnah grew in power by capturing provincial governments especially in North West frontier province, Sindh and Bengal.

Hindu Mahasabha of Savarkar opposed the Quit India struggle and called it a “Quit India but (we) keep your army” movement. Hedgewar declared that RSS would not join Quit India movement but RSS people can participate in their individual capacities. Vajapayee participated in the Quit India movement for a short time but left it by tendering apology to the British.

Shyam Prasad Mukherjee wrote a letter to Governor of Bengal as to how they should suppress the “Quit India” movement. In the letter dated 26 July 1942, he wrote:

“Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province of Bengal as a result of any widespread movement launched by the Congress. Anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being”.

“Fazlul Haq-led Bengal Government along with its alliance partner Hindu Mahasabha would make every possible effort to defeat the Quit India Movement in the province of Bengal”

“The question is how to combat this movement (Quit India) in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province. It should be possible for us, especially responsible Ministers, to be able to tell the public that the freedom for which the Congress has started the movement, already belongs to the representatives of the people. In some spheres, it might be limited during the emergency. Indians have to trust the British, not for the sake for Britain, not for any advantage that the British might gain, but for the maintenance of the defense and freedom of the province itself. You, as Governor, will function as the constitutional head of the province and will be guided entirely on the advice of your Minister.”

However, Mukherjee backtracked from this stand and later condemned British excesses on people of Bengal who were participating in Quit India Movement.

It is also very important to note that quit India movement with large scale protests, arson lingered for two years even though all Congress Leaders were in prison.  

On the other side about 25 Lakh Indians joined British army and fought in Europe and elsewhere, including one lakh volunteers handed over by Sawarkar to the British to stop the march of Azad Hind Fauz under Bose’s leadership. It is significant to note that Nehru also opposed INA march on to India for different reason. Nehru opposed Bose joining hands with Japan which was conducting most heinous war crimes at that time and Nehru did not want replacement of British with Japan.

Actually Subhash Chandra Bose wandered across Europe, Italy, Germany, Russia and lastly landed in Tokyo for taking military help in order to evacuate the British from India. His Azad Hindu Fauz or Indian National Army was formed  by Rash Behari Bose. Japan helped INA by giving away Indian Sepoys captured by Japan (Prisoners of War). Rash Behari Bose handed over the leadership of INA to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.  Bose named his armed divisions after Nehru, Gandhi and Patel and marched up to Kohima. Unfortunately when Japan surrendered to the Allies INA was also defeated and British took the INA soldiers as prisoners of war. British prosecuted Indian Sepoys who joined INA in 1946. Emboldened by the desertions of Indian Army and joining INA several departments in India revolted against the British. Large scale strikes begun. Famous revolt of Naval rating at Bombay was one of them. Nehru defended INA prisoners in Law Courts.

Gandhi was released from prison on medical grounds in May 1944 and had met Jinnah in Bombay in September to convince him to not press for partition. Later Nehru and all Congress leaders were released in 1945.

Now the British have declared that they would get out of India for obvious reasons by 1948.

In the meantime Jinna declared Direct Action day to force Congress to agree for the partition of India. That followed Hindu-Muslim clashes in late 1946. About 7000 people were killed, mostly Hindus in the riots.

While Gandhi refused to accept partition of India on religion based theory, Nehru reluctantly but realistically acquiesced. On August 14 Pakistan was formed by the British.

And on 15, 1947, India has emerged as a free Nation.

Nehru became interim Prime Minister of India. But Nehru was not nominated by Gandhi as is alleged. But Nehru was elected by Constituent Assembly which in turn was elected by people of India in 1946. It happened because Nehru had lead the election campaign as President of Indian National Congress. Before this, Patel’s name was suggested by Pradesh Congress committees for contesting as Presidential candidate for the Party elections of Indian National Congress in 1946. But Gandhi rejected the mandate given to Patel by congress committees and suggested Nehru’s name instead for contesting as President of INC. And consequently Nehru was elected as President of Indian National Congress in 1946. Not as Prime Minister of India.

Then elections were held for the Constituent Assembly to draft the Constitution of India and to act as interim Government also. Congress won the elections under the leadership of Nehru.

Actually it was M N Roy who in 1934 insisted upon formation of Constituent Assembly. Again in 1939 C Rajagopalachari also demanded formation of Constituent Assembly. Ultimately that dream came true in 1946.

Now there were several issues before Nehru. Nehru was a determined Democrat and Republican. But Patel and Menon were lenient towards erstwhile Rajas and Nawabs.

It is interesting to note that originally Gandhi advocated abolition of the State itself. He suggested trusteeship instead. British thought that India will disintegrate into several entities after they left and all would be fighting each other for ever.

However, in July 1946, Nehru pointedly observed that no princely state could prevail militarily against the army of independent India. In January 1947, he said that independent India would not accept perpetuation of the Divine and hereditary rights of kings.

By that time Nehru was already active with popular movements in the erstwhile Princely States of India. And in 1923, he was imprisoned in Nabha, a princely state, when he went there to see the struggle that was being waged by the Sikhs against the alleged corrupt Mahants.

All India States Peoples Conference (AISPC)

The All India States Peoples Conference (AISPC) was formed in 1927 to work for democracies in the Indian Principalities /princely States. Later Nehru was made the President of the organization in 1939. The body played an important role during the political integration of Princely States into India. Nehru entrusted the task of integration of Princely States into Indian Union to Vallabhbhai Patel and V. P. Menon. They did a great job by successfully united about 562 Princely States in to Indian Union by 1950.

However, Maharaja Harisingh of Kashmir had signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan. And he did not sign such agreement with India. Just like Nizam of Hyderabad State, Harisingh also fancied the idea of sovereign ruler of his kingdom. Because the outgoing British have created a legal fiction that their Sovereignty over Indian Principalities lapses after their departure. (this principle of doctrine of lapse was a fiction because there were no agreements to show that they have surrendered their Sovereignty to the British at any time. Actually British were armed retainers of the Kings and these kings paid the price of military maintenance to the British by granting them inams and allowed to collect taxes in a particular region in lieu of military services rendered by the British Indian army. ) Hence, the Rajahs and Nawabs had freedom to join either Pakistan or Indian Union or stay away as Sovereign entities. But Nehru did not accept divine rights of Kings. As per Instruments of Accession, Patel and Menon could make them sign Letters of Accession surrendering only Defense, Communication and External affairs to Indian Union. They were free to rule their Kingdoms as Rajapramukhs. But they have to form people’s assemblies and these assemblies must ratify the accessions signed by these kings. As a consequence Rajahs and Nawabs lost their hegemony over their kingdoms. There upon Patel and Menon gave solace to Rajahs and Nawabs by agreeing to grant them Privy purses and allowing them to retain their mansions and existing movable wealth with them.

Many of the rajas and nawabs were content with the arrangement and became part of Indian union and joined the Indian Constitutional process. But kings of Mysore, Saurasthra and Travancore and Nawab of Bhopal enacted their own constitutions. However, Sourasthra in 1949, and Mysore, Tranvancore and Bhopal in 1952 joined Indian Union ( after General elections were held ).

But Nizam fancied the idea of continuing as independent King after British left India. Nizam’s Rajakars (Muslim volunteers) and Doras (Hindu Jagirdars) conducted atrocities against Hindu populace of Telugu speaking regions in order to quell the popular revolt under the leadership of Communists. And actually armed struggle of Communists was on the brink of success. But either Nizam’s independence or taking over of the reins by communists was not acceptable to Nehru. Sardar Patel finally ordered “Police action” and thus India occupied Hyderabad. And Nizam was forced to sign Instrument of Accession on 17 September 1948.

And it is interesting to note that Nizam of Hyderabad complained against India for alleged aggression and alleged illegal occupation of his Kingdom by India in the United Nations. That application was finally withdrawn in 1978.

For that matter, during the drafting of the Indian constitution, many Indian leaders (except Nehru) of that time were in favour of allowing each princely state to be independent as a federal state along the lines suggested originally in the Government of India act (1935) that is surrendering defense, external affairs and communications by erstwhile rajahs and nawabs. But as the drafting of the constitution progressed and the idea of forming of Indian Republic took concrete shape, it was decided that all the princely States should be merged with the Indian republic on the lines of Nehru’s thinking and wish.

As noted in the previous part of this article, Jawaharlal Nehru was elected as President of AICC in 1946. Then he was sworn in as interim Prime Minister of India. He rejected the principle of divine rights of kings to rule the country. So he took up the responsibility of drafting a Constitution for India based on republican and democratic principles.

Constituent Assembly

On 9th December 1946: J.B. Kripalani addressed the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly and Sachchidanand sinha was appointed as Temporary president.

On the 6th December 1946 Constitution Assembly was formed with members elected by legislative council members of the provinces and also representatives from most of the Princely States.

On 11th December 1946 Dr. Rajendra Prasad was appointed as President of the Constituent assembly. 

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On 13th December 1946 an ‘Objective Resolution’ was presented by Jawaharlal Nehru, laying down the underlying principles of the constitution.

On 22nd January 1947: This Objective resolution of Nehru was unanimously adopted as the Preamble of the Constitution of India.

On 22nd July 1947: Tri color flag which we see today was adopted as National flag of India. The Flag will have three colours, Saffron, White and Green from top to bottom and the flags size would be 3:2 in breadth to length proportion. Ashokas Dharma Chakra with 24 spikes is placed in the midst replacing the earlier Charka.

On 15th August 1947 India was declared a Free country. As a consequence British were thrown out of India without a trace by 1950.

Nehru as first prime minister of Indian Government made the famous speech of “Tryst with Destiny“,

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. ….It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.”

On 29 August, 1947: Drafting Committee consisting of 6 members viz., Munshi, Muhammed Sadulla, Allada Krishna swami ayyar, Gopala swami Ayyangar, Khaitan, Mitter was formed and given charge of drafting the constitution. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was made Chairman of the Drafting Committee.

Major committees that were formed within drafting committee are as follows:

Union Power Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru

Union Constitution Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru

Provincial Constitution Committee – Vallabhbhai Patel

Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas – Vallabhbhai Patel. This committee had the following subcommittees:

Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee – J. B. Kripalani

Minorities Sub-Committee – Harendra Coomar Mookerjee,

North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Excluded & Partially Excluded Areas Sub-Committee – Gopinath Bordoloi

Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than those in Assam) Sub-Committee – A V Thakkar

Rules of Procedure Committee – Rajendra Prasad

States Committee (Committee for Negotiating with States) – Jawaharlal Nehru

Steering Committee – Rajendra Prasad

Constitution committees had held discussions for 2 Years, 11 Months, 18 Days and passed resolutions after deciding on the respective issues. Some were passed unanimously some were passed after voting. Finally Constitution of India was adopted by the people of India on 26 November, 1949.

On 24th January 1950 all the members have signed and accepted the Constitution comprising of 395 Articles, 8 Schedules, and 22 Parts.

Thus ‘Constitution of India’ came in to force formally on 26 January 1950.

In the meantime Gandhi was shot dead by a Maratha man in 1948. And Patel left this world in 1950.

All along Nehru acting as interim Prime Minister of India played leading role in the writing of the Constitution of India. Nehru’s dexterity proved fruitful in the end. Originally Patel and Menon were in favour of granting of partial autonomy for the Princely states. But Nehru did not want to recognize divine rights of Kings. Nehru was a Republican to the core. Nehru entrusted the job of integration of these Princely States to Patel and got the job done.

And at that time Ambetkar was the most renowned intellectual person among the learned people of India in those days. He was an expert in Economics, political science and Law. He was awarded Ph Ds on all these subjects.  But Ambetkar was against democracy and against British withdrawal from India. He apprehended further subjugation of the lower rungs of the society in a majoritarian rule that is followed in a democracy. He never participated in Freedom struggle. When British Government took decision to get out of India Ambetkar wrote to PM of England against their decision. Ambetkar opposed formation of Constituent Assembly and wrote lengthy letters to the British on the issue. Interestingly Nehru made Ambetkar to chair the drafting committee of the constitutional assembly. We have to accept the reason why Gandhi once said that Nehru was his true heir not Rajaji. As was the case with the Congress which accepted the leadership of Gandhi during freedom struggle, people started accepting to work under Nehru after 1946. Not only Ambetkar but also Jinnah and Shyama Prasad Mukherji joined the Constituent Assembly and took part in the making of Constitution of India.

Constitution of India, which came into force on 26 January 1950, declared India Union as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. (words Socialist and Secular were added in the Preamble of the Constitution in 1975 only)

About 17.60 crore people voted in the first General elections of 1951-52 of Indian Republic based on adult franchise system. (Earlier ratepayers in towns only had voting rights)

It is very significant to note that no provisions were made in the Original Constitution regarding political parties. Representation of Peoples Act was passed by the Parliament later and made laws pertaining to political Parties and Elections. Nehru categorically stated that India would have Westminister system of Government in which Cabinet of Ministers are responsible to the Parliament. There would be no King but President elected by people’s representatives that is MPs. And he saw no role for Political Party Presidents in the Parliament. But Floor leaders of the Parliament or Assembly of respective political parties should represent their constituencies. When Congress President Acharya Kripalani protested against Nehru’s insistence that Party President had no role to play in the Parliament Kripalani resigned as President of Congress Party. But Nehru did not budge.

And let us know that present States of the Indian Union are different from the States formed at that time. There were four kinds of States (administrative units) called as Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D as stated hereunder,

The former provinces under direct British control were called as Part A states.

The Part B states were former princely states or groups of princely states.

The Part C states included both the former chief commissioners’ provinces and some princely states. And

Part D consists of only one state, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

And many of the present States of India were formed in 1956 under linguistic criteria and these are termed as de novo States of 1956. Actually Gandhi expressed his wish for establishment of linguistic States of the Indian Union.  

Earlier before India became a Republic two States were formed on linguistic basis. They were Orissa and Sindh. In 1911 Akhilandhra map was prepared by Andhra leaders showing Telugu speaking regions of Madras State and Nizam’s Hyderabad State. Once again after 1947 the demand for a separate linguistic State for Andhras was raised in Madras State. Nehru termed demand for Andhra State as Andhra Imperialism when raised in 1950 at Bangalore session. And hence, we have to understand that he was not in favour of Andhra State. Rajaji opposed division of Madras State. However, in 1952 Shri Potti Sreeramulu a disciple of Ganghiji conducted Satyagraha and underwent 52 days of hunger strike demanding Andhra State. Nehru did not budge and as a consequence Sreeramulu sacrificed his life. People came out on streets and large scale protests erupted and ultimately Madras State was divided. Andhra State was formed in 1953. After this incident Nehru changed his mind and appointed States reorganization committee. And new States were formed in 1956 on linguistic basis after the committee submitted its report. Because of this exercise of mergers and divisions of the parts of States, political significance of the erstwhile Rajas and Nawabs was went in to oblivion. And new Federal system under democratic principles established.

Indirectly, Nehru’s dream of establishing Democratic Sovereign Republic of India was fulfilled by 1956 in his life time sidelining erstwhile Rajas and Nawabs form Indian polity. (It should be noted that these people even though hurt for being treated as equals to commons in democratic principles some compromised and stood for elections and became MPs and MLAs and some ministers.)

And it should be noted that People of India gave Indian National Congress under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru clear mandate in all the elections held in 1951, 1957, and 1962. Political parties which did not participate in freedom struggle like Communist parties, Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim league etc. were shown their place.

And it is interesting to note that earlier Dr. B R Ambetkar served as Member of Legislative councils of Mumbai for several times / Years. He served as Governor of Mumbai also. However, he was rejected by his own community people in the general elections to the Parliament in 1952 and also in the by-election of 1954, may be, because he did never participated in freedom struggle. However, he was made MP of Rajyasabha and given Law Ministry by Nehru.

Constitution made provisions for reservation of Seats in Legislative bodies (Parliament and States’ Assemblies) for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. However, it is interesting to note that originally there were no provisions as to for Reservations in Government Jobs for SCs and STs.

Reservations in Government Jobs

And at that time Madras Presidency was implementing reservations in Govt Jobs for Backward Communities since 1929. Supreme Court declared these reservations as unconstitutional in 1951. Thereupon Nehru effected First Amendment to the Constitution of India legalizing Reservations in Government Jobs for Backwards Classes. But only Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes were termed as BCs at National level. And backward communities other than SCs and STs are called as Other Backward Classes (OBCs). And States were given the responsibility to make their own legislations to provide reservations for Other Backward classes at State level. So that there would be no reservations for OBCs at National level. In this context we have to know that there occurred a great Social Change in India after 1951.

abolition of Zamindaris

Earlier in 1948 several Provincial councils passed resolutions for abolition of Zamindaris. But respective Courts stalled the processes. Then after assuming office as Prime Minister of India, Nehru Government issued its first Government Order abolishing Zamindaris. Through this order Nehru shot two birds in one shot. It erased fictitious land ownership of Zamindars. Thus 40 % of India’s total cultivated area was freed from these proxy managers. At that time about 80% of the population of India was dependent on agriculture and farming. Thus about 2 crores of tenant farmers became owners of the lands they were tilling. Second achievement is that the threat to the new Nation from Communists vanished. Like that, farmers who were leaning towards Communism till then started distancing themselves from Communist parties.

Because of this order, farming communities became prosperous consequently backward communities’ movement relegated to background. (However, other non-farming communities started agitating for Reservations in jobs. Upon which Kuppuswamy commission was appointed to look into the matter in Madras State in 1969. And thence, OBC reservations were once again started getting implemented in Madras, Karnataka and Kerala States since 1972. But in North Indian OBC reservations begun in 1990 only. As a consequence OBC reservations started getting implemented at State and National levels after 1990.)