This study seeks to present the saga of the evolution of India's political system and to offer an analysis of institution-building in various areas and at different levels of polity. The Nehru phase in the history of the Indian political system (1946-1964) stands out as the period of democratic institutionalization par excellence. It was an era of great challenges and crises, full of excitement, endeavour and achievements. The concept of the Constituent Assembly was Nehru's brain child. The philosophy and guiding principles of the Constitution were conceived by him. The structure of the Constitution followed almost entirely the blueprint drawn by him as early as in 1939. He played the most significant part in establishing a representative parliamentary democracy with ministerial responsibility, Panchayati Raj institutions at the grassroots, a polity federal in structure and unitary in spirit with division of powers between the Union and the States, and a professional non-political civil service to implement the policies and programmes formulated by the government and approved by Parliament.
Nehru was a great institution-builder. He had tremendous reverence for Parliament which was for him 'the temple of democracy'. His years as the Prime Minister could easily be called the Golden Age of Parliamentary Democracy in India.
Nehru's was a many splendoured personality. A great scholar, thinker, historian and author, he was one of the tallest intellectual giants of his times. A prince among patriots, an ardent freedom fighter and an accomplished statesman he belonged to the galaxy of the great leaders of the Indian Revolution and stood next only to Gandhi. A venerable dreamer of dreams of India's greatness, Nehru was the chief architect of modern India. On the world scene, he was an apostle of peace and the artificer of the non-aligned movement and of peaceful coexistence among nations. He was the first Prime Minister of the country and held the high office for seventeen long years-the most crucial first formative years in the history of the new nation. Prime national policies and programmes in various fields of endeavour owed their initial conception and formulation to his thoughts and leadership. To say that Nehru was not a man but an institution or a living legend would be a gross understatement.
Nehru was a great institution-builder. The Nehru phase in the history of the Indian political system (1946-64) stands out as the period of democratic institutionalization par excellence so much so that today, in retrospect., some might be tempted to call it over institutionalization in the context of the background, conditions and needs of the nation at that time.
The Nehru years were an era of great challenges and crises, full of excitement, endeavour and achievements. Nehru laid the firm foundations of the system and built brick by brick the infrastructures of various political institutions in the country at different levels. Also, he created institutions for all round socio-economic growth and scientific-technological development. The concept of the Constituent Assembly was Nehru's brain child. The philosophy and guiding principles of the Constitution were conceived by him. The Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and Judicial Review provisions owe their origin to the 1931 Karachi Resolution of the Congress which was drafted and moved by Nehru. The structure of the Constitution follows almost entirely the blueprint drawn by Nehru as early as in 1939. Thus, apart form his role in the conception and setting up of the Constituent Assembly and framing of India's Constitution, Nehru played a most significant part in establishing a representative parliamentary democracy with ministerial responsibility, Panchayati Raj institutions at the grassroots level, a polity federal in structure and unitary in spirit with division of powers between the Union and the States, and a professional non-political civil service to implement the policies and programmes formulated by the government and approved by Parliament.
Nehru had tremendous reverence for the institution of Parliament which was for him 'the temple of democracy'. His era could easily be called the Golden Age of Parliamentary Democracy in India.
This work seeks to present the saga of the evolution of India's political system and to offer an analysis of political institution-building in various areas and at different levels of polity during the Nehru era. I might add that the nine chapters in this study are largely based on papers initially prepared by me for the Congress Centenary History Volumes. These are being published in separate book form with a view to making them more widely available in a handy form to all interested readers during the Nehru Centenary Year.
I am deeply beholden to the Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi for the highly refreshing and thoughtful Foreword so graciously contributed by him. It has lent prestige to this otherwise humble work.
It is hoped this work will be received well and found useful.
On the midnight of 31 December, 1929 in an atmosphere of tremendous enthusiasm and excitement, the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress presided over by Jawaharlal Nehru, adopted the historic resolution on Purna Swaraj or complete independence. As the clock struck twelve and the new year dawned, Jawaharlal Nehru, the youthful new Congress President came out 'in a solemn procession' and hoisted the tricolour flag of Independence on the banks of the river Ravi. A pledge of Independence was drawn up and it was decided that it be taken on 26 January, 1930 and repeated on the same day each year until freedom was won. Accordingly, the Pledge was first taken by millions of people all over the country on 26 January, 1930. Twenty years later, on 26 January, 1950 with the commencement of the Constitution of India the Pledge was redeemed. The Sovereign Democratic Republic of India, the largest democracy on earth, was born. The event may be described as the consummation of a long and difficult national struggle for freedom from foreign rule and for the right of self-determination and self-development without outside interference.
The Constitution of India had had an organic growth. To say that the Constitution was made by the Constituent Assembly which met during 1946-49 would be both fallacious and misleading. It was not as if the Constituent Assembly was writing on a tabula rasa. From the point of constitutional system and structure also, the Drafting Committee or the various other committees and the Constituent Assembly itself were not engaged in the task of making an entirely original or new Constitution or creating novel political institutions for independent India. Also, constitution making and institution building being a living, growing, dynamic process, it did not come to a stop on 26 November, 1949 when the people of India, in their Constituent Assembly, adopted, enacted and gave to themselves a Constitution. In fact, the Constitution of India was being made all through the period of our struggle for freedom. It evolved through the successive stages of the struggle - various Congress sessions and the resolutions and demands adopted there and pressed through peaceful, non-violent mass agitations all over the country. The beginnings of political institutionalization could be traced to the doses of constitutional reforms grudgingly granted by the British rulers from time to time as a response to the heightening tempo of the national struggle. Howsoever rudimentary in form in the early stages, the process of political institution-building in the modern sense of the term has to be gauged from as early as the late nineteen twenties onwards.
It is a myth that alongwith the transfer of power on 14-15 August, 1947, the British were also transferring to India their institutions. As a matter of fact, the institutions continued by us after Independence and/or embodied in the Constitution of India were those which had grown and developed in India. They were only being revitalized, strengthened and made more meaningful, free and functional. Unlike many other newly independent nations, we, under the tall leadership of men like Gandhi and Nehru decided not to put the past with a vengeance completely behind us and start anew on a clean slate. Instead, our founding fathers chose to build further on the foundations of the old, on the institutions which already existed and which we had known, become familiar with and worked despite all their limitations. The Constitution rejected British rule over India but not all the institutions that had grown during the period of the British rule in India. Thus the Constitution did not represent a complete break with the colonial past. Also, even after its commencement on 26 January, 1950, Constitution of India was being further made through its actual working, judicial interpretations and Constitutional Amendments. The story continued. The Constitution kept growing and acquired newer and newer meanings by the manner in which and the men by whom it was worked from time to time.
Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of independent India. He remained at the helm of affairs for seventeen long years, until his death on 27 May, 1964. But, actually he had appeared on the national scene some three decades earlier and so became one of the foremost leaders of the freedom struggle and the prime constitutional thinker of the Indian National Congress. Nehru was the first to conceive of a Constituent Assembly. He gave to the Constitution of India its basic philosophy and its spirit. He laid down the foundational principles draftsmen and experts to fill in the details.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend