Administration Who's Who

Jawahar Lal Nehru

Jawahar Lal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India after Independence. He was a representative the Congress Party that led the freedom movement against the British rule. Nehru was the chief framer of domestic and international policies during his term as PM between 1947 and 1964. It was under his supervision that India launched its first Five-Year Plan in 1951.

Early life and family

Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14 November 1889 in Allahabad in India during British rule. His father, Motilal Nehru (1861–1931), a wealthy barrister who came from the Kashmiri Pandit community, worked twice as President of the Indian National Congress during the Independence Struggle. His mother, Swaruprani Thussu (1868–1938), who belongs from a well-known Kashmiri Brahmin family settled in Lahore, was Motilal’s second wife, the first having died in childbirth. Jawaharlal was the eldest of three children, two of whom were girls. Nehru went to Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1907 and graduated with an honors degree in natural science in 1910. In this period, he also studied politics, economics, history, and literature desultorily. Writings of Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, J.M. Keynes, Bertrand Russell, Lowes Dickinson, and Meredith Townsend molded much of his political and economic thinking. Nehru got married to Kamala Kaul on 8 February 1916. Brought up in a traditional Hindu Brahmin family, Kamala felt an outsider in the progressive Nehru family but tried her best to adapt to the family ethos and values. In the Non-Cooperation movement of 1921, Kamala played an important role by organizing groups of women and picketing shops selling foreign cloth and liquor in Allahabad. On 19 November 1917, she blessed with a daughter, who came to be known as Indira Priyadarshini. Kamala died from tuberculosis in Switzerland on February 28, 1936, while Jawaharlal Nehru was in jail.

Political career

Nehru had developed an interest in Indian politics in his time in Britain. In months of his return to India in 1912 Nehru had attended an annual session of the Indian National Congress in Patna. He was unsettled with what he saw as a “very much an English-knowing upper-class affair”. The Congress in 1912 had been the party of moderates and elites. Nehru harbored doubts in the ineffectualness of the Congress but agreed to work for the party in support of the Indian civil rights movement in South Africa. He collected funds for the civil rights campaigners guided by Mahatma Gandhi in 1913. Nehru emerged from the war years as a leader whose political views were examined radical. The first big national involvement of Nehru came at the onset of the Non-cooperation movement in 1920. He led the movement in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). Nehru was prisoned on charges of anti-governmental activities in 1921 and was released a few months later. In the rift that created within the Congress following the sudden closure of the non-co-operation movement after the Chauri Chaura incident, Nehru remained loyal to Gandhi and did not join the Swaraj Party formed by his father Motilal Nehru and CR Das. Nehru played an important role in the development of the internationalist outlook of the Indian independence struggle. He sought foreign allies for India and forged links with movements for independence and democracy around the world. In 1927, his efforts paid off and the Congress was invited to attend the Congress of oppressed nationalities in Brussels in Belgium. Nehru was one of the first members to demand that the Congress Party should resolve to make a complete and explicit break from all ties with the British Empire. His resolution for independence was approved at the Madras session of Congress in 1927 despite Gandhi’s condemned. At that time he also created Independence for India league, a pressure group within the Congress. Nehru and his colleagues had been released as the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India came to propose plans for the transfer of power.

Once elected, Nehru guided an interim government, which was impaired by outbreaks of communal violence and political disorder, and the opposition of the Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was demanding a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. After failed bids to form coalitions, Nehru reluctantly assisted the partition of India, according to a plan released by the British on 3 June 1947. He took a seat as the Prime Minister of India on 15 August, and delivered his inaugural address titled “Tryst with Destiny”. The years following independence, Nehru frequently turned to his daughter Indira to look after him and manage his personal affairs. Under his guidance, the Congress won an overwhelming majority in the elections of 1952. Indira moved into Nehru’s official residence to attend to him and became his constant companion in his travels all over India and the world.


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