Shyama Prasad Mukherjee


Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (6 July 1901 – 23 June 1953) was an Indian politician, barrister, and academician, who worked as Minister for Industry and Supply in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. After falling out with Nehru, Mukherjee left the Indian National Congress and founded the right-wing nationalist political party Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a predecessor to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in 1951.

Early life and family

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was born in a Bengali Hindu family on 6 July 1901 in Calcutta. His father was Ashutosh Mukherjee, a judge of the High Court of Calcutta, Bengal, and was also Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. His mother was Jogamaya Devi Mukherjee.

He enrolled in Bhawanipur’s Mitra Institution in 1906 and his behavior in school was later explained favorably by his teachers. In 1914, he cleared his matriculation examination and was admitted into Presidency College. He ranked seventeenth in the Inter-Arts Examination in 1916 and graduated in English, securing the first position in the first class in 1921. He was married to Sudha Devi on 16 April 1922. Mukherjee also accomplished an M.A. in Bengali, being graded as first class in 1923 and also became a fellow of the Senate in 1923. He finished his B.L. in 1924.

He enrolled as an advocate in Calcutta High Court in 1924, the same year in which his father had died. As a result, he left for England in 1926 to study at Lincoln’s Inn and was called to the English Bar in the same year. In 1934, at the age of 33, he became the youngest Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta; he was in the office until 1938. During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor, Rabindranath Tagore delivered the University Convocation Address in Bengali for the first time, and the Indian vernacular was introduced as a subject for the highest examination. Mukherjee got the D.Litt from Calcutta University on 26 November 1938.

In 1922 he married Sudha Devi, daughter of Dr. Benimadhav Chakravarty. The couple had been happily married for 11 years and has had five children.

Political career

He was elected a Fellow of the Calcutta University at the age of 23 after the untimely death of his father. He occupied the Syndicate of the Calcutta University which the death of his father had left empty. He left for England in 1926 where he commenced Lincoln’s Inn to study for the Bar. There he represented Calcutta University at the Conference of Universities of the British Empire.

His entry into the world of politics was a very small one. He entered the Bengal Legislative Council as a Congress candidate representing Calcutta University in 1929. He vacates from the Council the very next year but was re-elected as an independent candidate. In 1934 he was selected the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta, a post he held till 1938. At the age of 33, he was the youngest ever Vice Chancellor of the University but his young age never deterred him from doing the best he could for the good cause of the masses through the services of the University.

He joined the Progressive Coalition Ministry headed by Fazlul Haq as a Finance Minister of Bengal from November 1941 to December 1942 when the Krishak Praja Party-Muslim League was in position. However, he earlier quit and became a spokesperson for the Hindus and joined the Hindu Mahasabha.

After resigning from the Indian National Congress he joined Golwalkar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on whose advice he formed the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) on 21 October 1951, and also became its first president. The BJS was ideologically close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The BJS was the founder of the Hindutva agenda and the party favored a uniform civil code governing the legal matters for each Hindus and Muslims. The party also needed to ban cow slaughter and the end the special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under the article 370.

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