The 1951 general election was of great importance to the country as it was the very first general election held in India after Independence. Based upon universal adult suffrage, these elections were an opportunity for anyone with 21 years or older in age to participate in the democratic process. Organizing the first-ever elections in India was an arduous task and it took around four months: October 25, 1951 to February 21, 1952 to get over. Though the Indian National Congress was the largest political party in India at that time, favorable atmosphere was created for opposition parties too to take part in the elections. Before Independent India went to the polls, two former cabinet colleagues of Nehru established separate political parties to challenge the INC’s supremacy. While Shyama Prasad Mookerjee went on to found the Jana Sangh, Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar revived the Scheduled Castes Federation (which was later named the Republican Party).
The election was held in 26 Indian states. Around 170,000 candidates wanted a chance in the state assemblies for around 3,278 seats. Besides, there were 489 seats to be filled in the Lok Sabha, for which around 1,800 candidates contested. It was the INC that tried its best at all levels to win the interest and trust of people across the nation. In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru, in his election campaigning, approached about one tenth of India’s population, or 35 million people, by covering about 40,000 km. 17.6 Cr Indians, 85 per cent of whom couldn’t read or write, formed the electorate. Symbols were used on ballot papers for voters who couldn’t read. Voter turnout was 45.7%.
The Indian National Congress party won 364 of the 489 seats with around 45% votes all over the country, over four times as many as the second-largest party. B. R. Ambedkar was defeated in the Bombay constituency by a little-known Kajrolkar. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the country. The Congress formed the government at the Centre and in all the states. It did not get a majority on its own in four states-Madras, Travancore-Cochin, Orissa and PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab State Union)—but formed governments even there with the help of independents and smaller, local parties which then merged with it.
At the close of the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the British government established an imperial headquarters on the subcontinent at Kolkata. Over the next twenty-plus years, administrators set out to engage the natives in order to avoid the rebellions which forced the East India Company to relinquish control in the first place. By 1883, the responsibility for developing this coalition became the personal mission of a retired district officer named Allan Octavian Hume. Capitalizing on the simmering desire amongst Indians for independence, he composed an open letter for a carefully-chosen group of graduates from the University of Calcutta explaining they would have to “make a resolute struggle to secure greater freedom for yourselves and your country.”
The idea of the Congress took concrete shape during a meeting of the Theosophical Convention in Madras in December 1884. In March 1885 a notice was issued convening a meeting at Pune in December of the same year, but due to a severe plague outbreak there, the meeting was later shifted to Bombay. Granted permission by the governor, the Viceroy understood Hume’s intention — coupled with that of natives like Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee and others — to be the creation of a single point of contact for the varying concerns locals might bring to the colonial government.
On December 28, 1885, a group of 72 delegates gathered at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Mumbai to form the Indian National Congress (INC) with W.C. Bannerjee in the chair and Hume assuming office as the General Secretary. Other important delegates included Dadabhai Naoroji, Justice Ranade, Pherozeshah Mehta, K.T. Telang and Dinshaw Wacha. Defining the objective of the Congress, the president spoke of the “promotion of personal intimacy and friendship among all the more earnest workers in our country’s cause in the parts of the empire and eradication of race, creed or provincial prejudice and fuller development of national unity”.
Subsequently, the Congress led India to Independence in 1947 after a long but remarkably peaceful struggle.
In December 1905, at the Benaras session of the Indian National Congress, the Extremists wanted to extend the Boycott and Swadeshi Movement to regions outside Bengal and also to include all forms of associations within the boycott programme and thus start a nationwide mass movement. The Moderates, on the other hand, advocated strictly constitutional methods to protest against the partition of Bengal. At the Calcutta session of the Congress in December 1906, as a concession to the militants, the goal of the Indian National Congress was defined as ‘swarajya’ or self-government. The word swaraj was mentioned for the first time, but its connotation was not spelt out.
The Extremists, emboldened by the proceedings at the Calcutta session, gave a call for wide passive resistance and boycott of schools, colleges, legislative councils, municipalities, law courts, etc. The Moderates, encouraged by the news that council reforms were on the anvil, decided to tone down the Calcutta programme. The Extremists thought that the people had been aroused and the battle for freedom had begun. The Moderates saw in the council reforms an opportunity to realise their dream of Indian participation in the administration.
By 1907 session in Surat, Both sides adopted rigid positions, leaving no room for compromise. The split became inevitable, and the Congress was now dominated by the Moderates who lost no time in reiterating Congress commitment to the goal of self- government within the British Empire and to constitutional methods only to achieve this goal. The Government launched a massive attack on the Extremists. Between 1907 and 1911, five new laws were enforced to check anti-government activity. Tilak, the main Extremist leader, was sent to Mandalay (Burma) jail for six years. Aurobindo and B.C. Pal retired from active politics. Lajpat Rai left for abroad. The Extremists were not able to organise an effective alternative party to sustain the movement. The Moderates were left with no popular base or support, especially as the youth rallied behind the Extremists. After 1908, the national movement as a whole declined for a time. In 1914, Tilak was released and he picked up the threads of the movement.
Bankinchrandra Chattopadhyay wrote many Bangali novels from 1865 to 1884, most famous novel being Anand Math (1880). Anand Math contained the song “Bande Mataram”, which was written in 1876. Anand Math started appearing in the magazine, Banga Darshan, during 1880 to 1882. Its concept itself generated ripples in people’s minds, as it was a novel, which speaks of revolutionaries who live and die for their motherland. 1883 saw a stage version of Anandmath, wherein the first singing of the song took place. Bankimda passed away in 1894. In the 1896 convention of the Indian National Congress a full-unabridged version of Vande Mataram was sung. None other than the great personality-Rabindranath Tagore sang it. In the 1901 Congress, again it was rehearsed, with Dakshanrajan Sen as the composer. Thereafter it became a norm to start the Congress convention with Vande Mataram.
The year 1905 was memorable to Vande Mataram in many ways. In this year the song crossed the boundaries of Bengal, spread like a jungle fire throughout the nation which would oust the British rule. No sooner than the Partition of Bengal was declared, thousands of angry Bharatiyas protested the decision in a unanimous voice: Vande Mataram. Indian freedom struggle had got it’s march song. The British government realized the potential and nuisance value of Vande Mataram. Saraladevi Chaudharani, niece of Ravindranath Tagore, sung it despite protest in the 1905 Congress convention.
It was translated into English by Shree Auribindo Ghosh to conform to its universality and eventually. The militant revolutionaries who faced the gallows recited Vande Mataram as their last words. This includes Madanlal Dhingra, Praful Chaki, Khudiram Bose, Suryasen, Ramprasad Bismil and many more. Even the great martyr Bhagat Singh addresses a letter to his father with Vande Mataram. Subhashchandra Bose had adopted this song for his Indian National Army. In 1937, the Congress leaders, owing to misconceptions from certain minorities, appointed a committee to interpret Vande Mataram. The first two stanzas were adopted as a national song. Other stanzas bearing reference of the nation as ‘Mother Durga’ were omitted.
While in college Lala Lajpat Rai joined the Arya Samaj founded by Swami Daya Nand Saraswati. Soon he became one of the three most prominent Hindu Nationalist members of the Indian National Congress, the Lal-Bal-Pal trio. They formed the extremist faction of the Indian National Congress, as opposed to the moderate one led first by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and then Gandhiji. Lalaji actively participated in the struggle against partition of Bengal. Along with Surendra Nath Banerjee, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurorbindo Ghosh, he galvanized Bengal and the nation in a vigorous campaign of Swadeshi. Lalaji was arrested on May 3, 1907 for creating “turmoil” in Rawalpindi. He was put in Mandalay jail for six months.
He left for Britain in April 1914 to organize propaganda in foreign countries about freedom struggle. At this time First World War broke out and he was unable to return to India. He went to USA to galvanize support for India. He founded the Indian Home League Society of America and wrote a book called “Young India”. He was able to return to India in 1920 after the end of World War. After his return, Lala Lajpat Rai, led the Punjab protests against the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre and the Non-Cooperation Movement. He was arrested several times. He disagreed with Gandhiji’s suspension of Non-Cooperation movement due to the Chauri-Chaura incident, and formed the Congress Independence Party, which had a pro-Hindu slant.
In 1928, British Government decided to send Simon Commission to India to discuss constitutional reforms. The Commission had no Indian member. This greatly angered Indians. In 1929, when the Commisssion came to India there were protests all over India. Lala Lajpat Rai himself led one such procession against Simon Commission on October 30, 1928 in Lahore. While the procession was peaceful, James Scott, superintendent of Police brutally lathicharged the procession. Lala Lajpat Rai received severe head injuries and died on November17, 1928. Subsequently to avenge Lalaji’s death, Bhagat Singh and others planned to kill James Scott, however ended up killing John P. Saunders, Assistant Superintendent of Police, in case of a mistaken identity.
In 1967 while Indira Gandhi was PM, the Syndicate consisting of Moraraji Desai and others was controlling Indian National Congress (INC). On Kamaraj’s retirement as party president at the end of 1967, Syndicate foiled Indira’s attempt to have her own men elected to succeed him. Instead, the post went to the conservative Nijalingappa. In May 1967, the Congress Working Committee adopted a radical Ten-Point Programme which included social control of banks, nationalization of general insurance, abolition of princely privileges etc. making it a left wing. However, the Congress right, Syndicate opposed it.
On the death of President Zakir Husain in May 1969, the Syndicate despite Indira Gandhi’s opposition, nominated Sanjiva Reddy, as the Congress candidate for presidentship. As retaliation, Indira took away the Finance portfolio from Desai on the grounds that as a conservative he was incapable of implementing her radical programme. Other Presidential candidates were C.D. Deshmukh and V.V. Giri. At this stage, the Syndicate made a major blunder. To assure Reddy’s election, Nijalingappa met the leaders of Jan Sangh and Swatantra and persuaded them to cast their second preference votes in favour of Reddy. Indira Gandhi immediately accused the Syndicate of having struck a secret deal with communal and reactionary forces in order to oust her from power. She now openly, supported Giri in favour of Reddy and asked Congress MPs and MLAs to vote freely according to their ‘conscience’. In the election, nearly one-third of them defied the organizational leadership and voted for Giri, who won by narrow margin.
In the end, on 12 November, the defeated and humiliated Syndicate took disciplinary action against Indira Gandhi and expelled her from the party for having violated party discipline. The party had finally split with Indira Gandhi setting up a rival organization, which came to be known as Congress (R)—R for Requisitionists. The Syndicate-dominated Congress came to be known as Congress (0)—0 for Organization. In the final countdown, 220 of the party’s Lok Sabha MPs went with Indira Gandhi and 68 with the Syndicate. In the All India Congress Committee too 446 of its 705 members walked over to Indira’s side. Indira Gandhi won 1971 elections with 2/3rd Majority.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a physician living in the Nagpur, as a part of the movement against British rule and as a response to rioting between Hindus and Muslims. Dr. Hedgewar, who had got his education in the Calcutta Medical College had been a part of the Anushilan Samiti and Yugantar and was a nationalist by heart. He became a member of Indian National Congress initially but left it soon and established RSS. The idea was to train the Hindu youths so that they unite the Hindu Community and make India an Independent undivided country. He was much influenced by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and adopted his ideals.
Dr. Hedgewar announced on Vijayadasami day, 27 September 1925, that “we are inaugurating the sangh today. All of us must train ourselves physically, intellectually and in every way so as to be capable of achieving our cherished goal”. Formal beginning of Sangh took place in Doctor Hedgewar’s house in Sukrawadi of Nagpur.Training in Drill, march etc. was imparted on Sundays. Uniform for this training was Khaki shirt, Khaki short, and Khaki Cap. On Thursdays and Sundays there were discourses on national affairs.
The name ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ was selected for Sangh on 17 April 1926. Daily meetings – Nitya Shakhas – were started at Mohitewada ground in Nagpur on 28th May. Lathi -Danda – was introduced in the shakha. New commands Daksha, Arama were used for the first time in shakhas. The tradition of commencing the daily activities with salutation to the Bhagawa Dhwaj and concluding with the Prayer – Prarthana – in Hindi and Marathi was instituted.
First route march – patha sanchalan – was held with 30 participants.
In March 1928 First ceremony of initiation – Pratigna – was conducted. In a meeting on 9, 10 Nov.1929 held at Doke Math, Nagpur, Doctorji was designated as the Chief [Sarsangh chalak]. In 1930 Black cap was introuduced as a part of uniform in place of Khaki cap. RSS possess around 4.5million members, has a well structured hierarchical order and is very active in social causes.