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.
The rulers of the Vijaynagar Empire who ruled the South India, appointed chieftains called Nayaks to rule various regions of the province independently. In 1639, when the Brtish East India Company arrived in the area to establish a factory, Darmala Venkatadri Nayaka, a Telugu king and a powerful chieftain who was in charge of the area, gave the British a piece of land sandwiched between the Cooum River and the Egmore River. The area was known NariMedu i.e. mound of jackals. A factory of brick was built upon the island, and mounted with cannon, and called Fort St. George. This small settlement of the British gradually drew the attention of other East India traders such as the Portuguese and the Dutch who gradually joined the settlement. By 1649, Fort St. George had 19,000 residents due to which the East India Company expanded Fort St. George by constructing an additional wall. This expanded area came to be known as the Fort St. George settlement. According to a treaty signed with the Nayaks, the British and other European Christians were only allowed to colour the outside of their buildings white. Because of this, gradually over time, this area began to be known as “White Town”.
Gradually weavers, washers, painters, and hosts of other artisans, flocked to the spot and eagerly entered the service of the British, and began to set up their looms and to weave, wash, and paint their cotton goods in the open air beneath the trees. A settlement grew up by the side of Fort St. George and soon the Europeans were outnumbered. These non Europeans, mostly Hindu and Muslims, were given place near white town to set up a settlement and a wall was constructed to separate this new non-European settlement from White Town. This new area was known as “Black Town”. Originally, White Town and Black town were together known as Madras, a name derived from ‘Medurasapatnam’, which simply meant ‘chief’s town on the mound’. Fort St. George still stands and is home to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and the office of the Chief Minister.