Nehruvian Legacy: The father defection in Indian democracy

Usually it is believed that the phenomenon of defection of an elected legislator from a political party to the other in India was born in Haryana. It is Haryana’s ‘grand gift’ to Indian democracy, where the post-independece history of democracy is replete with such incidents. But it is not historically correct. For the first time this despised practice had raised its ugly head in Uttar Pradesh, and its progenitor was no other, but Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

Under the Govt. of India Act of 1935, elections were held in 1937 for provincial legislatures. At that time Jawahar Lal Nehru was the president of the Indian National Congress, and his father’s clerk Rafi Ahmed Kidwai was his principal aide. Nehru and Kidwai did not expect Muslims in large numbers to vote for Congress. Therefore they hatched a plan that some Muslim members of the Congress Party may resign from the Congress, and join the Muslim League, and contest the election on Muslim League ticket. If they win in their elections, they should return back to the Congress. Under this scheme, Chaudhary Khaliquzzaman and Nawab Mohammad Ismail and some others after resigning from the Congress, contested and won the elections on Muslim League tickets.

Mohd. Ali Jinnah, the President of Muslim League was not aware of this plan of Nehru. Jinnah had also not believed that after the elections, Muslim League will be able to form the Govt. on its own. For this reason, he had allowed the Congress-defectors to contest on Muslim League ticket, and hoped to broker an alliance with Congress and form a coalition Government in U.P. There was a tacit approval of other Congress leaders also for such an alliance. There was thus an unwritten understanding between the two Parties. But election result upset all calculations.

In the elections of 1937, the Congress party emerged victorious in U.P. with heavy margin. It could form government, on its own. It did not need support of the Muslim League anymore. For this reason, when Jinnah proposed a coalition government of the two parties, Nehru outright rejected it. Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar patel and Maulana Azad were not averse to this proposition, but had to bow, before the arrogant will of Nehru.

The Nehru-Kidwai duo tried to bring back Chaudhary Khaliquzzaman and Nawab Mohd. Ismail to Congress fold, but Jinnah did not let it happen. All efforts of the duo failed.

Having failed to bring back Khaliquzzaman and Mohd. Ismail to Congress, the duo of Nehru & Kidwai, in desperation, tried to hijack others elected on Muslim League ticket. It succeeded in wooing Hafiz Mohd. Ibrahim on the promise of being made a minister. He defected from the League to the Congress and was made a Minister in U.P. Govt. He continued to remain a Minister in governments of Nehru and Indira in post-independence governments too.

Jinnah was deeply hurt by the incident. He could neither forget, nor forgive Nehru. He decided to teach Nehru a lesson. He put on a ‘Sherwani’ instead of three piece suit that he usually wore and donned a fur-cap. That day, new fundamentalist and fanatic, hardcore Muslim was born. The lone Jinnah took on the whole lot of Congress luminaries—Gandhi, Nehru, Azad, Pant and Kriplani, who surrendered before him and accepted the Partition of the country. The Partition of the country saw gruesome bloodshed on both sides of the border. At the time of the Partition, the Hindu population in Pakistan was 23%, but Pakistan indulged in genocide of Hindu population, as a result of which now it is only about 1%. Whenever the responsibility for widespread murders, loot, arson, abductions and rapes that followed the Partition, would be fixed, Nehru will be put in the dock for dishonestly breaking the agreement with the Muslim League and engineering the first ever political defection to the Congress Party.

As the President of Indian National Congress, who later became the first Prime Minister of independent India, it was expected of Nehru that he would nurture the democracy and lay down healthy conventions. But unfortunately in his desperation to keep his grip on power, he cared little for moral considerations.

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