One of the major reasons for the political differences between Dr Rajendra Prasad and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the attitude of both of them towards the significance of religion in the society.
Nehru favoured modern socialism, he believed that attitude towards religion was the main reason for India’s situation. According to him, after Independence, India had to move forward with scientific consciousness. For that country needed large industries, planned cities, hospitals, schools and laboratories over temples for God’s idols and worshipers.
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The major public confrontations between Nehru and Prasad started with the Hindu code bills. Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar presented the draft in October 1947 in the Constituent Assembly and Nehru supported him. Under this, a rule code for all Hindus was to be created.
As the President of the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad intervened. He suggested that such rules should only be created after taking in account the opinion of masses. He argued that the traditions are prevalent in many forms, hence, to make the code bills successful people must approve it.The debate on the code bill spread to outside religious leaders and conservative social workers who opposed it vigorously. Nehru noticed the controversy surrounding the bill but at the time when constitution was to be filled with the Hindu code bill, Nehru took a tough stand on it. He was firm on getting the bill passed even if he had to take all the blame on him and tackle the objections surrounding it.
#DrRajendraPrasad: His service to the nation was not just as President—he was an active member of India’s freedom struggle, and his journey started long before he came into office.#RajendraPrasad #BirthAnniversaryhttps://t.co/iNmuRYuAwZ
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Furious with Nehru’s attitude, Rajendra Prasad wrote a letter to him. In the letter, he described Nehru as unjust and undemocratic. Prasad shared the letter with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel before sending it to Nehru. Patel took the letter and suggested him not to act angrily. He advised him to raise his disagreement in party’s forum.
Why Patel did this?
Because it was already September 1949. Not only constitution was going to be completed but presidential elections were to be held right after that. Patel wanted Rajendra Prasad to be the President. Nehru, at that time, favored then Governor General Rajagopalachari, for the post. Patel and Prasad had a strong hold on the organisation, even more than Nehru. But Patel did not want any direct confrontation with Nehru before the elections. After all, Nehru was the face of Congress and the most popular leader among the people. Patel’s strategy was successful and the Congress chose Rajendra Prasad as the President of India.
On January 26, 1950, at 10:24 am, Rajendra Prasad became the first President of the country. The Constituent Assembly, started working soon after the completion of the constitution. During 1950-52, before the general elections, the debate on Hindu code bills was continuously going on.
Dr. Ambedkar was determined about this. It was believed that Nehru and Ambedkar argued about the matter quite often, anger among them was not just about the bill. Dr. Ambedkar came from London with a PhD in Economics. He also wanted his role in issues related to the country’s economic planning, but Nehru was against his inclusion in India’s economic planning.
The movement outside the Parliament was also furious. Sant Karpatriji Maharaj was leading the protest on the religious front. He once marched with thousands of saints and devotees to the Parliament where police stopped them.
Did you know that Bharat Ratna and first president of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad used to stitch by hand all the sarees given to his daughters on their wedding. Such was his simplicity!
Tributes to one of the finest men India ever saw🙏#RajendraPrasad pic.twitter.com/lN7OkkABpk
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Rajendra Prasad wrote to PM Nehru, as the House of Representatives was not representing the country properly. The first general elections were due. Prasad also wrote that if the government has to pass the Hindu code bill, then why only Hindus are the focus? All religions should be included in it. Same rules of marriage and heritage should be made for everyone.
In today’s context, this was quite similar to Uniform Civil Code. But Nehru’s secular approach suggested that in a newly created country, minorities should be given additional safeguards against Hindu majority. Therefore he rejected Prasad’s suggestion. Prasad wrote that he will personally take charge of the hearings in the house related to the issue and directed that he won’t sign it even if house passes the bill.
Nehru in his reply wrote that there is a large consensus on the provisions of the bill. Along with the counter letter, Nehru was also advising the Constitutional experts. Everyone assured him that the country’s President is bound to obey the Parliament. Despite this advice Nehru didn’t rush for the code bill and waited for elections.
He never took matters to that level that things began to move towards organizational disintegration. Dr. Ambedkar was against Nehru’s diplomacy. He resigned from the Nehru’s Cabinet in October 1951 and started preparations for the Lok Sabha elections by creating a separate party.
In 1952 elections, Congress got a spectacular majority under Nehru’s leadership. Rajendra Prasad won the presidential elections. The first Lok Sabha passed the Hindu Code Bills in 1955-56 while incorporating several amendments. It included the Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Hindu Minority Act and Guardianship Act, and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.