Dr. Rajendra Prasad, a Constituent Assembly member from Bihar, was born 133 years ago on 3rd December 1884. He was an active member of the Indian National Congress from 1911 and was elected its President thrice (1934, 1939 and 1948).
On 11h December 1946, Prasad was unanimously elected as the Permanent Chairman of the Constituent Assembly under the temporary chairmanship of Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha.
Soon after his election, with the backdrop of partition and communal violence in various parts of India, Mahatma Gandhi began his fast on 13th January 1947. He urged the people of India, Pakistan and the Government of India to cease communal hatred and violence. ‘Central Peace Committee’ was set up with 130 representatives from all faiths and Rajendra Prasad was it’s President.(Mahatma Volume 8: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi). On 17th January 1947 due to the efforts of Rajendra Prasad, the Committee passed a resolution which satisfied Gandhi, pledging to protect the life and property of Muslims.
Rajendra Prasad, one of the prominent leaders of Congress Party worked collaboratively with Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders, but had differences with Nehru on several fronts. One such instance was when Prasad was against the Select Committee set up in 1948 to draft the Hindu Code Bill. He cautioned Nehru that introducing ‘basic changes’ to personal law would inflict ‘progressive ideas’ of a ‘microscopic minority’ on the Hindu population. Prasad recorded his strong criticism in a letter to Nehru. But Patel adviced him to not send it out as the Constituent Assembly was to elect India’s President and Prasad was considered most likely to win the elections.
Rajendra Prasad has the distinction of being longest serving President of India (1950 to 1962). His presidency was a point of disagreement between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel. In 1949’s when India was going to transform into a Republic, Nehru argued that C.Rajagopalachari (who was serving as Governor General) would be the best candidate for the post. Nehru had in fact promised C.Rajagopalachari India’s Presidency but Sardar Patel favoured Prasad and managed to garner support from other Congress members. However it was Nehru who proposed his nomination in the Constituent Assembly. On 24th January 1950, the Constituent Assembly unanimously elected Rajendra Prasad as India’s President.
During his time as the President of India, they continued to have ideological differences, especially on the point of secularism - Nehru argued that public officials must never affiliate with any religion but Prasad believed in respecting all religions equally.
Read Rajendra Prasad’s biographical details here.