The Draft Constitution of India, 1948 opened with Article 1 stating that ‘India shall be a Union of States’. When this Article was taken up for discussion in the Constituent Assembly, some members gave notice of amendments that proposed alternatives to India that included ‘Bharat’, ‘Bharat Varsha’ and ‘Hindustan’. Ananthasayanam Ayyanagar, a member of the Drafting Committee, requested the Assembly to take up these amendments later.
The Assembly returned to matter a year later, on 17 September 1949 with the intention to debate and finally settle the name of the Union. Ambedkar, on behalf of the Drafting Committee, moved an amendment proposing to change Clause 1 of the Draft Constitution to ‘(1) India, that is, Bharat shall be a Union of States.’
Evidently, the Drafting Committee seemed to have taken on board the demand emanating from some quarters of the Assembly to include ‘Bharat’ in the clause. But it retained ‘India’.
Members who participated in the debate welcomed the inclusion ‘Bharat’: Seth Govind Das described the move as a moment of ‘great pleasure’; Ram Sahai argued that ‘there cannot be a greater elation for us that the country…is being named Bharat’, and Kamalapathi Tripathi was ‘enamoured by the historic name of “Bharat”’.
These members went on to explain the historical significance of ‘Bharat’ – they claimed that the term could be traced back to, and was used in, ancient Indian texts like the Vedas, Upanishads and the Mahabharata. However, members found the overall phrase – ‘India, that is, Bharat’ - wanting. Seth Govind Das said:
‘I am glad to find that we are giving the most ancient name to our country but, Dr. Ambedkar will excuse me, we are not giving it in as beautiful a way as it was necessary. "India, that is, Bharat" are not beautiful words for, the name of a country.’
H.V. Kamath found the phrase clumsy. Inspired by a provision of the Irish Constitution – ‘The name of the State is Eire, or, in the English language, Ireland.’ – Kamath proposed to replace Clause1 with '(1) Bharat or, in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States.' "
Significantly, unlike Ambedkar’s, Kamath’s phrase put ‘Bharat’ before ‘India’ – a change that could be interpreted as giving a junior role to ‘India’.
At the end of the debate, when Article 1 was voted upon, Assembly members rejected Kamath’s amendment and accepted Ambedkar’s. And so, the Constitution of India 1950 opened with ‘India, that is Bharat, is a Union of States’.