SP Mukherjee: A torch-bearer of Indian nationalism
Since Independence, if the name of one person comes to mind who promoted the idea of nationalism, who persevered for national integration, and who sowed the seeds of a strong political alternative in the country, it is that of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Though he did not survive for long after Independence, his ideology and his struggles have left an indelible mark on the Indian political firmament.
It was Mukherjee who understood the problem of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and raised his voice forcefully demanding its resolution. He successfully fought for the rights and interests of India when Bengal was being partitioned. He played a leading role in the post-Independence era in opposing the Congress’s imposition of imported ideologies and doctrines on Indians. And he was instrumental in promoting and establishing the political and social ideology of “India, Indian and Indianness” as the most suitable and sustainable way of life for every Indian.
Mukherjee was India’s first industry and supply minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru-led government after Independence. Though he joined the government, he resigned over the disregard of the interests of the Hindus by the Congress in the Nehru-Liaquat Pact. His resignation is an example of his ideological consciousness and commitment. His resignation from the Nehru cabinet was also the precursor of the emergence of a political alternative in the country.
It is a well known fact that political leaders and people believing in various ideologies came under the umbrella of the Congress to fight for India’s Independence. But after Independence, a debate started on finding an alternative to the Congress that could fill the political vacuum. India was eagerly looking for a political ideology that rooted for national integration through cultural nationalism, and also countered the politics of appeasement. It was Mukherjee who emerged as the flag-bearer of this debate in the country, which ultimately led to the formation of the Jan Sangh.
It was due to his efforts that the Jan Sangh was formed on October 21, 1951. The seeds of a political party, which had inherent qualities of nationalism and Indianness in it, were sown. Over the past decades, we have crossed many important milestones, fought many battles and survived many upheavals to reach where we are today.
In the first general elections of 1951-52, the Jan Sangh managed to win three seats. Mukherjee won the Kolkata seat to reach Parliament. Convinced by his clarity of thoughts, his commitment to his ideology and his farsightedness, Opposition parties came together to elect him as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. In this capacity, Mukherjee forcefully raised the problems of the people, and emerged as the most potent voice of the Opposition. Mukherjee always considered the imposition of Article 370 in J&K and the permit system as big obstacles to India’s integrity and sovereignty. For this, he raised his voice in Parliament on several occasions. On June 26, 1952, while participating in a debate on J&K, Mukherjee said that in a democratic and federal India, the rights and privileges of the citizens of one state cannot be different from those in any other state and asserted this was detrimental to India’s integrity and unity. He also vehemently opposed the permit system for entry into J&K.
Mukherjee was arrested while entering Jammu, which led to massive protests and arrests across India. On June 23, 1953, 40 days after his arrest, Mukherjee, the great son of Mother India, died in a government hospital in Jammu under mysterious circumstances. His martyrdom led to many unanswered questions, but the then Nehru government turned a blind eye to all this. Mukherjee’s mother, Yogmaya Devi, wrote to Nehru seeking an investigation into her son’s mysterious death. But this request too was turned down. To date, all mysteries regarding the arrest and death of Mukherjee remain unsolved.
Mukherjee used to say, “Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur do Nishan nahi chalenge” (India cannot have two Constitutions, two Prime Ministers, and two national emblems). This slogan went on to become the resolution and guiding principle of, first, the Jan Sangh and, later, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For decades the question of whether this dream of Mukherjee would ever be fulfilled remained etched in the minds of the people of India.
This was an ideological battle. On one side, there were parties including the Congress that always practised the politics of appeasement, and on the other side, there was the BJP which was firmly committed to abolish Article 370. Be it the era of the Jan Sangh or the journey of the BJP, there has been absolutely no change in our ideology and our commitment to a united and strong India.
It was due to the iron will and dedication of PM Narendra Modi and efficient strategy and planning of Union home minister Amit Shah that India was, in August 2019, successful in removing Article 370. PM Modi fulfilled Mukherjee’s dream of seeing India under “One Vidhan, One Pradhan and One Nishan”.
Mukherjee’s supreme sacrifice did not go to waste as we succeeded in realising his dream of seeing India as one strong and united nation by removing Article 370 and unifying J&K with India in its true sense. Mukherjee will always be remembered as a true son of Bharat Mata who formed a political entity that remained truly committed to its ideology, worked tirelessly to see a united and strong India, and attained martyrdom for his noble cause. I pay my rich tributes to this great son of the soil.
JP Nadda is national president, BJP
The views expressed are personal