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Thursday, September 23, 2021

ONCE UPON A POLL: The first Lok Sabha elections (1951-52)

Independent India’s first polls under its brand new Constitution were spread over five months, between October 1951 and February 1952.

Updated: March 27, 2014 3:14:45 pm

Independent India’s first polls under its brand new Constitution were spread over five months, between October 1951 and February 1952.

These include one three-member and 90 two-member constituencies. These seats simultaneously elected one general candidate and scheduled caste and/or scheduled tribe candidates.

The contest
After India became independent on August 15, 1947, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru formed the first union cabinet with 15 members picked from a wide range of communities and some known detractors. The Congress hegemony was total then but India’s various other political strands, too, were beginning to take shape. Just before the first elections, Syama Prasad Mookerji (industries minister under Nehru) broke away to set up the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a proto-BJP, representing the Hindu right wing. So did Dr B R Ambedkar who formed the Scheduled Caste Federation, later the Republican Party of India. Another high-profile Congress leader, J B (Acharya) Kriplani, founded the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party. Ram Manohar Lohia and J P Narayan, were the forces behind the Socialist Party. And the communists (then united), having just abandoned an armed struggle in Telangana, too contested 49 seats.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the clear choice as PM. The Lok Sabha lasted its full term.

Standout features
There was no tradition of  a leader of the opposition then.

The Congress secured four times as many votes as the closest opponent. Yet India voted for as many as 47 independents in 38 seats 10 seats went uncontested

Bolshevik Party of India and Zamindar Party among the contestants

The leaders
Sardar Patel did not live to contest, so talk about “if he was PM” is historically misplaced.

Dr B R Ambedkar lost in Bombay (reserved seat) to Narayan Sadoba Kajrolkar of the Congress.

Kakasaheb Kalelkar was also an MP, he went on to head India’s First Backward Classes Commission (the predecessor of the Mandal Commission) in 1953.

Three future PMs were elected: Gulzari Lal Nanda and Lal Bahadur Shastri

Delhi’s first CM, Chaudhry Brahm Prakash, too was elected an MP. Other winners included Humayun Kabir, A K Gopalan, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, K D Malviya and Subhadra Joshi.

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