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From Concept to Reality: The Birth of the Constitution of India

The Birth of the Constitution of India was a momentous journey, led by the visionary Dr. B.R Ambedkar and the Constituent Assembly of India. In the book, 1947-57, India: the Birth of a Republic, author Chandrachur Ghose offers a glimpse into the various criticisms and debates that ensued and how Dr. Ambedkar eloquently defended the federal structure of the constitution as it was adopted on 26th November 1949 and come into force on 26th January 1950, bestowing upon the people of India the responsibility of ensuring its success and upholding its democratic principles in the years to come.

Read this insightful exclusive excerpt to learn more.

1947-57 India Birth of a Republic
1947-57, India: Birth of a Republic || Chandrachur Ghose

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Ambedkar further elucidated the relation between the Centre and the states as a number of criticisms had been hurled at the draft constitution, claiming that the powers of the states had been reduced. Answering the criticism that the Centre had been given the power to override the states, Ambedkar clarified that although the ‘charge must be admitted’, ‘these overriding powers do not form the normal feature of the Constitution. Their use and operation are expressly confined to emergencies only.’

 

Ambedkar told the Assembly:
As to the relation between the Centre and the States, it is necessary to bear in mind the fundamental principle on which it rests. The basic principle of Federalism is that the Legislative and Executive authority is partitioned between the Centre and the States not by any law to be made by the Centre but by the Constitution itself. This is what Constitution does. The States under our Constitution are in no way dependent upon the Centre for their legislative or executive authority. The Centre and the States are co-equal in this matter. It is difficult to see how such a Constitution can be called centralism. It may be that the Constitution assigns to the Centre too large field for the operation of its legislative and executive authority than is to be found in any other Federal Constitution. It may be that the residuary powers are given to the Centre and not to the States. But these features do not form the essence of federalism. The chief mark of federalism as I said lies in the partition of the legislative and executive authority between the Centre and the Units by the Constitution. This is the principle embodied in our Constitution. There can be no mistake about it. It is, therefore, wrong to say that the States have been placed under the Centre. Centre cannot by its own will alter the boundary of that partition. Nor can the judiciary.

 

On 25 November 1949, closing the debate on the adoption of the Constitution, Ambedkar made some incisive comments defending the work done by the Drafting Committee and the Constituent Assembly, and putting the onus of working the Constitution on the people of the country:

I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their parties will behave? Will they uphold constitutional methods of achieving their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them?

 

He had argued equally strongly while introducing the Draft Constitution in November 1948:

No Constitution is perfect and the Drafting Committee itself is suggesting certain amendments to improve the Draft Constitution. But the debates in the Provincial Assemblies give me courage to say that the Constitution as settled by the Drafting Committee is good enough to make in this country a start with. I feel that it is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peace time and in war time. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is, that Man was vile.

 

Rajendra Prasad referred to widespread public interest regarding the framing of the Constitution in his closing statement. He pointed out, ‘53,000 visitors were admitted to the visitors’ gallery during the period when the Constitution has been under consideration.’
The Constitution of India was finally adopted on 26 November 1949 and came into force on 26 January 1950.

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Get a copy of 1947-1957, India: The Birth of a Republic by Chandrachur Ghose wherever books are sold.

What was Bose’s relationship with Gandhi like?

There are not many Indian heroes whose lives have been as dramatic and adventurous as that of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Whether it was his resignation from the Indian Civil Service or evading the framed intelligence network to travel to Europe, controversies have always surrounded his life. And out of those controversies, a consistent one has always been his relationship with Mahatama Gandhi.

 

Here’s an excerpt from Chandrachur Ghose’s latest biography, BOSE, throwing light on the everlasting debate:

 

 

‘While the war of statements and counterstatements was raging on in the public domain, one man held his silence, only to speak after the dust seemed to have settled. But that was just the calm before the storm. The battle lines had been drawn. Whether Subhas realized it or not, his opponents were biding their time to come at him with the full force of satya and ahimsa, waiting for the signal.

There was never any doubt that Subhas had a great regard for Gandhi the man, and for the role he had played in transforming the character of India’s struggle for freedom. Politically and mentally, however, their differences were too big to be bridged. Subhas had started opposing Gandhi’s policies and strategies very publicly even when he was a greenhorn in the Congress, which reached the highest pitch in his 1933 joint statement with Vithalbhai Patel against Gandhi. With his larger-than-life stature, Gandhi could afford to (and he did) play down Subhas’s dissenting voice as long as he wished. The occasional periods of truce and bonhomie, with 1937 and 1938 being the best period, however, did not alter Gandhi’s fundamental attitude towards Subhas. He was still ‘not at all dependable’. And now he had thrown a direct challenge not only to Gandhi’s policies, but to his indisputable grip over Congress leadership.

 

Gandhi’s statement issued on 31 January was a mix of the grace and strictness of a mentor, but laced with biting sarcasm and a hint of a challenge. It set the tone for what Subhas was about to face very soon:

 

Shri Subhas Bose has achieved a decisive victory over his opponent, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya. I must confess that from the very beginning I was decidedly against his re-election for reasons into which I need not go. I do not subscribe to his facts or the arguments in his manifestos. I think that his references to his colleagues were unjustified and unworthy. Nevertheless, I am glad of his victory. And since I was instrumental in inducing Dr. Pattabhi not to withdraw his name as a candidate when Maulana Saheb withdrew, the defeat is more mine than his. I am nothing if I do not represent definite principles and policy. Therefore, it is plain to me that the delegates do not approve of the principles and policy for which I stand.

… Subhas Babu, instead of being President on the sufferance of those whom he calls rightists, is now President elected in a contested election. This enables him to choose a homogeneous Cabinet and enforce his programme without let or hindrance.

… My writings in the Harijan have shown that the Congress is fast becoming a corrupt organization in the sense that its registers contain a very large number of bogus members. I have been suggesting for the past many months the overhauling of these registers. I have no doubt that many of the delegates who have been elected on the strength of these bogus voters would be unseated on scrutiny…

… After all Subhas Babu is not an enemy of his country. He has suffered for it. In his opinion his is the most forward and boldest policy and programme. The minority can only wish it all success. If they cannot keep pace with it, they must come out of the Congress. If they can, they will add strength to the majority.

The minority may not obstruct on any account. They must abstain when they cannot co-operate. I must remind all Congressmen that those who, being Congress-minded, remain outside it by design, represent it most. Those, therefore, who feel uncomfortable in being in the Congress may come out, not in a spirit of ill will, but with the deliberate purpose of rendering more effective service…

 

The popular Bengali monthly Masik Basmati asked caustically, ‘When Mahatma Gandhi is not even a four anna member of the Congress, why is he so perturbed by the victory of Subhas?”

 

How do you think Bose responded to all this?

To know more about the revolutionary that Bose was and how the camaraderie between him and Gandhi morphed over the years, get yourself a copy of Ghose’s BOSE.

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