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Rajendra Prasad was no rubberstamp head of state

Rajendra Prasad was no rubberstamp head of state

Prasad’s insensitivity was surprising because 26 January commemorated a major event in the political history of the country; it was the anniversary of the national celebration which Gandhi had organised after the ‘purna swaraj‘ resolution moved by Nehru exactly two decades before, and the Congress used to celebrate that as Independence day each year.

Nehru wrote to Prasad: “I am afraid I have no faith in astrology and certainly I should not like to fix up national programmes in accordance with the dictates of astrologers. The change of date 26th January for another date would require a great deal of explanation and would not redound to our credit in the world or, for the matter of that, with large numbers of people in India.”

The restoration of the Somnath temple had been approved by the Nehru cabinet soon after Junagadh acceded to India in November 1947. Its reconstruction however was completed only a few months after Sardar Patel had passed away in December 1950. KM Munshi, a cabinet minister, who was the chairman of the official committee of reconstruction of the temple, approached Prasad to inaugurate the temple.

Installation of the jyotirlingam was a part of the inaugural ceremony. Munshi was apprehensive that the President might not accept the invitation in view of the fact that Nehru was not in favour of a secular state associating itself with a religious ceremony. Prasad, however, disregarded the prime minister’s objections and attended the ceremony, which drew scathing criticism from the socialists and communist leaders.

The first president was personally and ideologically opposed to the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill. When this bill came before the provisional parliament, Prasad had objected to it on the basis of locus standi and said that since it was not an elected parliament, such an important measure should not be considered and passed by it.

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