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Rajendra Prasad was no rubberstamp head of state

Rajendra Prasad was no rubberstamp head of state

He wrote to Nehru that he would act solely according to his own judgement, independently of the council of ministers, when giving assent to the bill. Prasad desired to use the power of his office to force the provisional parliament to shelve the measure or, failing that, to veto it even against the advice of his cabinet. It is to Nehru’s credit that he gave a very mature and blunt advice to Prasad not to over-step the limits of his office.

Nehru wrote: In our view, the President had no power or authority to go against the will of Parliament in regard to a Bill that has been well considered by it and passed. The whole conception of constitutional government is against any exercise by the President of such authority… The question of the competence of the present Parliament to enact such a measure was raised in Parliament itself, and after much discussion, the Speaker gave a ruling on the subject… It is hardly open to anyone, even the President, to challenge that decision.”

Fortunately, the President did not pursue the matter and a constitutional dead-lock was avoided. Nehru visited the Soviet Union in June 1955 and the reception he received on arrival in Moscow was unprecedented – something no visiting head of State or Government has received after him. The Russians went all out to fete Nehru.

The feeling in India was one of exultation over the triumphant tour of their national hero. Swept along by the wave, President Prasad decided to bestow the highest honour, Bharat Ratna on the prime minister. Prasad’s explanation was straightforward. He said: ‘Jawahar is literally a Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India). Why not formally make him one?’

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