On the occasion of his 133rd birthday, ThePrint examines GV Mavalankar’s role as the first president of Lok Sabha.
ohn May 15, 1952, at the first session of Lok Sabha, Jawaharlal Nehru faced a unique challenge. Have 17.32 crore people set foot outside their homes to put the ballot, printed in the same place as Indian currency, in one of the many different colored ballot boxes for each candidate kept in the voting booth was no easy task. This was what India needed for its very first elections which began on October 25, 1951. But now that the new generation of independent Indian leaders have been chosen to represent in the “House of the People”, the Lok Sabha needed his own guide. – a President who could live up to the “rendezvous with destiny” promised to India on the eve of August 15, 1947.
Perhaps shining with satisfaction at hearing the support of 394 members of the “people’s parliament”, but also feeling the responsibility of maintaining democracy on his shoulders, Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar rose to the President’s chair and said: “… The extent to which people with different views or ideologies exhibit the qualities of tolerance, of ‘give and take,’ and strive to understand different points of view, only to that extent does parliamentary government have chances of success. It is not so much the laws or regulations that will bring about the desired results, but the spirit in which those charged with responsibility act towards each other.
And this is how GV Mavalankar was named, by none other than Nehru, the “father of Lok Sabha”.
Former President of India R. Venkataraman once said of Mavalankar: “The Treasury Banks could not take it for granted and were always vigilant. His decisions were well-informed, heavy-handed and unassailable and still stand out to this day as specimens of wisdom and impartiality. He was, indeed, a model orator, firm but flexible, stern but kind and sympathetic, and always fair to all sections of the House. “
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Nicknamed “Dadasaheb”, Mavalankar was known for his neutrality and for being a “man without a party”, as he had defined the role of President in 1937 itself.
Some of his far-sighted initiatives have been in parliament for a long time. The introduction of a lively “Question Time” was made by Mavalankar, where he helped hold his own party, the Indian National Congress, accountable for its work.
While the role of the president has often been questioned in recent times, Mavalankar remains a prime example, often at odds with the prime minister and putting the welfare of the nation first. For example, on the issue of the ordinance, Nehru and Mavalankar had very different views. Mavalankar said: “It is not a democratic way of doing things, and it is only in exceptional circumstances that the government can issue orders. They can, only when they have to ”.
India’s former chief electoral commissioner SL Shakdhar once recalled an incident in which Mavalankar prevented Nehru from making a second statement because it violated Lok Sabha rules. Nehru bowed gracefully to the decision. It was one of many incidents where the President overthrew the Prime Minister.
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Increase awareness in the Indian legislature
Mavalankar’s legislative journey began in 1919 when he was first elected to Ahmedabad Municipality at the age of 31, becoming president for two terms in 1930-33 and 1935-36. The presidency of the Municipality of Ahmedabad was also held by prominent leaders like Sardar Patel much earlier.
In 1937, Mavalnakar was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly. While politicians remain ministers and deputies for decades, Mavalankar’s long journey to become the best orator in Indian history began in this chamber in the same year.
He remained the Speaker of the Assembly until 1945, after which Congress decided to bring him to the national level as a candidate for the election of “President (President) of the Central Legislative Assembly” in 1946. The Central Legislative Assembly was the lower house of British India. It was made up of members of the British government, a European group, the Muslim League, Congress, among others. The British government had put forward Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, supported by the European group and the Muslim League. Cowasjee’s name was nominated by none other than Liaquat Ali Khan – the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, and Mavalankar as the Congress candidate by Sarat Chandra Bose – the brother of Subhas Chandra Bose – and Manu Subedar. While everyone expected Cowasjee to win the election, Mavalankar won them 66-63 and remained president until midnight on August 14, 1947.
On November 17, 1947, he was unanimously elected President of the Constituent Assembly and succeeded Dr Rajendra Prasad as President of the Chamber. After the Constitution entered into force on January 26, 1950, the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional Parliament. After the 1951-52 elections, one of the largest exercises of its kind, a new Lok Sabha was formed. In the first election for president, Nehru’s Congress proposed the name of GV Mavalankar against the opposition SS More. Mavalankar won by an overwhelming majority of 394 “yes” in a house of 499 members against 55 “no”.
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Legal training and activism
Mavalankar was born on November 27, 1888 in Baroda, Gujarat. He was educated at the University of Bombay and graduated from the Gujarat Arts and Science College in Ahmedabad at the age of 20. Like many prominent politicians and freedom fighters of his time, he went to study law and graduated in 1912. He began practicing law a year later and was successful in no time. Throughout his life, Dadasaheb has been deeply involved in social work. He became president of the Gujarat Education Society in 1913.
He met Sardar Patel in 1914 and Gandhi the following year, which brought him closer to the freedom movement and the Indian National Congress. Between 1921 and 22, Mavalankar left his practice and became the secretary of the Provincial Congress of Gujarat. In 1927, when Gujarat was hit by heavy flooding, he again left his law firm to devote himself to serving the people.
In 1928, the European director of the college in Gujarat, where Mavalankar had studied, decided to punish students who submitted blank papers in the final exam. The review took place on the day of the Simon Commission visit, as they were greeted with “Simon Go Back” slogans and demonstrations across the country. Many students did not take the exam or left it blank in protest. Mavalankar, now a former student, gave his support to 750 student protesters and decided to lead the demonstration in order to show them the way forward. This strike against the principal, who had Gandhi’s blessing, continued for 35 days and eventually turned in the student’s favor. So began his journey to the greater cause of Indian independence with a victory for the students and himself.
As part of the struggle for freedom, Dadasaheb was imprisoned several times, including as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1940, and after the adoption of the Leave India resolution on August 8, 1942. He was jailed for a total of six years over different years. .
Mavalankar died on February 27, 1956, while still president of Lok Sabha. Its service to the nation and to democracy as a whole, however, is less recognized than it deserves. Former Lok Sabha MP SN Sinha is rightly remembered as “both the child of the freedom movement and the father of the great traditions of parliamentary democracy”.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)
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