Overnight defections and bargaining for power with odd coalition partners is not a new phenomenon in the Indian democracy. Even during the British regime, the Congress Premiers and prominent leaders had the tendencies to join the rival extreme forces to fulfill the craving for power and positions. After the enactment of the Government of India Act 1935, elections were held to the British Indian Provinces in 1937. Since Mahatma Gandhi had advised the Congress to accept office, eight provinces had the Congress ministries. Three prominent leaders, Sardar Patel, Pandit Nehru and Dr. Rajendra Prasad opted out from joining any ministry. C. Rajgopalachari became the Premier of Madras. Gobind Ballabh Pant headed the United Provinces(UP) Ministry, Shrikrishna Sinha the one in Bihar, Dr. N.B. Khare in the Central Provinces(CP) and Berar, Bishwanath Das in Orissa, Gopinath Bardoloi in Assam and B.G. Kher in Bombay.
The political rivalry between two Hindi-speaking leaders, Ravi Shankar Shukla and Dwarka Prasad Mishra, paved way for a Marathi-speaking Premier, Dr.Narayan Bhaskar Khare(19 March 1884-24 March 1970), a Nagpur-based physician turned Congressman, with the blessings of Patel. Both Shukla and Mishra were taken in the Khare Ministry. Despite Dr. Khare’s commitment to Patel to follow his instruction as a party loyalist, the rift between the Hindi –speaking leaders and Dr. Khare continued and an insecure Khare moved closer to the Governor, Sir Hyde Gowan. In March 1938, when the Law
Minister, Mohammed Yusuf Shareef, unwisely ordered the premature release of four men, all Muslims, convicted in a case of rape of a Dalit girl, the Sardar wrote to Khare asking for Shareef’s explanation. Of course, this lead to Shareef tendering apology to the Congress party in the Assembly and was forgiven, but the Premier Khare did not like Patel’s interference. Patel was the Chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Party(CPP). On his recommendation, the Working Committee of the Congress asked a retired judge of the Calcutta High Court, Sir Manmath Nath Mukherji, to study Shareef’s order. Sir Mukherji found “grave error of judgment” and “miscarriage of justice” in it leading to Khare’s stock going down. Some four colleagues of Khare resigned and there was a political crisis for the Congress Premier. The strength of the CP and Berar Legislative Assembly was 112 of which Congress had 71. A meeting of 68 Congress MLAs was held under the chairmanship of Patel at Pachmarhi. It was agreed by all present including Patel and Khare to clip the wings of the Premier Khare but he would continue to be the Premier without any portfolio. He would be coordinating his ministers’ work. The ministers withdrew their resignation following the Pachmarhi compromise, but Khare felt humiliated and moved even closer to new Governor, Francis Wylie, and kept Patel in dark about his movements. Wylie while taking advantage of the rift, on advice of the Premier, asked Shukla, Mishra and D. K .Mehta to resign as ministers on 21 July 1938 at 2 a.m. and did not grant any extension. He even dismissed the ministers at 5 a.m. and installed a new Ministry led by Khare! Even the acting Viceroy, Lord Brabourne, did not like the hurry in which Wylie dismissed the Ministers and installed the new Ministry. Of course, it was a short lived Ministry since Khare accepted his error and agreed to resign at Wardha Working Committee which met under the chairmanship of the Congress President, Subhas Chandra Bose. It was 10 p.m. and Bose asked Khare to called up the Governor to convey him that he wanted to resign. Khare said : “He must have gone to bed.” At this Patel retorted : “ Don’t forget, Doctor, that your Governor goes late to bed. Didn’t he see your colleagues at 1.50 a.m. to demand their resignations?” The Premier had no other go but to go closer to the phone and convey to the Governor! Khare was replaced by Shukla.
Immediately after losing the Premiership, Dr. Khare started attacking Vallabhbhai of hostility and did not even spare Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress. Rajmohan Gandhi records in his biography, “Patel: A Life”: “One man who ‘fully, lucidly and persuasively’ defended Vallabhbhai’s role in the Khare episode was Subhas Bose, the Congress President.” Bose issued a statement in 1938 saying : “No injustice was done to Dr. Khare, nor has he been dealt with too harshly.”
Expelled from the Congress in October 1938, Dr. Khare joined the Hindu Mahasabha. He even was taken into the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Khare’s lust for power and aspiration to regain the Premiership led him to approach the Muslim League Boss, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, seeking his support repeatedly who even humiliated him quite often. One can read the correspondence between the Hindu Mahasabha leader and the Pakistan movement leader in “Jinnah Papers(1 August 1941-31 March 1942)” published by the Government of Pakistan. Even after Jinnah got the Pakistan Resolution passed in the March 1940 convention of Muslim League at Lahore, the Hindu Mahasabha leader, Khare, was desperately trying to have Muslim League support and was keen to enter into a coalition to rule over the CP and Berar. He wrote to Jinnah on 18 January 1942 from Nagpur : “I may inform you that I lead a party of 47 members comprising different groups in the legislature like Ambedkarites, all of Harijans, United Party, Aney group, but excluding the Muslim Leaguers whose number is 10; so that if these ten join in the coalition, the number will be 57 in the house of 112, but at present consisting only of 110 members as there are two vacancies which have not been filled. It is, therefore, a clear majority.” As such with the blessings of Hindu Mahasabha Supremo, Barrister V.D. Savarkar, some other provinces already had the Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha Governments!
Khare used to claim that he was responsible for restraining the Princely State of Alwar from joining the Pakistan Union. He, with pronounced pro-Hindu bias, was considered to be responsible for the communal provocations in Alwar being the Dewan. V.P. Menon visited Alwar without the knowledge of the State authorities. In “Integration of Indian States”, he observed : “ My personal view was that , in order to stabilize the position, Khare should be replaced by a Premier of our own choice. I reported my impression to Sardar.” The assassination of Gandhiji led to the Maharaja of Alwar and his Dewan, Khare, under house arrest in Delhi but later the inquiry exonerated both. Patel hardly kept any ill-will or grudge against any. Dr. Khare was also the Member of the Constituent Assembly and Lok Sabha as well.
Next Column: Sanskrit, the language of Gazani Durbar
( The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail : hari[email protected] )