Independent India’s first Industries Minister, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee occupies an important place in the national political history as the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. June 23 marks Mukherjee’s 69th death anniversary. A barrister and an academician, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee made significant contributions in the fields of education, politics, society and culture. He also championed the cause of J&K’s complete integration with the Union of India. His death remains a mystery even today.
Here Are 10 Facts About Shyama Prasad Mukherjee:
- Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was born in a Brahmin family on July 6, 1901, in Calcutta. His father, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, was a barrister, while his mother Jogmaya Devi was a scholar. Ashutosh Mukherjee, also known as ‘Banglar Baagh’ (The Tiger of Bengal), also served as Chief Justice of Bengal in 1920 for a few months. He was also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta.
- Following his family tradition, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee went on to study law. By 23, he had already completed his Bachelor of Laws (BL) degree. He also completed an MA in Bengali and another degree in English. In 1925, Mukherjee left for England to study law and was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1927.
- In 1929, Mukherjee became a member of the Bengal Legislative Council. He was the youngest Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta from 1934 to 1938. During his tenure, Rabindranath Tagore delivered the university convocation address in Bengali for the first time.
- Mukherjee’s leadership qualities came to the fore when he guided prominent institutions such as the Asiatic Society and the Indian Institute of Science.
- His first brush with electoral politics came in 1929 when he was elected to the legislative assembly as a Congress candidate representing Calcutta University. However, he resigned a year later only to get re-elected as an independent candidate after the Congress boycotted the Assembly.
- His first tryst with Hindutva politics came after Mukherjee joined the Hindu Mahasabha and in 1944, he became its president.
- In 1946, Mukherjee wrote to Lord Mountbatten, demanding the partition of Bengal as he did not want the Hindu majority areas to be included in East Pakistan.
- He was inducted into the Cabinet by then-Prime Minister Dr Jawaharlal Nehru and made the Minister for Industry and supply. However, a year later, he resigned from the Cabinet on April 8, 1950 over differences with Nehru on the Delhi pact with Liaquat Ali Khan. In 1951, Mukherjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh after consultation with MS Golwalkar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
- Mukherjee’s next area of focus was achieving Kashmir’s total integration into India and he strongly opposed Article 370, the provision in the Constitution that assigned autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir. He was vehemently against a rule that required non-Kashmiris to have a permit to visit the state. To protest against this, he went to Jammu & Kashmir and was arrested on May 11, 1953. He died under preventive detention on June 23, 1953, at the age of 51. His death remains controversial to this day.
- Mukherjee’s Bharatiya Jana Sangh later merged with other non-Congress parties to form the Janata Party, which later became the present-day BJP. The BJP was officially formed in 1980.