In fact, there was no role of Gandhi in the whole election that resulted in Nehru becoming Congress president.
Without any historical basis or evidence, the blatant misinformation that Mahatma Gandhi had selected Jawaharlal Nehru against Vallabhbhai Patel for the post of Prime Minister of India has been pushed around, mainly by the Sanghis.
The false claim goes to claim that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had received either 14 or 12 nominations for the post of Congress president or Prime Minister in 1946 while Jawaharlal Nehru had received 1 or 2 nominations but Mahatma Gandhi intervened and asked Patel to withdraw the nomination, thus paving the way for Nehru’s victory.
This false claim was created long after the death of Sardar Patel and it has no basis.
The reality of the 1946 Congress presidential election.
What really happened was is here, as per the 1946 document:
In March 1946, the A. I . C. C. Office issued a time-table for elections of delegates, the president of the next annual session of the Congress and representatives from provinces to the A.I.C.C. According to the time-table April 29 was fixed as the last date by which proposals for president should reach the A.I.C.C. Office. The following three names were received for presidentship.
(1) Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, (2) Shri Vallabhbhai Patel, and (3) Shri J. B Kripalani.
Two more names, those of Shri Subhash Chandra Bose and Shri Jai Prakash Narain were also received. But in terms of the Congress Constitution these names could not be entertained. Shri Subhash Chandra Bose was not a primary member of the Congress for the current year and Shri Jai Prakash’s name was not found in the list of delegates received from Bihar.
The presidential election was scheduled to take place on May 16. But before this date two candidates for presidential election, Shri Vallabhbhai Patel and Shri J. B. Kripalani informed the A. I. C. C. Office of their intention to withdraw their candidature. Shri Jawaharlal Nehru remained the only candidate. Acharya J.B. Kripalani, the General Secretary of the Congress therefore declared Shri Jawaharlal Nehru as the duly elected president of the next session of the Congress.
One can clearly see there was no role of Mahatma Gandhi in this entire process.
So how did the lie that Gandhi selected Nehru over Patel originate?
Nobody from Congress ever mentioned this process, let alone Patel, Gandhi and Nehru ever talking about it.
This lie was first found in a 1959 book called “Nehru: A Political Biography”, by Michael Brecher. It claims “Patel was the overwhelming choice of the Provincial Congress Committees; according to one source…” But who is that “one source” that remained unnamed throughout the whole book?
That “one source” is none other than Durga Das, who released the book “India From Curzon to Nehru and After” in 1969. Here he published the exact same version that has been promoted by the proponents of this misinformation that Gandhi selected Patel over Nehru. In this book, which has been described as “reporter’s fiction“, he claims he observed it himself.
However, Durga Das is an extremely unreliable source here for many reasons such as he took very long to make things up and to this day Das is known for his positive bias towards Patel, and negative bias towards Nehru. One author described Das as a “tool in the hands of Sardar Patel“.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad served as Congress President from 1940 – 1946 until Nehru came became the Congress President in 1946. Given Azad’s major involvement in this entire process, we need to look at what he said according to his book “India Wins Freedom: India Wins Freedom“.
On 26 April, 1946, Maulana Azad said:
“After considering all aspects of the question it is my belief that the person best suited to carry out these duties in the changed circumstances is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. This is my personal opinion. I am glad to find from informal discussions with friends and colleagues that they share my opinion.”
It is very clear that there was no visible opposition to the thought that Nehru should become the president of the Congress.
Later on, Maulana Azad wrote that:
“After weighing pros and cons, I came to the conclusion that Jawaharlal should be the new President. Accordingly on 26 April 1946, I issued a statement proposing his name for the Presidentship and appealing to Congressmen that they should elect Jawaharlal uniamously. Gandhiji was perhaps somewhat inclined towards Sardar Patel, but once I had proposed Jawaharlal’s name, he gave no public indication of his views. Some people did propose the name of Sardar Patel and Acharya Kripalani, but in the end Jawaharlal was accepted unanimously.”
This is exactly opposite to the lie in question we are discussing. According to Azad, that was Patel who Gandhi may have wanted for Presidentship but he didn’t reveal his choice.
So how did Nehru become PM?
The misinformation that Nehru became PM because he was Congress president is yet another outright lie.
Nehru had resigned from the post of the Congress president by September 1946. Kripalani had succeeded him as the Congress president.
The All-India Congress Committee, meeting in Bombay on July 6-7, had confirmed the stand of the Congress High Command by a majority of 204 to 51 votes to enter into the Constituent Assembly, the sovereign body and successor to the British parliament’s authority. Nehru was formally installed as President of Congress.
Later the Interim Government was formed which was headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru became PM because he had headed the Interim Government of India, which was itself formed from the Constituent Assembly of India.