First Cabinet of independent India

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First Nehru ministry
1st Cabinet of the Dominion of India
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The first Cabinet of independent India.jpg
The cabinet of India on 31 January 1950, along with the newly appointed President Rajendra Prasad.
Date formed 15 August 1947 (1947-08-15)
Date dissolved 15 April 1952 (1952-04-15)
People and organizations
Head of government Jawaharlal Nehru
Deputy head of government Vallabhbhai Patel (until 15 December 1950)
Head of state Lord Mountbatten (Governor-General)
(15 August 1947 – 21 June 1948)
C. Rajagopalachari (Governor-General)
(21 June 1948 – 26 January 1950)
Rajendra Prasad (President)
(from 26 January 1950)
Number of ministers 16
Ministers removed
Total number of ministers 20
Member party Indian National Congress
Status in legislature Majority
Opposition party None
Opposition leader None
Election(s) 1946
Outgoing election 1951
Legislature term(s) 4 years and 8 months
Previous None
Successor Second Nehru ministry

After independence, on 15 August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru assumed office as the first Prime Minister of India and chose 15 other members to form the first Cabinet of independent India.


The Constituent Assembly was set up while India was still under British rule, following negotiations between Indian leaders and members of the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India from the United Kingdom. The provincial assembly elections had been conducted early in 1946. The Constituent Assembly members were elected to it indirectly by the members of these newly elected provincial assemblies, and initially included representatives for those provinces which came to form part of Pakistan, some of which are now within Bangladesh. The Constituent Assembly had 299 representatives, including nine women.

Viceroy Lord Wavell invited then Indian National Congress president Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to form the interim government on 12 August 1946. Azad, who had served as party president from 1939–46, proposed Jawaharlal Nehru as his successor. In his biography, Azad stated that he did so because he was "averse to the idea" of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel leading the Congress in the "specific context that prevailed in March 1946". Nehru assumed the role of Congress president on 6 July 1946. However, most members of the Congress Working Committee opposed Nehru and preferred Patel instead. This was based on their belief that Patel alone could deal "firmly" with Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League. Mahatma Gandhi argued in favour of Nehru saying, "Jawahar will not take second place. He is better known abroad than Sardar and will make India play a role in international affairs. Sardar will look after the country's affairs. They will be like two oxen yoked to the governmental cart. One will need the other and both will pull together." Patel accepted Gandhi's wishes.[1]

The Interim Government of India was formed on 2 September 1946 from the newly elected Constituent Assembly. Nehru was sworn in as the Vice-President of the Viceroy's Executive Council on the same day, thus becoming de-facto Prime Minister. Jinnah demanded that the day be observed as a day of mourning. Gandhi observed, "we are not yet in the midst of a civil war, but we are nearing it". Both Gandhi and Viceroy Wavell wanted to include the Muslim League in the government. Gandhi signed a document stating, "the Congress does not challenge but accepts that the Muslim League now is the authoritative representative of an overwhelming majority of Muslims", but Congress would maintain the right to choose its own representative. This statement was rejected by both Nehru and Azad. Gandhi would later express regret over his statement.[2]

The Indian National Congress held a large majority in the Assembly, with 69 percent of all of the seats, while the Muslim League held almost all of the seats reserved in the Assembly for Muslims. There were also some members from smaller parties, such as the Scheduled Caste Federation, the Communist Party of India, and the Unionist Party. In June 1947, the delegations from the provinces of Sindh, East Bengal, Baluchistan, West Punjab, and the North West Frontier Province withdrew, to form the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, meeting in Karachi. On 15 August 1947, the Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan became independent nations, and the members of the Constituent Assembly who had not withdrawn to Karachi became India's Parliament. Only 28 members of the Muslim League finally joined the Indian Assembly. Later, 93 members were nominated from the princely states. The Congress thus secured a majority of 82%.

Jawaharlal Nehru took charge as the first Prime Minister of India on 15 August 1947, and chose 15 other members for his cabinet. Vallabhbhai Patel served as the first Deputy Prime Minister until his death on 15 December 1950. Lord Mountbatten, and later C. Rajagopalachari, served as Governor-General until 26 January 1950, when Rajendra Prasad was elected as the first President of India.[1][3]


Over time Gandhi began to worry about the deteriorating relationship between Patel and Nehru. Gandhi had to delay his prayer meeting on 30 January 1948 due to a long meeting with Patel. During the meeting, Patel asked Gandhi for his permission to resign from the Cabinet. Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse shortly after the meeting. This changed Patel's mind, and he decided to focus his attention on the political integration of India post-independence.[1]

The Nehru-Liaquat Pact signed by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan in April 1950 further confirmed Patel's change in attitude. The pact expressed the commitment of both nations to protect the life and property of their respective religious minorities in the wake of anti-Hindu violence in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the subsequent retaliation against Muslims in West Bengal. This pact was opposed at several levels of the Indian government, including the Cabinet. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and K.C. Neogy resigned from the Cabinet to protest the decision. John Mathai also resigned from Cabinet, citing Nehru's "autocratic" way of functioning. N.V. Gadgil also expressed objections to the pact. At this time, Patel travelled to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and campaigned in favour of the Nehru-Liaquat pact.[1]

Despite their agreement on the pact, there were several instances when Patel and Nehru disagreed such as the appointment of the first President of India. Patel wanted Rajendra Prasad to continue as president after 26 January 1950, while Nehru was in favour of appointing C. Rajagopalachari. Patel succeeded in ensuring Prasad's appointment as the former enjoyed support from most of the Congress party organisation. Another point of difference was regarding the election of the Congress president at the Nashik session in August 1950; Nehru supported J.B. Kripalani, while Patel backed Purushottam Das Tandon. Tandon won the election comfortably, resulting in Nehru's refusal to join the Congress Working Committee. In order to avoid a confrontation, Tandon offered to step down from his elected post.[1]

Prasad's appointment as the first President of India on 26 January 1950 and the death of Patel on 15 December 1950, removed any challenge to Nehru's authority within the party. Meanwhile, several prominent leaders and former members of the Congress Working Committee including Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Narendra Deva and Ram Manohar Lohia left the party at some stage or the other to join the Socialist Party which was founded in 1948. Nehru subsequently became the Congress party's undisputed leader ahead of the first general election in 1951.[1]

Cabinet members[edit]

There were members from Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh communities. There were two members from the Dalit caste as well.[4][5][6][7] Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was the only female Cabinet minister. The following is a list of the ministers in the first Cabinet.[1]

  • Died in office
  • § Returned to office after a previous term
  • RES Resigned
Portfolio Minister Took office Left office Party
Prime Minister
Minister of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations
Minister of Scientific Research
  Jawaharlal Nehru 15 August 1947 Second Nehru ministry INC
Deputy Prime Minister   Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel[†] 15 August 1947 15 December 1950 INC
Minister of Home Affairs and States   Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel[†] 15 August 1947 15 December 1950 INC
  C. Rajagopalachari 26 December 1950 25 October 1951 INC
  Kailash Nath Katju 1951 Second Nehru ministry INC
Minister of Information and Broadcasting   Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel[†] 15 August 1947 15 December 1950 INC
Minister of Finance   R. K. Shanmukham Chetty 15 August 1947 1949 INC
  John Mathai[RES] 1949 1950 INC
  C. D. Deshmukh 1950 Second Nehru ministry INC
Minister of Law   B. R. Ambedkar 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC
Minister of Defence   Baldev Singh 15 August 1947 Second Nehru ministry INC
Minister of Railways and Transport   John Mathai 15 August 1947 22 September 1948 INC
  N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar 22 September 1948 Second Nehru ministry INC
Minister of Education   Maulana Abul Kalam Azad 15 August 1947 Second Nehru ministry INC
Minister of Food and Agriculture   Jairamdas Daulatram 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC
Minister of Industries and Supplies   Syama Prasad Mookerjee[RES] 15 August 1947 6 April 1950 INC
Minister of Labour   Jagjivan Ram 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC
Minister of Commerce   Cooverji Hormusji Bhabha 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC
Minister of Communications   Rafi Ahmed Kidwai 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC
Minister of Health   Amrit Kaur 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC
Minister of Works, Mines and Power   Narhar Vishnu Gadgil 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC
Minister of Relief and Rehabilitation   K. C. Neogy[RES] 15 August 1947 April 1950 INC
Minister without portfolio   N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar[8] 15 August 1947 22 September 1948 INC
  Mohanlal Saxena 15 August 1947 15 April 1952 INC


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Krishna, Ananth V. (2011). India Since Independence: Making Sense Of Indian Politics. India: Pearson Education India. pp. 34–36. ISBN 9788131734650. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Ghose, Sankar (1993). Jawaharlal Nehru, a Biography. India: Allied Publishers. p. 149. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Ramachandra Guha, "India After Gandhi", Picador India, 2007. ISBN 978-0-330-39610-3
  4. ^ vignesh venkatesan (2010-08-25). "DARE TO READ: India's first cabinet". Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  5. ^ "The first Central Cabinet of Independent India". 2010-07-09. Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  6. ^ "The New Cabinet". Hindustan Times. 15 August 1947. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "New Cabinet of India". Times of India. 15 August 1947. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  8. ^

Further reading[edit]