Rajmata Mohinder Kaur of Patiala

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Rajmata Mohinder Kaur
Member of Parliament
In office
1967-1971
Preceded by Sardar Hukam Singh
Succeeded by Sat Pal Kapur
Constituency Patiala
Personal details
Political party Indian National Congress
Spouse(s) Maharaja Yadavindra Singh
Children Capt. Amarinder Singh
Residence New Moti Bagh Palace , Patiala
Religion Sikhism

Her Highness Maharani Mehtab Kaur (b 14 September 1922), née Mohinder Kaur is wife of late His Highness Maharajadhiraj Yadavindra Singh of Patiala and the present Rajmata Sahiba (Queen Mother) of the erstwhile Patiala state in India.

Early years[edit]

Mehtab Kaur was born Mohinder Kaur, the daughter of Sardar Harchand Singh Jaijee, a nobleman of Patiala and member of the Patiala Riyasat Prajya Mandal (Patiala State Peoples' Forum, an affiliate of the Indian National Congress party). In August 1938, aged 16, she was married to the ruling Maharaja of Patiala. She was the Maharaja's second wife. As the senior Maharani was also named Mohinder Kaur, and was present in the palace to receive her co-wife, the younger Mohinder Kaur received the new name Mehtab Kaur.

Yadvinder Singh had succeeded his father as Maharaja of Patiala only a few months previously. His first marriage had been (and remained) childless. However, barely 10 months after her wedding, Mehtab Kaur became a mother with the birth of a daughter, Heminder Kaur, future wife of Natwar Singh. The following year saw the birth of another daughter, Rupinder Kaur, followed in 1942 by the birth of an heir, the future Maharaja Amarinder Singh, and in 1944 by a second son, Malvinder Singh.

In 1947, India gained its independence. On July 15, 1948, Patiala state was merged with the Indian union and the ruling power of the Maharaja was ended. Patiala was merged with certain other princely states to form PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab States' Union), a state within the union of India. Yadvinder Singh was named Rajpramukh or ceremonial Governor of this state. The royal family of Patiala worked diligently to adjust to the new realities of their situation and Mehtab Kaur made important contributions in the transition.

After independence, the Patiala royals organised numerous camps and worked in PEPSU for refugees who came to India from Western Punjab, In particular, the two Maharanis supervised relief kitchens and medical provisions for the refugees. The Maharaja remained Rajpramukh of PEPSU till 1956, when PEPSU disappeared from the map following a further reorganization of internal borders in India. After 1956, the Maharaja was given various diplomatic assignments, including leading delegations to the UN general assembly (1956), UNESCO (1957-58) and UNFAO (1959 onwards). He also served as ambassador to Italy (1965-66) and the Netherlands (1971-74).

Political career[edit]

These relatively minor assignments were a far cry from the assurances that the royals of India had received when they signed away their states, and from the absolute ruling powers to which the Maharaja had been accustomed. Further, the ruling Congress party was championing a sharp turn left-wards in its policies, and its utterances with regard to the erstwhile princes were radical and alarming. Since Patiala was by far the largest of the states in Punjab, the government had deemed it expedient to keep the Maharaja beholden (and away from politics) by giving him diplomatic assignments that required his presence abroad. However, he was anxious for some political leverage. Also, Mehtab Kaur's father and family had risen in the ranks of the Congress party, building on the Riyasat Praja Mandal background. For these reasons, and at her husband's behest, Mehtab Kaur entered party politics in 1964.

Mehtab Kaur served as a member of Rajya Sabha, the indirectly-elected upper house of the Indian Parliament from 1964 to 1967 as a Congress party member. In 1967, she was elected to the Lok Sabha,[1] the elected lower house of Parliament, from the Patiala constituency, and served until 1971. That year, the Congress party and its government executed some of their radical plans by abolishing the title of Maharaja, and the privy purse (pension) that went with it. Mehtab Kaur was not given a party nomination to contest the general elections of 1971. Instead, the Maharaja was appointed ambassador to the Netherlands that year, and the family moved abroad.

In 1974, the Maharaja died in the Hague while still serving as ambassador to the Netherlands. The family returned to India and the two Maharanis took up residence in their family home, the Moti Bagh Palace in Patiala. Mehtab Kaur was now Rajmata (queen mother) of Patiala and planned to spend her days in prayer henceforth. However, in 1977, outraged by the Emergency, she joined the Janata Party and was named one of its general secretaries. She served another term in the Rajya Sabha from 1978 to 1984 as a Janata Party member. She was considered close to former Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai.

Rajmata Sahiba remained an active social worker until age and ill-health prevented exertion. She currently resides in New Moti Bagh Palace, Patiala. Rajmata Sahiba is regarded as a cultural icon in Patiala.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tribune of India It’s development vs Panth in Patiala
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Maharani Bakhtawar Kaur
Maharani of Patiala
1938 – 1974
Succeeded by
Maharani Preneet Kaur