One should possess a pen of gold dipped in honey and a sheet of silver to write on something about Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the Gentlemen of Indian politics, about whom Jawaharlal Nehru said:
“We often make mistakes. Our steps father’ our tongues falter and slip, but Rajen Babu never makes a mistake. His steps do not falter and he had no occasion to what he once said or wished undone what he once did.”
Pandit Motilal Nehru described Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the ‘cent percent chela of Gandhiji.’ The teacher of preceptor also had an abiding faith in his disciple as he used to say, “There is one man (Rajen Babu) who would not hesitate to take the poison cup from my hand”.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad stands out with prominence among Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Surendranath Banerjee, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Gopalkrishna Gokhale and Srinivas Shastri for one great reason. He always maintained a high standard in his political speeches, debates and discussion, even when he had to participate in political controversies. A conscientious regard for truth, howsoever unpleasant it might be, a painstaking study of the facts and an honest fairness to the views of others who differed from his own, civility and moderateness in expression marked his writings and utterances. It was unimaginable that he would ever impute dishonorable motives to, or attack the personalities of his political opponents. He possessed that boundless capacity of disarming his opponents by his persuasive and polite eloquence. He openly acknowledged the force of what others said and gained their confidence, and put forth his arguments with a restraint and skill which made an indelible impression on them.
Birth and education
Dr. Rajendra Prasad affectionately known as Rajen Babu saw the light of day on December 3, 1884 at Zeeradei, a village in the Saran District in Bihar. After receiving elementary education at the village school, he joined the High School at Chapra. He topped the list of the successful students here in the first test and attracted the attention of the Head Master with the result that he was granted double promotion. This first’, he maintained in various walks of life. In 1902, he was the first student hailing from Bihar to stand first at the Entrance Examination of the Calcutta University. He repeated this first’ at F. A., B. A., and M. A. Examinations of the Calcutta University. Once his examiner had to make the comment on his performance-The examinee knows more than the examiner.”
Entry into Indian politics
In 1917, Rajen Bubu came under the impact of Mahatma Gandhi’s personality when the Mahatma started his social service programme in the Champaran district for the amelioration of the peasants. He threw himself with heart and soul into the work and own laurels. He gave up his roaring legal practice. and dedicated himself to the motherland under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. He became the President of the Indian National Congress twice, before India emerged as a free nation. After independence, he was elected President of the Constituent Assembly. The Constitution of India, containing 395 Articles and 8 Schedules, was completed on November 26, 1949. He was nominated Interim President on Jan. 26, 1950, and was elected President of the Indian Republic in May, 1952 and re-elected in May, 1957. His early promise and brilliance was sustained by the brilliant record of his outstanding services of the country in various capacities and positions. Honour and office came to him thick and fast.”
He was an embodiment of courtesy, sincerity and simplicity
Rajen Babu was a picture of courtesy, love, truth and affection. He deposed the so-called civilization of the present day. He believed in ‘Good Conduct’ and not in sophisticated living. He, during his life-time looked upon himself as the humblest man. His outstanding success and popularity are attributed to his immaculate simplicity and sincerity. His simplicity was inherent and sincerity innate. He did not have to strive to be simple. He put on a white “dhoti” and “kurta” made of hand-spun yarn. In 1950, when he became President of the Indian Republic, his nephew had to prevail upon him to put on a popularly tailored ‘sherwani’ on the occasion of the Republic Day. He could not believe that Rs. 70/- were the tailoring charges until the bill was produced before him. In short, he was an unsurpassable embodiment of simple living and high thinking. He was a perfect vegetarian teetotaller. Ordinary Chapati, boiled rice, curd, vegetable, puls, a mango and a piece of a sandesh formed the most likeable and delicious menu for him. In Delhi, he began to like tea but never appreciated the fuss and commotion over the quantity of suger. Whenever, he visited the holy places, he sought every opportunity to have a holy dip and that, too in the manner of the most ordinary Indian. He did not suffer from either of the two complexes. He spoke to a beggar and a prince or a Prime Minister in the same unsophisticated tone.
Why he evokes devotion?
Rajen Babu’s personality evokes not only admiration but also devotion. In 1947, he absented himself from the funeral ceremony of his son’s wife because his presence was urgently required at Patna to control the communal disharmony. Another similar incident occurred when he was putting up at the Rashtrapati Bhawan when he placed the official duty above personal grief. Shrimati Bhagwati Devi, his devoted elder sister upon whom he looked as his mother, passed away in the night in 1960. In the morning he had to take the salute of the Republic Day parade. He asked everybody not to disclose the tragic news as he did not want to mar the happiness of the occasion and went to take the salute in an unruffled and undisturbed manner. On return at noon, he took the dead body of his dear sister to the holy banks of the Jamuna for cremation. In the evening, he was again present at the Rashtrapati Gardens for the Republic At Home’. Herein lies the greatness of the great man. This of his bends all who know him irrespective of caste, creed and political ideology and stimulates a sense of devotion towards him.
As an author
Rajen Babu was an author of eminence. His “Autobiography’, an outstanding contribution, was written originally in Hindi in prison between 1942 and 1945. The book gives us a panoramic picture of the long struggle for freedom in which he was a prominent participant. His other works are ‘India Divided at noon, he took the dead body of his dear sister to the holy banks the Feet of Mahatma Gandhi’ and History of the Champaran Satyagrah’. Rajen Babu was a great and profound scholar and had dived deep into English, Pérsian, Bengali and Sanskrit literatures. His writings are marked by his originality and scholarship. He did not spend the royalty money derived from these books on himself. The annual income of about twenty five thousand rupees continues to be spent on charitable purposes. Money had no lure for him. His monthly income was nearly four thousand rupees, when he was a lawyer. He gave up his legal practice in 1920, and had only fifteen rupees as his bank balance. In 1955, addressing the Sarvodaya Sammelan, he “Happiness lies in giving up the desire for property by renouncing attachment to it.”
Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s personality does not only attract us but also binds us and evokes a sentiment of devotion. In this respect, he stands second only to Mahatma Gandhi to whom he was as dear as Saint John was to Jesus Christ. He relinquished the office of the President of India in May, 1962 and moved to his hut in the mango grove at Sadaquat Ashram in Bihar. He passed away in 1963 on the 28th of February. His wife, Srimati Rajbansi Devi had entered the hall of immortals six months earlier than he.