Independent India embarked on its tasks with the benefit of an outstanding leadership, having tremendous dedication and idealism besides the presence of a strong nation-wide party, the Congress. Beside Nehru stood a group of leaders who had played a notable role in the freedom movement. There was his deputy prime minister, Sardar Patel, a leader who possessed a strong will and was decisive in action and strong in administration. Then there were the learned Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the erudite Rajendra Prasad, and C. Rajagopalachari, endowed with a razor sharp intellect. At the state level, were several leaders like Govind Ballabh Pant in U.P., B.C. Roy in West Bengal, and B.G. Kher and Morarji Desai inBombay, who enjoyed unchallenged authority in their states.
The government thus formed virtually became a national government. For example, the first Nehru cabinet of fourteen included five non-Congressmen: Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, both of whom had opposed the Congress before 1947, John Mathai, C.H. Bhabha and Shanmukham Chetty. Dr B.R. Ambedkar was also made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. Dr S. Radhakrishnan, the first Vice-President and the second President of India, had never been a Congressmen.
The first question before the new government was the status of the Princely states within the new Indian federation. Many of the larger princes began to dream of independence and to scheme for it. The Indian nationalists could hardly accept a situation where the unity of free India will be endangered by hundreds of small and large independent states.
With great skill and masterful diplomacy and using both persuasion and pressure, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel succeeded in integrating the hundreds of princely states with the Indian union in two stages. Some states had shown wisdom and realism and perhaps a degree of patriotism by joining the Constituent Assembly in April 1947. However, the majority of princes had stayed away and a few, such as those of Travancore, Bhopal, and Hyderabad, publicly announced their desire to claim an independent status.
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