Babu Purushottamdas Tandon
Born On: August 1, 1882
Born In: Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died On: July 1, 1962
Career: Lawyer, Politician, Freedom Fighter
Purushottam Das Tandon, the Punjabi Khatri from pre-independent Uttar Pradesh in India, was one of the most popular advocates of freedom for the country from British rule. Purushottam Das Tandon worked in association with the Congress party and took part in several events to show his protests against the British rulers. He was dedicated to the well being of his country even after independence and thus, remained attached with politics after August 1947. However, his years within the folds of the Congress were not free of controversies, largely because of his deteriorating relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru after India’s independence. Purushottam Das Tandon is best remembered for his contribution towards helping to make Hindi the official language of India and for his participation in party meetings held at the Lok Sabha in spite of the fact that he was the Speaker and was expected to remain neutral and impartial in his opinions and views.
Purushottam Das Tandon was born on August 1, 1882 in the city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh in British-dominated India. After completing school, Purushottam Das Tandon obtained a degree in Law and another masters degree in History before setting on a professional life. The year 1906 was his first year in law practice after which Purushottam Das Tandon joined the bar of the Allahabad High Court. In the year 1908, he joined as a junior to prominent lawyer Tej Bahadur Sapru. For the next few years Purushottam Das Tandon practiced law before finally quitting in the year 1921 to concentrate on politics and freedom struggle.
Role in Freedom Struggle
Purushottam Das Tandon was dedicated towards achieving freedom for India since his student days. Even while he was studying, he became a member of the Congress party in the year 1899 and found time to be a part of some activities undertaken by the party for the welfare of India. In 1906, when Purushottam Das Tandon also started practicing law, he represented his native Allahabad at the All India Congress Committee. He was also involved in the workings of the Lok Sevak Sangh and the committee instituted for studying the Jallianwala Bagh incident of 1919.
After he left law practice in 1921, Purushottam Das Tandon courted arrest because of his involvement in the Non Cooperation Movement of the 1920s and the Satyagraha incident of the 1930s. Purushottam Das Tandon was elected the president of the Provincial Kisan Sabha in Bihar in the year 1934 and it was during his term and leadership that several farmers’ movements started in pre independent India. Purushottam Das Tandon was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India in the year 1946 and remained in office of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh for a period of 13 years, spanning pre and post independence times from July 31, 1937 to August 10, 1950.
After Independence Politics
Purushottam Das Tandon contested for the post of President of the Congress party in the year 1948 but lost to Pattabhi Sitaramayya. However he was successful in securing the same position after two years in 1950 defeating Acharya Kriplani to head the Nagpur session of Congress the same year. Purushottam Das Tandon became a member of the Lok Sabha in the year 1952 and joined the Rajya Sabha in 1956. After 1956, Purushottam Das Tandon gradually became ill and had to quit from active politics to take care of his health.
Controversies and Contradictions
As mentioned earlier, the career of Purushottam Das Tandon was marked with many a controversy. Firstly, though it was the freedom fighter himself who spoke about the similarities between the Hindus and the Muslims, his actions showed that Purushottam Das Tandon was inclined towards the Hindus, a fact which also resulted in securing for him the name of ‘soft Hindu nationalist’. He was associated with the Radha Soami cult and always tried to incorporate Hindu religious ideals in politics. Purushottam Das Tandon was one politician who spoke out vehemently against the concept of religious conversion, even voicing his thoughts in the constituent assembly of the country.
Purushottam Das Tandon also spoke out against the partition of India after independence. He was one of the rare members of the AICC who protested before ratifying the resolution that would lead to partition. However many people were of the opinion that his unwillingness to share power with the Muslim League after the 1937 elections actually led to the partition of India after 1947. The relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Purushottam Das Tandon was good as long as the former commended the latter on his ‘No Tax’ campaign. It was during the 1940s that the first signs of dissent began to appear. Purushottam Das Tandon’s success in bagging the post of president of the Congress party against favorite Acharya Kriplani annoyed Jawaharlal Nehru more and destroyed their relationship further.
Advocating the Hindi Language
Purushottam Das Tandon worked furtively with the Hindi Prachar Sabhas to bring the Hindi language at the forefront and establish it as the official language of the country. However, in his efforts to promote Hindi, Purushottam Das Tandon completely ignored other Indian languages and was labeled a chauvinist. While leaders like Mahatma Gandhi voted for Hindustani, a mixture of Hindi and Urdu to be declared the national language, Purushottam Das Tandon spoke against the Urdu script, voting for the Devanagari script instead. This was a further cause for the deterioration of his relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru. Purushottam Das Tandon was for the Sanskritisation of the Hindi language and his argument while promoting the Hindi language in the constituent assembly was that the mother tongue should be used as the medium of instruction. It was largely due to Purushottam Das Tandon’s efforts that Hindi became the national language of India.
Anecdotes on Purushottam Das Tandon
Purushottam Das Tandon was always different from the other freedom fighters during his time in terms of his pattern of work and attitude. Here are some popular anecdotes which made the rounds on Purushottam Das Tandon:
He was a staunch believer of ahimsa or non violence and therefore used only rubber chappals instead of leather ones.
While Speakers used to avoid party meetings in order to maintain their stance of impartiality, Purushottam Das Tandon attended all of them and also said that he would resign from his position as Speaker if the house lacks confidence in his actions. No members of the house dared speak about this issue.
Purushottam Das Tandon was also known for his philanthropic nature. He often asked a clerk responsible for handling the salaries of the members of parliament to drop his cheques to a public service fund. His argument was that he got enough money from his seven sons, all of whom were earning and all of whom sent him one hundred rupees per month. Therefore he did not require his own salary and could thus use it for the welfare of the needy. His complete disinterest in money and possessions earned him the title of ‘Rajarshi’.
Awards and Recognition
Purushottam Das Tandon earned the tile ‘Rajarshi’ which means ‘Royal Saint’ in Sanskrit for his giving and unselfish nature.
He was presented the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of India in the year 1961, just a year before his death.
1882: Purushottam Das Tandon was born on August 1.
1899: Became a member of the Congress party.
1906: Started practicing law.
1908: Joined the bar of Allahabad High Court.
1908: Joined as a junior to lawyer Tej Bahadur Sapru.
1919: Joined as part of the Congress party committee to study the Jallianwala Bagh insicent.
1921: Gave up law practice to join active politics.
1934: Elected president of Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha.
1937: Elected Speaker of Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh on July 31.
1946: Elected to Constituent Assembly of India.
1947: Refused to sign partition of India resolution on June 14.
1948: Was defeated in Congress party President Election against Pattabhi Sitaramayya.
1950: End of his term as Speaker on August 10, Was successful in Congress party President Election against Acharya Kriplani.
1952: Became member of the Lok Sabha.
1956: Became member of the Rajya Sabha.
1961: Was awarded the Bharat Ratna.
1962: Left for the heavenly abode on July 1.