Gulzarilal Nanda (July 4, 1898 – January 15, 1998) was an Indian politician. He was the acting Prime Minister of India twice; once after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964 and again in 1966 after Lal Bahadur Shastri‘s death. On both occasions he acted for slightly less than a month, his term ending upon the election of a new leader of the Indian National Congress.
Early Life and Freedom Struggle
He was born on July 4, 1898, in Sialkot in the Undivided Punjab, now in Punjab, Pakistan. He was educated at Lahore, Agra and Allahabad. He worked as a research scholar on labour problems at Allahabad University (1920-1921) and became Professor of Economics at the National College (Bombay) in 1921. He joined the Non-Cooperation Movement during the same year. In 1922, he become Secretary of the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association in which he worked until 1946. He was imprisoned for Satyagraha in 1932, and again from 1942 to 1944.
Gulzarilal Nanda was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly in 1937 and was Parliamentary Secretary (Labour and Excise) to the Government of Bombay from 1937 to 1939. Later, as Labour Minister of the Bombay Government (1946-50), he successfully piloted the Labour Disputes Bill in the State Assembly. He served as Trustee, Kasturba Memorial Trust; Secretary, Hindustan Mazdoor Sevak Sangh; and Chairman, Bombay Housing Board. He was also a Member of the National Planning Committee. He was largely instrumental in organising the Indian National Trade Union Congress and later became its President.
In 1947, he went to Geneva as a Government delegate to the International Labour Conference. He worked on ‘The Freedom of Association Committee’ appointed by the Conference and visited Sweden, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK to study labour and housing conditions in those countries.
In March 1950, he joined the Planning Commission as its Vice-Chairman. In September the following year, he was appointed Planning Minister in the Indian Government. In addition, he was also given charge of the portfolios of Irrigation and Power. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay in the general elections of 1952 and was re-appointed Minister for Planning Irrigation and Power. He led the Indian Delegation to the Plan Consultative Committee held at Singapore in 1955, and the International Labour Conference held at Geneva in 1959.
Shri Nanda was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1957 general elections, and was appointed Union Minister for Labour and Employment and Planning and, later, as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. He visited the Federal Republic of Germany, Yugoslavia and Austria in 1959.
He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1962 general elections from Sabarkantha Constituency in Gujarat. He initiated the Congress Forum for Socialist Action in 1962. He was Union Minister for Labour and Employment in 1962 and 1963 and Minister for Home Affairs from 1963 to 1966.
Acting Prime Minister
After Pandit Nehru
Following the death of Pundit Nehru, Cabinet Ministers agreed to have Gulzarilal Nanda as the acting Prime Minister, until the party chose a new leader.
After Lalbahadur Shastri
The process was undertaken again when Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent in 1966. Nanda’s role, though uneventful, was critical in importance owing to the proximity of grave national dangers (Nehru’s death had come just after a war with China in 1962, and Shastri died after the 1965 war with Pakistan).
He was a follower of Gandhi’s principles. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna. He is the only prime minister of India to not have a house of his own..