KC Reddy’s Long Fight for Prajaprabhutva

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On 27th October, 1947, KC Reddy was sworn in as the first (non-elected) Chief Minister of Mysore after a long fight with the mission of installing a ‘responsible

Another round of assembly elections, followed by yet another peaceful transition of power, has been completed, proving that democracy in India is a living, thriving thing. Once again, as it has done so many times before in Karnataka, the Grand Old Party has registered a thumping win.

It wasn’t always this way, however. The transition from hereditary monarchy to a democratically elected government wasn’t an easy one to accomplish, even in a princely state as liberal and benevolent as Mysore. While Maharaja Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, whom Gandhiji once hailed as a Rajarishi, had voluntarily set up a bicameral legislature with people’s representatives appointed by him, the idea of a fully elected government was difficult to digest. That anxiety was only exacerbated by the Government of India Act of 1935, which assured far greater independence in decision-making to people in British-ruled provinces.

But the Act was only the culmination of a struggle for self-determination that had formally begun with the founding of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1885, just four years after Nalvadi’s father, Chamarajendra X, ascended the throne. By the 1920s, buoyed by charismatic leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, that struggle was a real force in the provinces. Naturally, that fervour began to spill into the princely states, with people viewing their kings as oppressors no different from the British. In 1930, inspired by the call for Purna Swaraj at the 1929 Lahore Session of the INC, a young lawyer called Kyasamballi Chengalaraya (KC) Reddy founded the Praja Paksha party, with the mission of installing a ‘responsible government’ in Mysore. In 1937, the Praja Paksha, now the Praja Samyukta Paksha, joined forces with the INC to become the Mysore Congress.

In the same year, the Indian Provincial Elections were held for the first time, sweeping the INC into power in seven of the eleven provinces. The writing on the wall could not be clearer to Nalvadi and his Diwan, Sir Mirza Ismail, who believed implicitly that Mysore should remain a sovereign monarchy. On April 25, 1938, a large group of people who had gathered at Vidurashwatha village in Chikkaballapura district to hoist the Indian flag, flouting prohibitory orders (only the Mysore flag could be hoisted), were fired upon by police. At the end of 90 rounds of firing, 32 people were dead, and scores more injured. The government responded by giving the policemen involved a clean chit.

Mysore erupted in such anger that the national leadership, including Gandhiji himself, took note, sending Vallabhbhai Patel and Acharya Kripalani to Mysore to take stock. That led to the signing of the Mirza-Patel pact, which, among other things, gave Mysore Congress leaders representation in the Maharaja’s Reforms Committee, and removed all restrictions on the hoisting of the Indian flag in the kingdom. The movement towards Mysore’s self-determination had begun.

The Indian Independence Act of 1947 gave princely states the choice to either accede to the newly-created Dominions of India, or to continue as sovereign states. One of the first Indian kings to sign the Instrument of Accession, on August 9, 1947, was the 28-year-old Jayachamarajendra (JC) Wadiyar. Even as he sought clarity on a future course of action, KC Reddy launched the Mysore Chalo agitation with a fiery speech to a crowd of 40,000 at Bengaluru’s Subhash Nagar on 1st September, demanding responsible government. On September 24th, after an intense two weeks of rioting that left 20 people dead in various incidents of police firing across the state, two of them in Malleswaram, JC bowed to the will of the people.

Source: Hindustan Times