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Rajpramukh was an administrative title in India which existed from India's independence in 1947 until 1956. Rajpramukhs were the appointed governors of certain of India's provinces and states.

British India, which included modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, was made up of two types of political units. Fifteen provinces were ruled directly by British officials, either a governor or a chief commissioner, who were appointed by the Viceroy. Princely states were ruled by local, hereditary rulers, who acknowledged British sovereignty in return for local autonomy. At the time of the proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India in 1877, more than 700 Indian princely states and territories enjoyed treaty relations with the British Crown. The exact relationship between the Government of India (under the British rule) and these states varied enormously, ranging from treaties of alliance, defence, protection, or supervision to almost outright control. The British Crown assumed these rights from the British East India Company in 1857 and exercised paramountcy in respect of the internal governance which was exercised by the British Viceroy.

British India had hundreds of princely states, which varied greatly in size, from Hyderabad, with a population of over ten million, to tiny states. Most of the princely states were under the authority of a British political agent responsible to the governor of a province, but the four largest princely states, Hyderabad, Baroda, Mysore, and Jammu and Kashmir, were directly under the authority of the viceroy. Two agencies, the Central India Agency and Rajputana Agency, were made up of numerous princely states, and administered by political agents appointed by the viceroy.

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After Indian Independence, 1947-1950

On 20 February 1947, His majesty's Government announced its intention to transfer power in British India to Indian hands by June 1948. However, the Cabinet Mission Plan on 16 May 1947 failed to evolve a constitution for India acceptable to all contending parties. In the circumstance, His majesty's Government announced on 3 June 1947 its intention to partition India into two dominions. On 15 July 1947, the House of Commons passed the India Independence Bill 1947, to facilitate this division of India into the dominions of India and Pakistan. The House of Lords followed suit the next day. The Bill received the Royal assent on 18 July 1947. From this day the suzerainty of His majesty's government over the Indian states lapsed as per 7(b) of the India Independence Act 1947, and with it all treaties between the British Government and the Indian states also got a legal quietus. The Rulers of the Indian States became sovereign rulers from 18 July 1947, and they were free to accede to either of the two dominions or remain independent. As per the provisions of the Act, on 15 August 1947 two independent dominions of India and Pakistan were established. The leaders in the Indian Independence movement strongly pursued the Indian rulers to accede their states to the Indian dominion. By 15 August 1947 virtually all the Rulers had signed the Instrument of Accession with the Governor-General of India, giving power to the dominion government to make laws on the three subjects of foreign policy, communication and defense, and otherwise they remained sovereign rulers. These Rulers also signed another agreement known as Stand still Agreement to provide continuity to any existing agreements between British India and their States.

Three Indian states namely Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, and Junagadh, failed to accede to either of the dominions. Jammu together with parts of Kashmir was incorporated into India after the Maharaja Hari Singh was forced to seek Indian military intervention against the marauding Pakistani sponsored tribal lords ( Afridis). In time, the two remaining states of Hyderabad and Junagadh were invaded and annexed India by expansionist warfare.

In 1948 the Maharaja of Gwalior signed a covenant with the rulers of the adjoining princely states to form a new state known as Madhya Bharat. This new covenanting state was to be governed by a council of the rulers with a head known as Rajpramukh. This new state signed a fresh Instrument of Accession with the Indian dominion. Subsequently many other Indian states merged with their neighboring Indian states on the same lines to form the covenanting states known as Vindhya Pradesh, Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU), Rajputana, etc.

Rajpramukhs in the Indian Republic, 1950-1956

In the intervening period the Dominion Government of India had set up a Constitution Assembly to formulate a new Constitution for India. Simultaneously each of the Independent Indian rulers and Rajpramukhs of Covenanting states had set up a Constituent Assembly for their respective states and also had sent their representatives to the Constituent Assembly of India so as to form a uniform laws for their respective states. The thinking among the India Leaders at that time was that each of the Princely states or Covenanting State will remain independent as a Federal state along the lines suggested originally by the 1935 Act. But as the constitution drafting progressed and the idea of forming a republic took concrete shape it was decided that all the Princely state/ Covenanting State will merge with the Indian republic and all the Maharaja's will be provided with a Privy Purse and Privileges as enjoyed by them on 15 Aug 1947 by constitutional guarantees. Hence Art. 294, Art 362 , Art 366, Art 363 were incorporated. Besides it was also decided that Maharaja of Mysore, Jammu & Kashmir, Nizam of Hyderabad and the Raj Pramukhs of the Covenanting states will continue to be the constitutional Heads of their respective states. By 26 October 1949 the constituent assembly had finalized a new constitution for India and all the Acceding Indian States and the Covenanting states merged their Kingdom/Covenanting state with the New Republic of India. In accordance withe constitutional provisions all the Maharajs's entered in to another agreement with the Governor General of India to provide for the specific privy purse amount, right to their personal properties as distinct from state properties, right to succession in accordance with the practice in their territories. These agreements were entered in to before 26-1-1950 so as as to bring them within the ambit of Art. 363. On 26 January 1950 India became a republic. The new constitution created four types of administrative divisions in India. Nine Part A states, which were the former British provinces, were ruled by an elected governor and state legislature. Eight Part B states, which were former princely states or groups of covenanting states, were governed by a Rajpramukh. Ten Part C states included both former princely states and provinces, were governed by a chief commissioner. A union territory was ruled by a governor appointed by the Indian president.

As per Art.366 of the Indian Constitution ( as it existed in 1950):

Art 366(21): Rajpramukh means- (a) in relation to the States of Hyderabad, the person for the time being is recognised by the President as Nizam of Hyderabad.; (b) in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir or the State of Mysore, the person who for the time being is recognized by the President as the Maharaja of that State; and (c) in relation to any other State specified in Part B of the First Schedule, the person who for the time being is recognized by the President as the Rajpramukh of that State, and includes in relation to any of the said States any person for the time being recognized by the President as competent to exercise the powers of the Rajpramukh in relation to that State.

The eight Part B states were Hyderabad, Saurashtra, Mysore, Travancore-Cochin, Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU), and Rajasthan.

Governing Rajpramukhs, 1948-1956

  • Hyderabad state had its last Nizam, Fath Jang Mir Osman Ali Khan (b. 1886 -d. 1967) as Rajpramukh from 26 January 1950 to 31 October 1956.
  • Patiala and East Punjab States Union had Maharaja Yadavindra Singh (b. 1913 -d. 1974), the Maharaja of Patiala, as Rajpramukh.
  • Saurashtra had Sir Krishnakumarsinhji Bhavsinhji (b. 1912 -d. 1965), the former Maharaja of Bhavnagar, and Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja(b. 1895 -d. 1966), the former Maharaja of Nawanagar, as acting and regular Rajpramukh respectively. Meanwhile Maharana Maharaja Shri Raj Mayurdhwajsinhji Meghrajji III Ghanshyamsinghji Sahib, the former Maharaja of Dhrangadhra, on the establishment of the United State of Kathiawar (Saurashtra) in 1948, was installed as Uprajpramukh (Deputy Rajpramukh) and he served as Acting Rajpramukh during the absence of the Rajpramukh.
  • Mysore had its last Maharaja, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar Bahadur (b. 1919 -d. 1974) as Rajpramukh. He continued as Governor from 1 November 1956 to 4 May 1964. He held office as Governor of Tamil Nadu (then known as Madras State) from 4 May 1964 to 26 June 1966.
  • Travancore-Cochin state had the last Maharaja of Travancore, Sir Bala Rama Varma II (b. 1912 -d. 1991) as Rajpramukh from 1 Jul 1949 - 31 Oct 1956.
  • Madhya Bharat had the last Maharaja of Gwalior, Sir George Jivaji Rao Scindia (b. 1916 -d. 1961) as Rajpramukh from 28 May 1948 to 31st Oct 1956.
  • Rajasthan had two Rajpramukhs, Sir Bhim Singh II (b. 1909 -d. 1991), the former Maharao of Kota, from 25 March 1948 to 18 April 1948 and Sir Bhopal Singh (b. 1884 -d. 1955), the former Maharaja of Udaipur, from 18 April 1948 - 1 April 1949. The latter continued with the designation of Maha Rajpramukh from 1 April 1949 to 4 July 1955. The Maharana of Udaipur was appointed as Rajpramukh and Kota Naresh was appointed as Up- Rajpramukh of Union of many former princely states of Rajasthan, and subsequently Maharana Bhupal Singh of Udaipur was appointed as the Maha-Rajpramukh and the Kota Naresh was appointed as the Up- Rajpramukh.
  • Vindhya Pradesh had Martand Singh (b. 1923 - d. 1995), the former Maharaja of Rewa, during 1948-49, then passing under the administration of a Chief Commissioner.

After 1956

On November 1, 1956, the States Reorganization Act took effect, which erased the distinction between parts A, B, and C states, and reorganized state boundaries along linguistic lines. Of the Part B states, Rajputana was merged with Ajmer-Merwara state to become Rajasthan; Hyderabad was partitioned among Mysore, Andhra Pradesh, and Bombay state; Saurashtra was merged into Bombay state; Travancore-Cochin was merged with Malabar district to form the new state of Kerala; Madhya Bharat and Vindhya Pradesh were merged into Madhya Pradesh; Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) was merged into Punjab state, and Mysore state was enlarged with the addition of Coorg state and parts of Bombay,Madras and Hyderabad states.

By 1956, the system of voluntary unions of states was dismantled and the position of Rajpramukh abolished. New states were created along linguistic and ethnic lines, which tore apart the traditional ties that existed in the former princely states. As the princely rulers died one by one more time was being taken before their successors were recognized by the Government of India. When they were recognized it was usually after they were persuaded to accept lower privy purses or reductions in privileges. But many influential Maharajahs and Maharanis were not content with being mere nominal title holders enjoying privileges. They started contesting in General elections either Independently or by joining political parties. Growing popularity and success of many of the Indian Royalty in the hustings particularly Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur and Raja Matha of Gwalior, Viajya Raje Sindhia among others was not to the liking of Mrs. Gandhi who had become prime Minister by 1966. By 1969 Indian National congress had split in to Congress (Organization) and Congress(Ruling). Congress (R) was headed by Mrs. Gandhi and to score public support she coined slogans like Garibi Hatao (Stop Poverty) which included promise to abolish Royal order. She de-recognized all the Maharajs by a presidential order in 1969. But this was struck down by the Supreme Court of India. Eventually, the government by the 26Th Amendment to the constitution was successful in abolishing the Princely order. This process was completed by the end of 1971. Though a challenge to this amendment to the constitution was challenged in the Supreme Court, the court neither heard the matter immediately or gave any relief to the Rulers. The case was ultimately decided against the Rulers by as late as in 1993, by which time it had become fait-accompli. They have since only enjoyed their traditional styles and titles on a social basis and adopted them selves well. Former Royaty like Capt. Amarinder singh- Maharaja of Patiala , Maharani Vasundhara Raje Sindhi of Dholpur even rose to post of Chief Minsters of Punjab and Rajasthan respectively till recently. Many others like V.P Singh, Digvijay Singh, Srikanata Datta Narasimha Raja Wadiyar, Late Madahva Rao Sindhia & his son, Arjun Singh, and many others have been active politics and been Prime Minister,Governors, Ministers, MLA's and MP's for some time.

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