PMs’ Red Fort Independence Day Address on 15 August: 1947 To Now
It is the 71st year of Independence. On this day, we achieved Independence from the British, and the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru oversaw the bringing down of the Union Jack that had lorded over the Red Fort in Old Delhi.
The flag of the British colonisers was brought down on 14 August 1947, a day before independence. On 16 August (not 15th), Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the national flag and began his speech in Hindi. Thus began the Independence Day tradition of the Prime Minister addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Capital’s 17th-century monument.
The monument from the Mughal era that was disfigured by the British during the 1857 uprising has come to symbolise the seat of power.
It was significant that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru chose the ramparts of the Red Fort to address the nation a day after India gained her independence.
Down With The Oppressor
As Prime Minister, Nehru delivered 17 speeches from the fort, and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, addressed the nation 16 times.
Her son Rajiv Gandhi did so five times; as did PV Narasimha Rao.
The reluctant Prime Minister of the UPA regime – Manmohan Singh is the only non-Nehru-Gandhi Prime Minister to have addressed the nation from the Red Fort 10 times.
The Non-Congress PMs
Among the non-Congress Prime Ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), did so the most number of times – six.
The remaining Independence Day speeches were made by six men. Congress’ Lal Bahadur Shastri and post-emergency upsetter non-Congessman PM Morarji Desai spoke twice.
Charan Singh, VP Singh and HD Deve Gowda did so only once; as did the Janata Dal’s IK Gujral.
But Gujral, the third PM to be from the Rajya Sabha (the first being Indira Gandhi and the second HD Deve Gowda) had the good fortune to do so on India’s 50th Independence Day.
The Unfortunate Misses
The Prime Ministers who never delivered the Red Fort address were Chandra Shekhar and Gulzari Lal Nanda.
Sadly, the former headed the government for just seven months and the latter was the acting Prime Minister for a total of 28 days. They were not in office when August came around and they never delivered a Red Fort address as a result.
(The article is being published from The Quint's archives on the occasion of Independence Day. It was first published on 14 August 2016. )
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