Swaraj Bhawan: the political hub of Congress



Swaraj Bhavan, the nerve center of India’s freedom struggle and the residence in Allahabad where the Jawaharlal Nehru made key decisions against the British Raj, is expected to be abuzz with political activity in November.

According to Uttar Pradesh (UP) Congress spokesperson Kishor Varshney, party leader Sonia Gandhi will dedicate Swaraj Bhavan’s hall to the nation, where former prime minister Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917. Exactly what a dedication to the nation entails is not known.

The bedroom is next to a suite that members of the Gandhi family use when staying at Swaraj Bhavan. Vice President of Congress Rahul Gandhi stayed in the suite on September 14, when he spent the night at Swaraj Bhavan as part of his kisan yatra. On September 15, he toured the neighborhoods of Allahabad.

Kishor added that the anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s birth will also mark the official launch of the big old party’s campaign for the UP Assembly polls next year.

Sources said Swaraj Bhavan would likely become the campaign seat for the high-stakes UP polls as Congress seeks to invoke the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

Although Nehru was not born in Swaraj Bhavan, he lived there and was trained as a lawyer by his father Motilal Nehru.

Rahul and his sister Priyanka Vadra will also be present on the occasion as Congress plans to organize celebrations for the centenary of Indira Gandhi’s birth across the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party is waiting for the real estate supply to hit the political market – it hopes it can capitalize on the theme of the family-led Congress party in the upcoming assembly elections.

Sheila Dikshit, Delhi‘s three-term former chief minister and candidate for the post of chief minister for UP polls, is leading a panel that will oversee the implementation of the celebrations for the centenary of Indira Gandhi’s birth.

Party veterans have fond memories of the house. “Swaraj Bhavan was the seat of Congress during the independence movement. The Congress Working Committee met there. Mahatma Gandhi stayed there,” Anil Shastri, son of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, told Business Standard.

In 1900 Jawaharlal Nehru’s father bought the lavish estate at 1 Church Road in Kanwar Parmananda of Moradabad for Rs 19,000. Before that, the famous educator Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who later founded the Muslim University of Moradabad. Aligarh, owned the house and named it Ishrat Manzil.

Motilal renovated the sprawling property over a decade on the model of a British country estate and furnished it with household items purchased on his several trips to Europe. He named the house Anand Bhavan, the abode of happiness.

In 1930, Motilal donated the original mansion to the Indian National Congress, which spearheaded the freedom movement and renamed it Swaraj Bhavan. He built another house adjacent to the original mansion and named it Anand Bhavan.

Gradually, Swaraj Bhavan became the hub of national politics, where pillars of Congress like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and Subash Chandra Bose hotly debated ways to liberate the country from the British.

In 1970, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi donated Anand Bhavan to the nation. The building now houses a museum and the Jawahar Planetarium. Swaraj Bhavan is managed by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund.

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