As flags fly and India’s 2022 Republic Day Parade takes place, it’s interesting to note that the iconic event has an interesting theme behind it – history.

The Indian Army’s marching contingents are one of the annual parade’s biggest highlights. Looking back at the nation’s past, three marching contingents of the Indian Army wore uniforms and held standard-issue rifles from several older decades – a homage to India’s rich and storied past.

Its in the same spirit that we’d like to revisit one of India’s most important governmental legacies – the body of its cabinet ministers. As it came to its full strength towards the end of the 1940s, these men (and one woman) would come to shape the future of a nation that had just tasted freedom, with both harrowing challenges and great triumphs ahead of them.

The cabinet of India on 31 January 1950
The cabinet of India on 31 January 1950. | Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a lowdown on each cabinet member featured in this iconic image, and their greatest contributions to the country:


1. Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru
Image Credit: Public Domain

Portfolio: Prime Minister, Minister of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations, Minister of Scientific Research

Took Office: 15th August 1947

As India’s first prime minister, Nehru needs little introduction. As the man behind this cabinet, his choice of fifteen initial members represented a solid wealth of experience and talent – as well as diversity considering the times.


2. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Sardar Patel
Image Credit: Public Domain

Portfolio: Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs and States, Minister of Information and Broadcasting

Took Office: 15th August 1947

One of the INC’s senior most leaders, Sardar Patel’s tireless efforts to integrate all 565 princely states of India was, quite simply, one of the greatest diplomatic achievements of the 20th century. As the humble son of a farmer, his efforts in social reformation and state consolidation paved the way for a unified, strengthened, independent India.

3. Ranganath Ramachandra Diwakar

R.R. Diwakar
Image Credit:

Portfolio: Minister of Information and Broadcasting

Took Office: 1st April 1949

An intelligent, highly cultured author and politician, R.R. Diwakar’s close relations with Mohandas Gandhi and fondness for Sri Aurobindo made him one of India’s most unique ministers. Writing several books across his lifetime, Diwakar is also one of the most prolific English, Kannada, and Hindi authors of his time.

4. John Mathai

Image Credits: BBC Archives

Portfolio: Minister of Finance, Minister of Railways and Transport

Took Office: 22 September 1948

One of India’s most highly educated economists, Mathai developed a strong wealth of experience pre-independence, as an active government servant, director of Tata Group, and architect of the Bombay Plan. As an independent Indian, he would first head the Railway & Transport ministry, before presenting two budgets and pursuing his academic interests.

5. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar
Image Credits: Public Domain

Portfolio: Minister of Law

Took Office: 15th August 1947

An exemplary Indian on all accounts, B.R. Ambedkar’s legacy still continues today. A champion of social justice and a master of law and economics, he developed a reputation as a staunch critic of India’s elites, constantly advocating against the plague of caste discrimination. Many of these ideas were preserved in brilliantly penned essays that still resonate with Indians decades after they were first published.

6. Sardar Baldev Singh

Sardar Baldev Singh
Image Credit:

Portfolio: Minister of Defence

Took Office: 15th August 1947

One of India’s key partition figures, Baldev Singh was instrumental in both representing Sikh interests during the independence era, as well as handling national security and army relief programs during the horrors of partition.

7. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Abul Kalam Azad
Image Credits: Public Domain

Portfolio: Minister of Education

Took Office: 15th August 1947

An activist, theologian, poet, and accomplished orator, Azad – as he called himself in his writings – was the youngest ever INC president at 35, and a key figure of Hindu-Muslim unity during his time. He was also instrumental in setting up many of the country’s finest universities, and constantly advocated for the education of India’s rural poor and girls.

8. Rajendra Prasad

Rajendra Prasad
Image Credit: NZ Archives

Portfolio: President, Minister of Food and Agriculture

Took Office: 15th August 1947

While most know of Prasad’s career as an activist and as India’s first president, he also handled a key role in Nehru’s first cabinet. As the only president to serve two terms, he consistently advised the cabinet on key matters, established parliamentary guidelines, and served as a diplomat with foreign nations.

9. Jagjivan Ram

Jagjivan Ram
Image Credits:

Portfolio: Minister of Labour

Took Office: 15th August 1947

Known as ‘Babuji’, Ragjivan Ram was the youngest cabinet minister and another key figure in the fight against caste discrimination. Apart from his work as an activist and politician, he played several key ministerial roles – eventually heading India’s defence ministry during the crucial Indo-Pak war of 1971.

10. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur

Amrit Kaur
Image Credits: Public Domain

Portfolio: Minister of Health

Took Office: 15th August 1947

The only woman on the cabinet and also a member of the Kapurthala royal family, Amrit Kaur worked as Gandhi’s secretary for 16 years – becoming a close confidant and key anti-British figure during the Quit India movement. As Health Minister, she fought tirelessly to cull malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases – saving countless lives while setting up the prestigious AIIMS institute in New Delhi.

11. Syama Prasad Mukherjee

Syama Prasad Mukherjee
Image Credits: Public Domain

Portfolio: Minister of Commerce and Industry

Took Office: 15th August 1947

A key politician, barrister, and academic, Mukherjee holds the unique distinction of being the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which eventually became the currently-ruling BJP party. As one of the few ministers who quit Nehru’s cabinet, he strongly opposed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370, along with many other INC policies.

12. Narasimha Gopalaswami Ayyangar

Gopalaswamy Ayyangar
Image Credits:

Portfolio: Minister of Railways and Transport, Rajya Sabha Leader, Kashmir Affairs Representative

Took Office: 15th August, 1947

Part of the drafting committee of India’s Constitution, Ayyangar was a skilled statesman who handled much of the delicate diplomacy involved in Jammu and Kashmir – he was the state’s PM for over half a decade pre-independance. After 1947, he made great strides in streamlining, reorganizing, and upgrading the structure of India’s railways and government committees.

13. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai

Rafi Ahmed Kidwai
Image Credits: Public Domain

Portfolio: Minister of Communications

Took Office: 15th August 1947

One of the Indian independence movement’s greatest socialist leaders, Kidwai was a major follower of Nehru’s philosophies, and successfully guided India through everything from agricultural reforms to the widespread adoption of telephonic services in the nation.

14. Narhar Vishnu Gadgil

Narhar Vishnu Gadgil
Image Credits: Public Domain

Portfolio: Minister of Works, Mines, and Power

Took Office: 15th August 1947

Jailed eight times by the British during the independence era, Gadgil is one of the most important Marathi representatives in India’s early governance. A skilled writer and statesman, he set forth immense development projects that established new roads and dams, while writing works on politics, economics, law, and history.

15. Jairamdas Daulatram

Portfolio: Minister of Agriculture

Took Office: 19th January 1948

Well-known as a skilled arbitrator and often the bridge between the INC’s opposing ideological ends, Daulatram was key as Gandhi’s right-hand man during several independence movements. A major representative of India’s Sindhi community, he also was responsible for creating the legendary Assam Rifles regiment as the state’s governor.

16. Kshitish Chandra Neogy

Portfolio: Minister of Relief and Rehabilitation

Took Office: 15th August 1947

A bridge between the United Nations Commision and India’s government, Neogy held several important posts in his career – from key posts in the Railways to heading the Commerce and Industry Ministry in Nehru’s second cabinet.

17. Mohanlal Saxena

Portfolio: Minister of Rehabilitation, Minister without portfolio

Took Office: 15th August 1947

An Indian author and politician hailing from Uttar PRadesh, Saxena held several important positions throughout his career – working with the Legislative Council as well as both Parliamentary houses.

(Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)