Categories Modern IndiaPost Independent India



Privy Purse In India

  • In India, the Privy Purse was a payment made to the royal families of erstwhile princely states as part of their agreements to first integrate with India in 1947, and later to merge their states in 1949 whereby they lost all ruling rights. The Privy Purse was continued to the royal families until the 26th Constitutional Amendment of 1971, by which all their privileges and allowances from the Central Government would cease to exist, was implemented after a two-year legal battle. In some individual cases however privy purses were continued for life for individuals who had held ruling powers before 1947.
  • The Instruments of Accession needed the states to only cede defence, communications and foreign relations to India. Democratic institutions were introduced in these states and it was only in 1949 that they were fully merged with India to form new states. Although in 1947 the royal families had been allowed to retain large sums of money as their Privy Purse, in 1949 with the states and its revenues being entirely taken over by the Government of India, it was the Indian Government that provided the rulers and their families with Privy Purses that were determined by several factors such as revenue of the state, gun salute enjoyed, antiquity of the dynasty and so on.


  • The motion to abolish Privy Purses, and the official recognition of the titles, was originally brought before the Parliament in 1969 and was defeated by one vote in the Rajya Sabha (as many princes or pro-princes were members of Rajya Sabha).
  • It was again proposed in 1971, and was successfully passed as the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of India in 1971.Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi argued the case for abolition based on equal rights for all citizens and the need to reduce the government’s revenue deficit.
  • Many erstwhile royals tried to protest the abolition of the Privy Purse, primarily through campaigns to contest seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 1971. They, however, received a rude shock when many of them were defeated by huge margins. This included Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the last and former Nawab of Pataudi, who contested from Gurgaon.

Princes in Politics

  • Although the merger of princely states to the Indian Union after Independence saw the abolition of princes in the Republic of India, many royal scions continue to enjoy their clout even in the democratic set up following victories in elections.
  • After the formation of the state of Rajasthan, the princes, particularly the ruler of Jodhpur, formed the Ram Rajya Parishad and fielded their own candidates who stood in the first ever Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections. But Maharaja of Bikaner Dr Karni Singh did not join the Parishad and contested as an Independent and was elected to Lok Sabha on five consecutive times.
  • After a long lull, it was Jaipur Maharani Gayatri Devi who stirred the hornets by forming the Swatantra Party ( founded by C. Rajagopalachari) after the Ram Rajya Parishad became defunct and garnered support from the erstwhile royals and their nobles. Gayatri Devi’s party broke the monopoly of the Congress and for about 15 years it was a force to reckon with. But the party ultimately lost its sheen because of lack of mass participation and its elite image.
  • Gayatri Devi became an extremely successful politician. Gayatri Devi ran for Parliament in 1962 and won the constituency in the Lok Sabha in the world’s largest landslide, confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records. She continued to hold this seat on 1967 and 1971 from Swatantra Party. She was arrested during emergency.
  • With independence in 1947, the Scindias, along with other royal families, ceased being maharajas. But the deference accorded to former royalty remains. The widow of the last maharaja in Gwalior was the first to become a politician and win a parliamentary seat. Madhav Rao Sindhia and then his son also became active politician. Scindias active today are not on the same side: the family is split between Congress, which controls the national government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • Vijaya Raje Scindhia married to the Maharajah of Gwalior, Jivajirao Scindhia, She entered in politics in 1962 as a debutant on Congress ticket. However after five years she parted ways with Congress and joined Jan Sangh. During the time of Emergency she went to jail.
  • Since the first parliamentary elections in 1951 to 2009 and the 2012 bypoll, the royal family of the Kanak Pal dynasty has won the Tehri Garhwal Lok Sabha seat for the 10th time, with late Maharaja Manvendra Singh winning it record eight times.
  • Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have over a dozen former princes and princesses representing their erstwhile states as legislators and members of Parliament. Recently there has been surge in royal family participating in electoral politics.
  • Though there were many other states with princes playing role in electoral politics, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh clearly dominated.
  • Present examples:
    • Recently there has been surge in royal family participating in electoral politics.
    • Several successful politicians with royal background are active in Indian politics like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh, Chandresh Kumari Katoch (scion of ex-Jodhpur royals), Vasundhara Raje (royal Dholpur family), Captain Amarinder Singh (Patiyala Royal family) etc.
    • Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have over a dozen former princes and princesses representing their erstwhile states as legislators and members of Parliament.
  • We can say that though royal system has been disbanded by Indian constitution, it still exist in the mindset of people who prefer to vote for royal family candidates.



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