Rafi Ahmed Kidwai was the first communication minister of India. He was a politician, an Indian Independence activist, and a socialist.
Early Life and Family
Rafi Ahmed was born on 18 February 1894 in the village of Masauli, in Barabanki(Now in Uttar Pradesh). Rafi had four younger brothers, including Shafi, who was married to the communist activist and writer Anis Kidwai, a Rajya Sabha member. They were the grandparents of Ayesha Kidwai, a communist and feminist ideologue active in politics at JNU, and of Seema Mustafa, a journalist.
The son of another brother, Mehfooz Ahmad, is Fareed Kidwai, a member of the Samajwadi Party and a former Minister of State in the Uttar Pradesh government.
After attending Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh, he entered politics through the Khilafat Movement.
In the election of 1926, he was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly as a Swaraj party candidate from Oudh. He became the Chief Whip of the Swaraj Party in the Assembly. Kidwai’s political vision helped maintain unity in the party on controversial issues.
In 1929, Kidwai was elected the Secretary of the Swaraj Party in the Assembly. He had utmost loyalty towards Moti Lal Nehru.
In January 1940, Kidwai resigned from the Central Legislative Assembly in response to the Purna Swaraj resolution by the Congress Working Committee and jumped into the Civil Disobedience Movement.
After the passage of the Government of India Act 1935, he held an office for the Indian National Congress.
In 1937, Kidwai became a minister for Revenue and Prisons in Govind Ballabh Pant’s cabinet in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh (UP) under the Provincial Autonomy Scheme. Under his stewardship, UP became the first province to curtail the zamindari system. In April 1946, he became the Home Minister of UP.
Kidwai was a major partner of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.
After India gained independence from the British Raj in 1947, Kidwai became India’s first Minister for Communications.
After the first general elections in 1952, Mr.Kidwai was elected from Bahraich. Nehru entrusted Kidwai with the portfolio of Food and Agriculture at a time when there was food rationing in the country.
Kidwai died in Delhi on 24 October 1954. He had heart failure after experiencing an attack of asthma while delivering a speech. His burial site, at his home village, was covered by a Mughal-style mausoleum.
According to historian Paul Brass, “A formidable fund-raiser for Congress movements and elections, he distributed his largesse to all and sundry, but died in debt, leaving behind only a decaying house in his home village.”
The Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award was created in 1956 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to recognize Indian researchers in the agricultural field. Awards are distributed every second year and take the form of medals, citations, and cash prizes.
In November 2011, the Postal Staff College in Ghaziabad was named the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai National Postal Academy. There is also a street named after him in Kolkata, statues in Indira Nagar, Mumbai, Lucknow and Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi, and the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Inter College in Hardoi district.
The Parliament of India has a portrait of Kidwai in a Committee Room.
Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology is named after him. He played a major role in donating 20 acres of the campus land and Rs. 100,000 for the radiotherapy machine.