Motilal Nehru (6 May 1861 – 6 February 1931) was an Indian lawyer, activist, politician, and the father of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Early Life

He was born on 6 May 1861, in Uttar Pradesh, India. His father, Gangadhar, passed away before he was born. He was raised by his elder brother, Nandalal, who was a lawyer in Allahabad. He grew up in Allahabad but went to school in Kanpur. Following that, he went to Muir Central College in Allahabad and got his BA degree.


In 1883, he passed the Lawyer examination, and started practicing law at Kanpur. He started practicing later in Allahabad, where he made a name for himself among the elite.

Motilal joined Mahatma Gandhi’s noncooperation movement after he saw the massacre of Indians by the British at Amritsar in 1919, giving up his law career and switching to a simpler, non-Anglicized lifestyle.

He launched a newspaper called ‘The Independent’ in 1919 to compete with ‘The Leader’.

Later, he joined the Swaraj Party.

The newly formed Central Legislative Assembly of British India elected him to become the opposition leader in 1923. During his tenure, he postponed various finance bills and other legislation.

He called on the British for a representative conference to draft a constitution giving India full dominion status in March 1926, while he was a member of the assembly. Motilal resigned from the assembly and joined the Congress Party after this request was rejected by the British.

He wrote the Nehru Report, a future constitution for independent India based on dominion status, for the Congress Party in 1928. Whenever the British rejected these proposals, in 1930, he participated in the civil disobedience movement and was jailed. He died soon after being freed.

He also served as president of the Congress party for two terms, 1919 and 1928.


Since he is the patriarch of India’s most powerful political family, the Nehru-Gandhi family, he leaves a huge legacy even today. His family has produced three prime ministers: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi, Varun Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, his great-great-grandchildren are playing key roles in Indian politics today.


He died on 6 February 1931, in Uttar Pradesh, India.

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