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Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer and the American Model

Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, popularly known as Sir CP or simply CP was an able lawyer, efficient administrator and shrewd politician. He was the Dewan of Travancore princely state from 1936 to 1947. Under his Dewanship, Travancore became:

  • the first princely state to abolish capital punishment

  • the first princely state to introduce free and compulsory education

  • the first princely state to introduce universal adult franchise

  • the first princely state to be connected to the rest of India by air.

It was with the support and initiation of Sir C.P that Sri Chithirathirunal Ramavarma, the Maharaja of Travancore issued the famous Temple Entry Proclamation on November 12, 1936, which gave Hindus of all castes and classes, including Harijans or untouchables, the right to enter Hindu temples in the state.

He was the first person in India to suggest a plan for interlinking the rivers in the country and is also credited with the establishment of several hydro-electric projects. He established the Pallivasal Hydro electric power project on the Periyar River and initiated the Pechipara Hydro-electric scheme and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary Project.

In 1940 under his Dewanship, Travancore became the first state to nationalize road transport in India. The first cement highway in India between Trivandrum and Kanyakumari covering a distance of 88 Kms was constructed during his tenure. He also carried out a great deal of pioneering work for the Vivekananda Rock at Kanyakumari.

It was he who started the University of Travancore (present University of Kerala) in 1937 with the Maharaja Sri Chithira Thirunal as the Chancellor and himself as the Vice Chancellor. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Travancore in 1939.

He was the first to introduce the mid-day meal scheme in the form of the Vanchi Poor Fund in Travancore to encourage poor children to attend school.

He appointed Mrs. Anna Chandy as the first District Judge who later became the first Indian woman High court Judge.

He established the Travancore Bank which became the State Bank of Travancore. It was during his time that Travancore made rapid progress in industrial development; He invited the Indian Aluminium Company to set up its first plant in Alwaye to manufacture aluminum cables. He established the Fertilizers and Chemicals of Travancore, the first plant in India with American collaboration. He also established the Travancore Cement Co., the Travancore Titanium Co. and the Travancore eRayons Limited. The state revenue increased four-fold during his tenure as Dewan.

But he became unpopular among the public in Travancore due to his changing attitude and policies. Sir CP determined to implement the American Model Reforms and support the cause of an independent Travancore. In October 1946, a mass uprising broke out in Punnapra and Vayalar regions of Alleppy in reaction to Ramaswami Iyer’s speeches for the creation of an ‘American Model’ of executive in Travancore. But he ruthlessly suppressed the revolt which had made far reaching changes in the history of Kerala.

American Model

On the eve of transfer of power at the center, Ramaswamy Aiyar tried to introduce substantial changes in the constitution of Travancore in January 1947. The very nature of the government was to be changed by the reform. It was conceived “as a constitution based upon a non-removal executive, on the monarchical system and on the theory that the "Ruler should not be the target of controversy”.

The new Act introduced adult suffrage and on the basis of this franchise the maximum strength of the Assembly was fixed at one hundred and fifty five. The members were to be elected form territorial constituencies consisting of about 13000 to 15000 voters. All members of the House were to be elected. Though officials were given the right to participate in the deliberations of the House, there were denied voting right. The Upper House represented various professions and interest groups. The administration was to be carried out not by ministers but by six committees constituted for that purpose, from among members of the two Houses. Most of the powers and functions of the government “with very small exceptions”, were invested with these committees. The committees represented the Legislature and the decisions of the Legislature were to be implemented by the committees. i.e. the Executive. The Legislature had no power to change the Executive once it was constituted.

The powers of the Dewan remained intact and his authority, as the head of the Executive was supreme. He was responsible only to the Maharaja, who had the right of appoint and remove him from office.

The Dewan, C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, came to the conclusion that at this juncture the path of prudence, the path of safety, the path of realization is the path of "independence of Travancore”. His learned view was that responsible government of the Westminster model was not suitable to the conditions of Travancore.

The political parties in Travancore rejected the new condition. They dubbed it as ‘American Model’ and started agitation for its withdrawal. The new proposal was intended to sabotage the struggle for responsible government and to ensure the continuance Dewan’s autocracy in the State. But it was soon revealed that it was strongly anti-nationalist also. The Dewan said that if a Muslim majority nation of Pakistan was to be created, India would get fragmented and Tiruvitamkur should also be an independent entity. On the creation of Pakistan, later , he even sent his government’s envoy to Karachi as the Ambassador of Independent Thiruvitamkur.

Reactions to American Model

In the early stages, all the political parties were unanimous in rejecting the proposals. But the State Congress leadership was totally opposed to the idea of mass protests and direct actions against these proposals. The opinion of the State Congress was that the new constitutional proposals should be given a chance of trial before they are rejected outright.

But the Communist Party and its politically conscious unions especially of Ambalppuzha, Cherthala taluks had no doubts about how to react to this proposal. They rejected the proposals outright and “American Model Arabikkadalil” became the leading slogan of the period.

On June 3, 1947, British government accepted the demands for a partition of India and the Princely States were given two options of whether staying independent or merging with the dominions of India or Pakistan. Supported by the Dewan, Maharaja Sri Chithira Thirunal issued a declaration of Independence on June 18, 1947. As Travancore's declaration on Independence was unacceptable to India, negotiations were started with the Dewan. A favourable agreement had been reached between the Dewan and the Indian Union representatives by July 23, 1947. Accession to the Indian Union could not be carried out because it was pending for approval by the Maharaja of Travancore. But an assassination attempt was made on Dewan on July 25, 1947 during a concert commemorating the anniversary of Swathi Thirunal, dewan survived with multiple stab wounds and hastened the accession of Travancore to the Indian Union soon after his recovery. He resigned as Dewan of Travancore and went to London in 1948.



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