PATIALA AND EAST PUNJAB STATES UNION, popularly known as PEPSU, formed on 5 May 1948 by merging together of eight East Punjab princely states of Patiala, Jind, Nabha, Kapurthala, Faridkot, Kalsia, Malerkotia and Nalagarh, was formally inaugurated on 15 July 1948 by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Deputy Prime Minister of India. The government of the Union started functioning on 20 August 1948 when Maharaja Yadavinder Singh of Patiala took over as Rajpramukh or governor.

The process of consolidation of the Princely states brought to completion by Sardar Patel had its origin in the integration schemes drawn up by the political department under the British during the War days. But after Independence events took a more drastic turn. Administrative integration envisaged by the British paved the way for political consolidation by the Indian Government of about six hundred odd princely states into bigger and more viable political units, and PEPSU was one of them.

The Union was divided into eight districts of Patiala, Barnala, Bathinda, Fatehgarh Sahib, Sangrur, Kapurthala, Mohindergarh and Kohistan. The first five districts were contiguous to one another and lay mainly in the Malva tract south of the Sutlej, while Kapurthala was located to the north of the river; Mohindergarh was in the southeast on the Rajasthan border, and Kohistan was to the northeast near Himachal Pradesh.

Having a population of 3,493,685 according to the 1951 census, PEPSU was the smallest in that category of the seven Part B States which were former princely states or unions of them, but with an area of 10,119 square miles, it was slightly larger in extent than the smallest Part B state of Travan coreCochin. Its population was spread over 64 towns and 5,708 villages and was divided in the ratio of nineteen per cent urban population (665,510) to eighty-one per cent rural population (2,828,175). PEPSU had a density of 347 per square mile which was higher than that of the East Punjab at 338 and the overall Indian average of 296.

Of the eight princely states constituting the Union, the Rajput state of Nalagarh was the oldest which was founded around AD 1100. The Muslim state of Malerkotia came into existence about the middle of the fifteenth century, its rulers being the scions of Shervani tribe of the Afghans. The Sikh states of Patiala, Jind, Nabha, Kapurthala, Faridkot and Kalsia took birth in the middle of the eighteenth century when Ahmad Shah Durrani`s repeated invasions had weakened the Mughal authority.

The Sikhs then had the opportunity of extending their influence and assuming power as successors to Muslim rule in northern India. However, different in their origin, size and early history, all these states had come under the protection of the British over a period of time. Originally it was contemplated to constitute a union of the Punjab states leaving out Patiala which was considered large enough to stay as a separate unit, but without it the new state would not have been administratively viable. From the point of view of territorial integrity, administrative efficiency and development of agricultural arid other resources, the formation of the union inclusive of Patiala was essential.

Maharaja Yadavinder Singh of Patiala volunteered to work for the formation of a common union. When the covenant forming the Union was signed, he was named Rajpramukh, the equivalent of governor, for life while Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala was made Uparajpramukh or deputy governor for life. Patiala city was chosen to be the capital of the Union and Patiala was the only state specifically included in the name of the new Union. After the Union had been established, the formation of a cabinet to run the administration proved to be a problem that was never adequately solved.

The major claimants to power were the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal (soon to be the PEPSU Pradesh Congress), the Akali Dal championing Sikh interests and the Lok Sevak Sabha organized by Colonel Raghbir Singh, a former police inspector general and revenue minister in Patiala state. An attempt to form a coalition ministry of four Congress, two Lok Sevak Sabha and two Akali members with a neutral Sikh as premier failed to secure the necessary agreement from the various components. Eventually a caretaker government was installed on 20 August 1948 under Sardar Gian Singh Rarewala, a former Patiala official and maternal uncle of Maharaja Yadavinder Singh.

Negotiations to form a representative ministry for PEPSU continued throughout 1948. Gian Singh Rarewala was sworn in as chief minister on 13 January 1949, with colleagues from the Lok Sevak Sabha and Praja Mandal. The new ministry, however, did not last long and was replaced by another caretaker government with Gian Singh Rarewala again as chief minister and Mr Bhide, of the Indian Civil Service, as minister. The first general elections were scheduled for 1952 and the Praja Mandal had in the meanwhile been transformed into PEPSU Pradesh Congress.

Colonel Raghbir Singh and his Lok Sevak Sabha merged with it and he, as a Congressman, became chief minister on 23 May 1951 with old Praja Mandal leader, Brish Bhan, as deputy chief minister. In the 1952 elections, the Congress won 26 out of 60 seats, with 29.22% of the votes while the Akalis took 19 out of 41 seats contested with 23.45% of the votes, the communists, small er parties, and independents dividing the remaining seats. The PEPSU legislative Assembly met for the first time on 16 April 1952 and with it the state embarked on its parliamentary career.

The Congress government formed with the aid of independents however lasted only one day and was replaced on 21 April 1952 by a United Front ministry of Akalis and independents led by Gian Singh Rarewala. This United Front ministry fell in March 1953, giving place to President`s rule. In the 1954 midterm poll the Congress carried the majority, and Colonel Raghbir Singh once again became chief minister. Upon the death of Raghbir Singh in 1955, Brish Bhan took over as chief minister. On 1 November 1956, PEPSU ceased to be a separate entity as it was merged with the larger state of the Punjab which came into being as a result of the Partition of 1947 and recommendations of the States Reorganization Commission set up by the Government of India in 1953.

The new Punjab again came to be subdivided on linguistic basis ten years later with the state of Haryana carved out of it, in addition to Karigra district and some areas of Hoshiarpur district transferred to Himachal Pradesh. PEPSU has been largely subsumed into the post1966 Punjab and constitutes a major portion of its territory. Patiala city is no longer a capital, but it has remained an important educational and cultural centre. Some PEPSU political leaders continued to be prominent in post1956 Punjab politics.

They included Gian Singh Rarewala, who served as a minister in Partap Singh Kairon`s ministry from 1956 to 1962, and Maharaja Yadavinder Singh, who made a brief foray into electoral politics by winning a seat in the Punjab Legislative Assembly as an independent candidate in the 1967 elections. His son. Captain Amarinder Singh, is also a political leader of note. The most conspicuous figure, however, was Giani Zail Singh (1916-94) of Faridkot who acted as the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee for a number of years before becoming chief minister of the Punjab (1972-77). In 1980 he became Home Minister of India; in 1982 he was elected President of India.

References :

1. Ganda Singh, The Patiala and the East Panjab States Union: Historical Background. Patiala, 1951
2. Gursharan Singh, History of Pepsu. Delhi, 1991
3. Khushwant Singh, History of the Sikhs, vol. II. Delhi, 1977
4. Iqbal Narain, ed., State Politics in India. Meerut, n.d.