Nanda started his career as a research scholar on Labour problems at Allahabad University. He worked there from 1920 to 1921. Besides his academic career, Nanda kept himself updated with the freedom struggle movement. He was an ardent follower of Gandhi.
In 1921, Nanda took up the post of Professor of Economics at the National College in Bombay. Unable to refrain himself from actively participating in the freedom struggle, Nanda joined the Non Cooperation Movement against the British.
From 1922 until 1946, Nanda served as the secretary of the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association. In between, Nanda was twice jailed, once in 1932 for his active participation in Satyagraha and later in 1942 for two years. He was freed after two years in 1944.
Meanwhile, in 1937, Nanda was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly, wherein he served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Labor and Excise to the Government of Bombay for two years until 1939. In this profile, Nanda actively worked for advancement and progress of the city and its governance.
Nanda worked as the Labour Minister of the Bombay Government from 1946 to 1950. During his tenure as Labour Minister, Nanda successfully carried out several important tasks. He directed the Labour Disputes Bill in the state assembly, served as the Trustee of the Kasturba Memorial Trust, took up the post of the secretary of the Hindustan MazdoorSevakSangh (Indian Labor Welfare Organization), and was the Chairman of the Bombay Housing Board.
Nanda became a member of the National Planning Committee. He was instrumental in organising the Indian National Trade Union Congress, and eventually became its president.
As Labour Minister of India, Nanda represented the country at the International Labor Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1947 as a government delegate. Meanwhile, he worked on The Freedom of Association Committee which held various conferences across Europeincluding Sweden, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the UK. During his time at the Committee conference, he studied foreign labour and housing conditions.
In 1950, Nanda became a part of the Planning Commission of India. He was appointed its Vice Chairman. The following year, he was appointed as the Planning Minister. In addition to that, he took charge of the Irrigation and Power portfolio as well.
During the general elections of 1952, Nanda was elected a Lok Sabha member from Bombay. The same year, he was reinstated as the Minister for Planning, Irrigation, and Power. In 1955, Nanda led the Indian Delegation to the Plan Consultative Committee held in Singapore.
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In 1957, Nanda was elected to the Lok Sabha again. He was appointed the Union Minister for Labour, Employment and Planning. Eventually, he was given the post of Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.
In 1959, he once again represented India at the International Labor Conference in Geneva. Furthermore, he also visited the Federal Republic of Germany, Yugoslavia, and Austria.
In 1962, Nanda was re-elected to the Lok Sabha, this time however from the Sabarkantha constituency in Gujarat. The same year, he initiated the Congress Forum for Socialist Action.
Between 1962 and 1963, Nanda served as the Union Minister for Labour and Employment. Later from 1963 until 1966, he served as the Minister for Home Affairs.
While Nanda was serving as the Minister of Home Affairs, India’s then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru died. Nanda was made the Interim Prime Minister and he served in this position for thirteen days before election of the next Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Once again in 1966, when Lal Bahadur Shastri passed away, Gulzarilal Nanda became the Interim Prime Minister of India. He yet again served the position for thirteen days before Indira Gandhi came to power.