After training in Lahore, Agra and Allahabad, he became in 1920 assistant at the University of Allahabad, and from 1921 Professor of Economics at the National College in Bombay. From 1922 to 1946 he worked for the Textile Workers Union of Ahmedabad. Due to these activities and in connection with the policy of Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi Nanda was arrested in 1932 and 1942 to 1944.
In 1937 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Bombay and held until 1939, the Office of the Minister for Labour and Excise. In 1950 he became Vice - Chairman of the National Development Commission and in September 1951 Development Minister in the Government of India and was entrusted with the supervision of the policy for land irrigation and power supply. 1957 Nanda was elected to the Lok Sabha and was appointed Federal Minister for Labour, employment and development. 1963 to 1966 he took the post of Minister of Interior.
After the death of Jawaharlal Nehru Nanda was sworn in on 27 May 1964 as a temporary prime minister of India. On June 9, Lal Bahadur Shastri took over this office. After the sudden death of Shastri on January 11, 1966 Nanda took over again until January 24, temporarily the office until he was replaced by Indira Gandhi.
He was a supporter of the principles of Gandhi and in 1997 received the Order of Bharat Ratna.