Major political developments

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(1945 – 1946)

The political situation in 1945

Second World War:

In Lahore Resolution the ML demanded a separate country, a separate state or homeland for the Muslims of this Sub-Continent and when this Resolution was passed World War 11 was going on which started in September, 1939 and by March, 1940 it was well on way. During this period from 1940 to onward the desire of the British govt was to seek the cooperation of Indian leaders for their war efforts. India being the colony of the British was involved in the 2nd World War because the British were the part of the war.


Now the desire of the British govt was that the major political parties like the Congress and the ML should join hands with the British govt in pursuing the war. The Congress was not willing to cooperate because the Congress had started the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1940-1941 and in 1942 the Congress had launched the QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT that the British should leave from India and power should be handed over to Indian govt which for all practical purposes meant the Congress party.

Various offers:

The British made certain offers in AUGUST 1940 offers and then the Cripps Mission in 1942 these were the two proposals which were designed to seek Indian cooperation by offering them a political future in which they were to play a very vital and very significant role. They were to have dominion status ultimately, a constituent assembly and for that they wanted their cooperation.

Important issues:

Two issues from the British point of view were important by 1945. One issue was the expansion of the Executive Council of the Viceroy and the second issue that cropped up in the early forties was the issue of the Defense Council which the British wanted to set up. These issues were there especially the expansion of the Executive Council and in 1940 LORD WAVEL was appointed Viceroy of India who was earlier commander in chief of the British Indian army and now an x-soldier had been appointed as the viceroy because the British thought that a soldier as viceroy would be more effective. So after becoming the viceroy he came to India, he knew India because he served in India as the chief of the Armed Forces. He entered into negotiations with the Indian leaders both the Congress and the ML and other leaders and in 1945 he decided to summon a conference of Indian leaders at SIMLA in June and July of 1945.

The expansion of Executive Council:

The Viceroy Lord Wavell met with the Indian Congress and ML leaders and the issue was primarily the expansion of the Executive Council against the total backdrop of seeking the Indian cooperation for the war efforts. The basic question before the leaders at Simla was how to provide representation to different communities in the Executive Council. The British govt was inclined to provide equal representation to Muslims and the upper caste Hindus then other Hindu community that is the low caste and also other communities were to given representation which means that Non-Muslims have more representation for understandable reasons because that were more in population.


The major dispute aroused that who would nominate the Muslims to the EC, the ML wanted to nominate all Muslim members because the ML plan was that it is the sole representative of the Muslims, therefore it should have the right to nominate all the Muslim representatives. This claim was contested by the Congress party, it demanded that at least one member for the Muslim seats should be nominated by them, that Congress should also nominate because some Muslims. The argument given by the Congress was that it could not allow ML to nominate all the Muslim members because according to Congress leadership represented all communities all over India and since it also claim to represent Muslims; it should nominate a Muslim member.


The British Indian govt was inclined to provide some representation to the chief minister of Punjab KHIZAR HAYAT KHAN TIWANA, the reason being that India as a whole was involved in war efforts in helping the British govt for the war, but in case of Punjab the govt was extending all support, for example Indian troops were fighting during war as they did in the first World War then there were new recruitments and a large no. of recruitment was done from the provinces especially from the province of Punjab, therefore the British govt was inclined to reward the govt of Punjab but the ML was contesting this issue. The ML argument was that only ML has the right to represent the Muslims.

The British proposal:

The British Indian offered a proposal that these parties the Congress and the ML can submit a list of their members for the EC; the names may be more than the seats allocated to them and then the Viceroy will select them. This kind of arrangement was not possible therefore there was no agreement on the issue of who would nominate the members to the EC especially the Muslim seats. This conference increased the differences between the Congress and the ML on the political issues. If we go back slightly we will find that in 1944 the Congress side and the ML had a dialogue. This was essentially between Mahatma Gandhi and Quaid-e-Azam on the issue of settling the political questions but the problem here was that the ML described the Muslims as a nation and emphasized Pakistan as a separate state as per their demand which Gandhi was not willing to accept and that effort in 1944 die not succeed.

Simla conference 1945:

Now in 1945 at Simla the same problem cropped up, the ML representing the Muslims demanded the right to nominate the Muslim members and it was working against the backdrop of the demand for a separate state for the Muslims, therefore the Simla Conference could not produce the desired results. However the Simla Conference of 1945 made it very clear that the two major political parties the Congress and the ML were going into different directions, their worldview, their vision about the future of India, their thinking about the future constitution and present arrangement were so wide apart that they were finding it difficult to agree on a formula which satisfy the both parties.

After the failure of the Simla Conference to produce an agreement, Lord Wavell who was the Viceroy at that time announced that new elections would be held very soon in India and this is the second part of our lecture.

The Elections of 1945-46:

The Viceroy said the election would be held very soon and he also went to England for consultation and on his return from there he made certain political announcements which pertain to the political future of India and the general elections. The announcements were;

· There will be a self-government with the cooperation of the Indian leaders.

· New elections will held in the winter of 1945-46.

· New provincial govts would be set up in the provinces after the elections.

· A constituent assembly would be established and that CA will settle the bases on which the constitution was to be framed.

· Executive Council would be set up and it would provide representation to all major political parties.

If you look at these proposals, these were in a way extending the political ideas that were being presented by the British from 1940 onward and those were adopted keeping in view the demands of the Indian leaders. For example it was very clearly stated that there will be a self-govt, a govt run by the Indians then the elections which the ML wanted and also constituent assembly and the most important thing was that the bases of the constitution will be settled, how that constitution is to be framed. This provided some support to the ML to present its point of view as the bases of the constitution. Its point of view was that the Muslims wanted a separate state as presented in the 1940 Resolution of the ML.


Background information:

Earlier the provincial elections were held in 1937 and now in 1945-46 new elections were to be held. In these elections ML had 2 major issues to project although they were talking about a lot of other things but everything boiled down to 2 major issues.

  • The ML claimed that it is the sole representative of the Muslims of India; no other party could claim to be the representative of the Indian Muslims.
  • The 2nd issue that was raised in election campaign was that the ML ultimate goal, ultimate objective is the establishment of Pakistan, a separate state for the Muslims of South Asia.

The ML engaged in massive campaigning throughout India whether Muslim majority or Muslim minority provinces. It was a massive campaign primarily on these two issues and in this campaign Muslim students and their organizations like MUSLIM STUDENT FEDERATION played an important role in putting forward the message of the ML. The present and the former students of Aligarh University which had become the main centre of the Muslim education and intellectual development where students were coming from all provinces of India participated very effectively in ML campaigning. Then Muslim students studying in provinces also went to villages, went to different parts of their own province and presented the ML demand that they want Pakistan and it was during this period that the message of the ML went across India to all provinces and in the election campaign the ML raised Islamic slogans like, if you are a Muslim come to ML and that the establishment of Pakistan is the struggle for the rights of the Muslims.

On the other hand the Congress party claimed to represent all Indians irrespective of the religion. It argued that it is the party of all the Indians that was the 1st theme and the 2nd theme was that it talked about an independent and an undivided India, united India and that was the main objective of the Congress. So they were going ahead with two different kinds of agendas.

Now let’s take up the election results we will take up the Central Legislature

Central Legislature Dec, 1945:

It was an indirect election ML won all the 30 Muslim seats, ML was contesting only for the Muslim seats and in these elections it won all 30 Muslim seats. So far as the Congress was concerned it won most of the other seats, it won 57 seats but some seats went to other organizations. In this way in the Central Legislature 2 major political forces emerged the ML which won the Muslim seats and it could now claim to speak for the Muslims. The other major party was the Congress party that won leading seats the largest no. of seats reserved for Non-Muslims.

Provincial Elections Feb, 1946:

Now lets take up the provincial elections which were held in Feb, 1946. As I earlier provincial elections were held in 1937. If you look at the election results at the provincial level what you will find is that the ML won most of the seats at the provincial level. I give you few examples to substantiate the point.

In case of the province of Punjab the Muslim majority province 86 seats were reserved for the Muslims and out of these the ML won 75 seats and 4 members joined the ML later on.

In case of Bengal another Muslim majority province ML obtained 113 seats out of 119 seats reserved for the Muslims.

In province of Sind which came into existence in 1935 before that this was the part of the Bombay province and in 1935 Sind became a separate and distinct province and it was also a Muslim majority province.

In the elections ML won 28 seats out of 35 seats in Sind. In fact another election held in Dec, 1946 in Sind and in that election ML captured all the 35 seats.

In the case of NWFP the ML obtained 17 out of 38 seats and in this province the “KHUDAI KHIDMATGAR” a local political party was the leading party in the elections.


There was an impressive performance by the ML especially when you compare the performance of the ML in 1937 elections where it could not perform well in Muslim majority provinces but here in 1945-46 elections it swept the Muslim seats in the Muslim majority provinces and its performance in Muslim minority provinces for the Muslim seats was equally commendable and impressive that really changed the fate of the ML and after this election the representatives and the democratic credentials of the ML became strong. It could be now claimed to be the representative and spokesman for the Muslims of South Asia because it captured most of the Muslim seats in provinces as well as at the federal level.


Now look at the ministry formation in the provinces

In case of Sind ML ministry was installed.

In the case of NWFP here Khudai Khidmatgar formed the ministry with the support of the Congress party and Dr. Abdul Sattar Khan became the chief minister.

In the case of Bengal the ML formed a coalition ministry.

In Punjab another Muslim majority province the ML had captured the largest no. of seats in the assembly but it did not have a very clear majority although its leadership claimed that it had one more support.

However, the Unionist party the AKALIS joined together to form a govt in Punjab under the leadership of KHIZAR HAYAT TIWANA who was the chief minister of Punjab before the elections but here again he became the chief minister of Punjab. It was a coalition govt of the Unionist Party. However, the ML had shown its credentials and another impressive performance by the ML was shown when it held a convention of its Elected Members in Delhi in April, 1946. In April 1946 all the elected members of the ML whether they were elected to the central assembly or elected to the any provincial assembly gathered in Delhi and held their convention.

In this Delhi Convention they reiterated their support for the demand of Pakistan that they need a separate state of Pakistan for themselves. This was their demand since 1940.

They also agreed they would resist any attempt to impose a constitution which is against their will and they would like to have a separate constituent assembly that would form the constitution for Pakistan.

In this convention it was also very clearly stated that they want a state rather than the use of the word states. In the case of the LR the word states was used but here in this convention of ML representatives they have a new Resolution approved and that Resolution talk of the establishment of a separate state for the Muslims of Northwest of India where Muslim majority provinces were there and also Bengal where Muslims were in majority. So in a way they were clearly stating their objective in that Resolution and this Resolution was moved by Hssain Shaheed Suhrawardy who ultimately became the PM of Pakistan in the post independent period.

The Cabinet Mission Plan, 1946:


This Mission came to India in March, 1946; it was another attempt on the part of the British govt to create a political framework within which the future political and constitutional set up of India would be based. The kind of institutions that were to be created, so for that purpose for consultation with the Indian leaders they were here for consultation and seek their opinion. This Cabinet Mission comprised of 3 people

  • Pethick Lawrence who was secretary of India at that time
  • Stafford Cripps came back again
  • A V Alexander was the third member of the Cabinet Mission plan

And these were the members of Cabinet status who came to India for consultation with the Indian leaders and then in May 1946 they presented their recommendations or proposals which are important to understand to know the political situation in 1945 and also the British thinking about the constitution of India.


The proposals are given as under:

An Indian union:

1. Its 1st recommendation was that there should be an Indian union which means Indian federation, A union that would consist of provinces and princely states and both will be part of the union which would be created under the Cabinet Mission proposals.

Domain of the center:

2. In case of the centre the Cabinet Mission recommended that centre will have certain functions and centre will deal with Foreign Affairs, Defense, Communication and Taxation. These areas would be exclusive domain of the Centre.


3. The rest of the areas would be handed over to the provinces.

Legislation and executive:

4. There will be a Legislature and executive comprising representatives of provinces and princely states, in other words it was a representative legislature.


5. No legislation on communal affairs will be made if the majority of the two communities are not present in the assembly and they don’t vote in favour that particular proposal or law, which means that if something, is before the legislature and both communities have to have majority of their members and that majority must vote in favour for such a resolution or law. This was a kind of a safeguard especially for the minority communities.

Grouping of the provinces:

6. The 6th recommendation pertains to the grouping of the provinces which was the most significant and innovative proposal made by the Cabinet Mission, it divided the groups of the provinces into 3 units.

Hindu majority provinces

Muslim majority areas in Northwest

Bengal and Assam

Pakistan in 1947:

And if you look at the establishment of Pakistan in 1947 you will find that most of the areas of group B and group C become Pakistan.

7th management:

The 7th major recommendation of the Cabinet Mission Plan was that each of the 3 groups could decide what to be managed jointly and what should be managed by provinces themselves It was a decision which the provinces have to made. They could decide if the group desired to frame constitution.

Review of relationship:

After ten years, a province by a vote of its legislature could ask for review of relationship with the Union. It implied that a group or province could quit the Indian Union.

Three categories:

CA to be elected by the elected members of the provincial assemblies. Seats to be divided into three categories: General, Muslim, and Sikh on the basis of population in provinces.

Separate Electorate.

Interim Government:

Interim Government to be set up under the Cabinet Mission Plan that will see that steps for implementation of other recommendation are taken.

Reaction of the political parties:

Muslim League Reaction:

The ML was not fully satisfied with all the recommendations however the idea of grouping of the provinces and then the option to review the relationship with the union gave a hope for the realization of the Pakistan goal that is they can review the relationship and have option to quit the Indian union. So this was something which was acceptable under the given circumstances a long with reservations by the ML which accordingly accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan with the reservations and assertions that with the ultimate goal is Pakistan.

Congress Reaction:

So far as the Congress was concerned it was critical of grouping the 3 groups that the British had proposed in this Mission and also the right of the provinces to ask for the review of the constitutional relationship because they felt that some of the provinces or groups may opt out of the union and that was not desirable to Congress which wanted united India and which was not in favour of a separate homeland for the Muslims of this Sub-Continent. However the Congress agreed to become part of the process of the election but t argued that it would go into the Constituent assemblies without reservations and once it is in the constituent assemblies it could frame any constitution it could discard any provision of the Mission. It was free to do anything it wished. This is what which alarmed the ML which means that if the Congress goes into the constituent assembly it could do away with the groupings, it could do away with the option of review, so the Congress response perturbed the ML.


However, they began to work on setting up of the interim govt and in case of interim govt negations started with the two political parties. The Congress was not willing to join the interim govt as the Congress was not willing the British govt idea which again was something going back on the commitment of the Congress and the ML. The ML also decided to withdraw its approval of the Cabinet Mission Plan on the plea that the Congress acceptance with conditions created a different situation and also the question of the postponement of the Cabinet Mission and the interim govt.

The new negotiations were started and then in August these negotiations went on and in September the Congress set up an interim govt. Initially, ML stayed out of the interim govt. however, they realized that this will create problems for them therefore they decided to become part of the interim govt. By the end of the October 1946 both the Congress and the ML were the parts of the interim govt.


Yamna Azhar said...

Thankyouu so much for such an amazing article, it must have been hard for you xD But seriously, it helped alottt. CHEERS

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