General Elections of 1937 & Provincial Congress Ministries

As per the provision of the Government of India act 1935, general provincial elections were held in India in 1937, and in these elections, Congress was remarkably successful. Out of the total 11 provinces, Congress won the majority in 6 provinces. (North West Province, Bengal, Orissa, Central Province, Bombay, Madras) in northwest Frontier Province & Assam Congress emerged as a big party.

Result of Provincial Elections

Results of Provincial Elections result 1937
Results of Provincial Elections result in 1937

In these two provinces, Congress succeeded in forming a coalition government in this way, Congress came into power in 8 provinces. The Unionist party won a majority in Punjab under the leadership of Sikander Hayat Khan. In Bengal, the Krishak Praja Party of Fazal-ul-Haq formed the government.

In Sindh, the united Sindh party of Allah Baksh win the majority. While Congress was highly successful in this league Muslim League was a miserable failure in this election. The league could win only 44% of total Muslim votes. It couldn’t form government in any of the provinces. In Bihar, Odisha, Central Province & Sindh the league couldn’t open even its account.

The markable success of Congress & the miserable failure of the Muslim League marked the beginning of a new phase of divergence politics of India. While Congress got busy in the provincial government, the Muslim League started blowing siren of divisive politics revolving around radical polarization along religious lines. Congress Provincial Minister remained in power just for a short period of 27 months, but within this, these ministries set examples through their commitment & character.

Congress ministers lived a very simple life untouched by the evil effects of power. The ministers reduced their salary from Rs 2000/- to 500/- month. They were easily accessible to common people. Congress ministries abolished the special emergency power acquired by the provincial government in 1932 through public safety laws. Radical nationalist organization viz Hindustan Seva Dal & Youth league were allowed to the fun. The ban imposed by the government on these organizations earlier was lifted.

Political prisoners arrested during the Civil Disobedience Movement were released. The press equipment seized by the government for indulging the national act was returned. The security amount collected was returned. The power of police was cut, CID was not allowed to shadow the political workers so that a political party can work freely. UP Tenancy Act Oct 1939 provided the occupancy returns to tenants. It was provided that rent of here datary tenants could change only after 10 years. Tenants could no longer arrest for non-payment of Tenants.

All illegal exaction from Peasant by Landlords inform forced gift (Nazrana) & free labor (Beggar) were abolished. In this way, Congress ministries tried to transform the complete agrarian structure prevailing in India. The land constricted from peasants during the Civil Disobedience Movement was returned to their original owner. Bombay Government liberated more than 40,000 agricultural laborers tied to the land. Their condition was very much similar to that of a serf. (Agricultural Slave).

Returns of forest dwellers were also restored. The grassing fee charged in the forest was abolished. On Oct 37, another socialist leader of Congress S.S. Batliwala was prosecuted by Madras’ government for making a seditious speech. These actions were against a well-known Congress position that nobody should be prosecuted for making seditious speech & least of all speech against colonial rule.

August Offer

August Offer was announced by the British government to consolidate Indian Nationalists so that full Indian support should be ensured during the war. With the commencement of World War-II on 1st Sept 1939, a situation of political deadlock had developed in India because India was declared to the party to war without consulting Indian National Leaders.

Indian Leaders were not against supporting Britain in World War-II but they wanted that Indians should be consulted while taking any decision on behalf of India. This Indian aspiration was not appreciated by the British. As a result that Congress ordered to resign his provincial ministries to protest.

Lord Lithingrow
Lord Lithingrow

In July 1940, the battle of Britain commenced the British mainland came under severe German attack & during this arc of crisis, the British government felt the need for full Indian support. To ensure full Indian support for British war efforts Lord Linlithgow, the governor-general of India made an announcement on behalf of the British government on 8th August, popularly known as August Offer.

Provisions of August Offer

The governor general’s executive council would be immediately expanded by including more number of Indians in it. A war advisory council was set up immediately. The interest of minorities will be safeguarded & minority opinion will be given full weight. The subject to fulfillment of British responsibility related to defense, foreign affairs treaties with native states & position on foreign Indian services farming new constitution shall primarily be carried out by Indians themselves.

After the end of the war, steps will be taken to set up a constitution assembly charged with the task of farming a new constitution for India. In the meantime, when war was going on full Indian support was sought for British war efforts.

Critical Examination of August Offer & Indian Reaction

Mahatma Gandhi on August offer
Mahatma Gandhi on August offer

The provision of August’s offer was nowhere close to the demands of Indian Nationalists. Congress was demanding complete India but there was no trace of Complete India in the provision of the August offer. Gandhiji rejected August Offer & commented that this declaration has further widened the gulf between Indians & the British.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru commented that the idea of dominion status was as dead as doornail. Congress decided to launch individual Satyagraha to oppose the “August offer.” Congress didn’t want to create difficulties for the British when the empire was fighting for his existence against Germany. Acharya Vinoba Bhave was the first who offered individual Satyagraha & Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was second.

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