General Elections of 1937 & Provincial Congress Ministries

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  • As per provision of Government of India act 1935, general elections were held in India in 1937 and in these elections, Congress was remarkably successful.
  • Out of total 11 provinces, Congress won majority in 6 provinces. (North West Province, Bengal, Orissa, Central Province, Bombay, Madras) in North West Frontier Province & Assam Congress emerged as big party.
  • In these two provinces, Congress succeeded in forming coaliton government in this way, Congress came into power in 8 provinces. The Unionist party won majority in Punjab under leadership of Sikander Hayat Khan.
  • In Bengal, the Krishak Praja Party of Fazal-ul-Haq formed the government.
  • In Sind, the united Sindh party of Allah Baksh win majority.
  • While Congress was highly successful in this league Muslim League was miserable failure in this election.
  • The league could win only 44% of total Muslim votes.
  • It couldn’t form government in any of provinces.
  • In Bihar, Odisha, CP & Sindh the league couldn’t open even its account.
  • The markable success of Congress & miserable failure of Muslim League marked beginning of new phase of divergence politics of India.
  • While Congress got busy in provincial government, the Muslim League started blowing siren of divisive politics revolving around radical polarization along religious line.
  • Congress Provincial Minister remained in power just for short period of 27 months, but within this, these ministries set example 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 provincial government in 1932 through public safety laws.
  • Radical nationalist organization viz Hindustan Seva Dal & Youth league were allowed to fun. The ban imposed by government on these organizations earlier was lifted.
  • Political prisoner arrested during Civil Disobedience Movement were released.
  • The press equipment seized by government for indulging national act was returned.
  • Security amount collected was returned back.
  • The power of police were cut, CID were not allow to shadow the political workers, so that 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 in form forced gift (Nazrana) & free labor (Beggar) were abolished.
  • In this way, Congress ministries tried to transform complete agrarian structure prevailing in India.
  • The land constricted from peasants during Civil Disobedience Movement, were returned to their original owner.
  • Bombay Government liberated more than 40,000 agricultural labors tied to land. Their condition very much similar to that of serf. (Agricultural Slave).
  • Returns of forest dwellers were also restored. Grassing fee charged in forest was abolished.
  • While record of most Communist Party Marxist was unblamist but the Madras government detained & prosecuted Yusuf Meherll Ali a prominent social leader for making inflammatory speeches in July 1937.
  • In Oct 37, another socialist leader of Congress S.S. Batliwala was prosecuted by Madras government for making sedious speech. These actions were against well-known Congress position that nobody should be prosecuted for making sedious speech & least of all speech against colonial rule.


August Offer

  • August Offer was announced by British government to consolidate Indian Nationalist so that full Indian support should be ensured during war.
  • With commencement of World War-II on 1st Sept 1939, a situation of political deadlock had developed in India because India was declared to 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 British.
  • As a result of that Congress ordered to resign his provincial ministries to protest.
  • In July 1940, the battle of Britain commenced the British main land came under severe German attack & during this arc of crisis, British government felt need of full of Indian support.
  • To ensure full Indian support for British war efforts Lord Linlithgow, the governor general of India made an announcement on behalf of British government on 8th August, popularly known as August Offer.


Provisions of August Offer

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


Critical Examination of August Offer & Indian Reaction

  • Provision of August offer was nowhere close to demands of Indian Nationalist.
  • Congress was demanding complete India but there was no trace of Complete India in provision of August offer.
  • Gandhiji rejected August Offer & commented that this declaration has further widened the gulf between Indians & British.
  • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru commented that idea of dominion status was as dead as doornail.
  • Congress decided to launch individual Satyagraha to oppose “August offer”.
  • Congress didn’t want to create difficulties to British when empire was fighting for his existence against Germany.
  • Acharya Vinoba Bhave was first who offered individual Satyagraha & Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was second.


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