CMP- Another take

Another take on the Cabinet Mission Plan for India's Constitutional question
The zenith of Muslim League's rising power over India occured during the period that the Cabinet Mission Plan(CMP) was being discussed in mid-1946, courtesy the British; when the British offered the Muslim League not only a separate constitution for Pakistan but also equality for a virtually sovereign Pakistan with Hindustan in the Indian Union's central executive and legislature.

By Jinnah's own demand, under the CMP, the Pakistan constitution would be virtually sovereign and the combined Indian Union constitution of Hindustan and Pakistan would not be allowed even to incorporate fundamental rights or currency or trade or credit policy.  Nor would the Union Constituent Assembly be able to influence the Pakistan constitution in any way.
The  subjects dealt with at the Union level would be only three-foreign affairs, defence and communications dealing with defence.

The British initially offered to give Jinnah equality of representation in the  Union Constituent Assembly and the  Union legislature between a Pakistani state of 90 million and a Hindustani state of 190 million but Congress objections expressed by Azad and Gandhi caused them to change that offer.  Hence, instead of equality, the Cabinet Mission Plan offered Muslims a communal veto over the contents of the Union Constitution (which Congress accepted) and a similar communal veto on the affairs of the future Union executive and legislature (which Congress initially rejected).

In addition, in the CMP, the British insisted on compulsory grouping of provinces, which meant that the Pakistan group, a virtually sovereign state with its own constitution, legislature, currency and its own army too (if Jinnah got his demand on that point),  would have its borders on the N. Delhi outskirts. 

The Muslim League (ML) in June 1946 in a resolution suggested by the British themselves, declared that they were accepting the CMP because the compulsory grouping scheme provided an inherent basis for a wholly sovereign Pakistan and that Muslims would fight to the last until they achieved a wholly sovereign Pakistan.

Thus under the united India of the CMP, New Delhi would have had nothing to do with adjacent areas of Haryana or most points north except in matters of foreign policy and defence. After Muslims had achieved their declared goal of a wholly independent sovereign Pakistan in the intervening years, the Indo-Pak international border today would be on N.Delhi outskirts. 

The Muslim League accepted the CMP with the condition that it would continue to work for a completely sovereign Pakistan. Congress accepted the CMP with the condition that it would adhere to its own interpretation of grouping of provinces which was that no province could be compelled to join a group and submit itself to the constitution written by that group. In his famous press conference for which he is berated even today, Nehru was only stating again what Congress resolutions and Azad's own letters to the Delegation/Viceroy had already stated on this.

Jinnah was unhappy not to get parity of Pakistan and Hindustan in the Union Constituent Assembly and if he yielded to the Congress position on compulsory grouping, he would most likely also not get separate constitution-making bodies and hence, nor a separate Pakistan constitution. Meanwhile, the Viceroy was also refusing to hand over the interim national government to the Muslim League on the League's terms because it was politically risky for Labour Prime Minister Attlee to suppress the Congress [CMP(12C)](Churchill who had lost the elections in 1945 would have had no such scruples).

So Jinnah withdrew his acceptance of the CMP citing betrayal by the Viceroy and called Direct Action day.

Earlier, during the runup to the CMP in 1946, the British had also been happy to offer to Jinnah the prospect of other sorts of parity as well. Jinnah and Muslim League had hinted at equality between Muslims and Hindus in the administration and services ( Muslims were 25% of the population and non Muslims 75% of the population) which Congress refused to accept saying that it was unsustainable and would lead to frustration and social unrest.

However, having made such a demand, there was no guarantee that Jinnah would not have used the communal veto in the Union Constituent Assembly to enforce it. The loss of Muslim-nonMuslim parity in administration and services might be something that the supporters of CMP rue but I am not one of those. Quotas which are out of proportion of the population ratios have lead to civil war in other parts of the world and I doubt any of those was as skewed as equating the government posts available for 25% of a population to those available for the remaining 75% population.

With respect to parity in the Union Executive or Union Cabinet, Jinnah essentially said 'Congress had been willing to give caste Hindu-Muslim parity in 1945 so they should now accept my demand of parity between Congress and Muslim League'. What he meant by parity is better understood by noting that in the Constituent Assembly, the Congress had won 201 seats and Muslim League had won 73.

In addition to demanding League-Congress parity, Jinnah also insisted that there must be no Scheduled Castes and no Muslims in the Congress quota and Congress must have only caste Hindu ministers. The Congress refused to yield on this, claiming the right to put forward a Congress Scheduled Caste nominee (because the Congress had won most of the Scheduled Caste seats in the provincial legislatures and the Constituent Assembly). The Congress also appointed a nationalist Muslim in their quota. It was only then that,  against the Viceroy's advice, Jinnah appointed Jogendranath Mandal as ML's own Scheduled Caste nominee,  which is cited as "proof" of Muslim League and the Pakistan movement's "investedness" in Pakistan's non Muslims. (whereas see Extra(2) where Jinnah spells out explicitly that a future Pakistan's non Muslims should have no say in the creation of Pakistan).

Direct Action day was also an effort to change the Congress stance on parity. Let me remind you that was when the Congress had 201 and the ML had 73 in the Constituent Assembly. What would have happened with respect to future Union governments when the minority party Muslim League continued to refuse to be in a minority as it had since 1939?

The British were good at promising and Jinnah was good at demanding from each other many things, but neither could actually enforce the reality and principle of all these 'parities', 'vetoes' and 'compulsory' interpretations - they needed the Congress to agree.

Some who choose to disregard the explicitness of Jinnah's and the Muslim League's nationwide campaign
from 1940-1947 for an independent sovereign Pakistan,  rue  today- why didn't the majority party, community and region surrender and submit to these parities and vetoes by Jinnah and the Muslim League over future Indians, over India's constitution, over India's territorial rights, over India's defence and even over the Congress's choice of national ideology?  Why didn't Congress accept Jinnah's and the ML's veto over all these until the time, when as Jinnah's /Muslim League's resolution said, a fully sovereign Pakistan was attained? 

The question is,  was their expectation of Congress and "Hindustani" surrender to  the Muslim League and "Pakistan" vetoes a reasonable or rational expectation, given that it would have led to a continuance of Muslim League "blackmail" over secession which dated back at least to their Lahore Resolution of 1940?  The CMP in fact,  institutionalized a perpetual threat of secession. Can a nation or a state be successfully constructed around such a threat ?

Jinnah even implicitly demanded in October 1946 (CMP(17)) that the national government be handed over to the Muslim League as Congressmen were "overrated and had reached their position only because they had gone to jail, that the personnel of the Muslim League was really completely superior in administrative capacity". 

If the British and the Muslim League had, with or without the Congress, managed to enforce their (in my view) unsustainable  interpretation of the CMP on India, it would have lead firstly, to failure to write an Indian constitution. The implementation of the CMP's basic principle of a smaller population exerting a veto over the future of a larger population on a communal basis would also have lead to a holocaust much worse than that of Partition and the Congress could have done nothing about it. It was much better to fight any number of Indo-Pak wars than to have a civil war in India.

Supporting material available on this site:

The following give a good idea of where the British and Jinnah were coming from. It is well to remember that the records of these conversations were not de-classified until the mid '70s to mid '80s and the Congress was prob. not privy to these discussions at the time, though they might have had 'inside' sources among the Indian civil servants.

Jinnah's talk with Mission Delegation and Viceroy on April 4 1946:
CMP(5) - Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 4 April 1946

Jinnah's talk with Mission Delegation and Viceroy on April 16 1946:
CMP(6) -  Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 16 April 1946

Some more stuff:
Congress and League positions on May 12 1946:
CMP(2) - The Congress League positions on 12 May 1946

Cabinet Mission Plan May 16 1946:
CMP(3) - The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946

It is often said that the CMP was Maulana Azad's plan. In his later book 'India Wins Freedom', Maulana Azad himself wrote that he had been in favor of the CMP. In fact, Azad's plan differed from the CMP in a number of essential respects. At various times in 1946 Azad had stated he was against two constitution-making bodies and he was against compulsory grouping. He wanted to incorporate the desired autonomy of Muslim-majority provinces not as compulsory groupings and separate constitutions on communal basis as the CMP specified but as a list of optional subjects which provinces would choose to assign to centre with residuary powers vested with the provinces.

The British discussed among themselves some of the differences and discussed the issue with Maulana Azad two days after he announced his plan :
Azad on April 17 1946:
CMP(7A) -  Maulana Azad's meeting with Mission Delegation on 17 April 1946

Maulana Azad was the Congress President during most of these discussions. That he and the Congress opposed key elements of the CMP plan can be seen in other material :
Azad on May 8 1946:
CMP(7) - The Congress unease with parity- it's exchanges with the Mission  8-9 May 1946

Azad on May 20 1946:
CMP(11) - Congress's opposition to grouping - ; Gandhi, Patel and Azad
Congress resolution mentioning grouping May 24 1946:

An insight into Jinnah and Muslim League's views:

Jinnah's talk with Woodrow Wyatt on May 25 1946:
CMP(9)- Jinnah's Conversations with Major Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and the Cabinet Mission Plan , 8 January and 25 May 1946

Muslim League resolution of acceptance of CMP on June 6 1946:

Jinnah's talk with Woodrow Wyatt on interim government on June 11 1946:
CMP(10) - Jinnah's Conversations with Major Wyatt(22) on the interim government, 11 June 1946

In late July 1946, ML and Jinnah withdrew from the Cabinet Mission Plan citing  essentially three things- Viceroy Wavell's position on the Interim government composition, Sir Stafford Cripp's address to the British Parliament and the Congress/Nehru stance on CMP. On the same day the Muslim League called for Direct Action. J. Nehru has been made the historical whipping boy for ML's withdrawal from the CMP and is blamed for his words in a press conference.

Nehru's famous press conference July 10 1946:
CMP(13)- Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946

Muslim League resolution withdrawing from the Plan July 29 1946:
CMP(14) - League withdrew from Plan, called Direct Action, Viceroy Wavell talked to Nehru, July-August 1946
The British however acknowledged among themselves that the Congress stance on grouping had been consistent from the start and discussed what lay behind it. That and the Viceroy unsuccessfully trying to force MK Gandhi and J. Nehru's acceptance of grouping in September-October 1946 can be read here:
CMP(15) - The Viceroy tried to strong-arm Nehru and Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick Lawrence to Attlee, August-September 1946

The Congress had agreed to let the Federal Court decide on compulsory grouping but the British government  pre-empted the Court's  judgement and came out in support of their and Muslim's League's interpretation of the compulsory grouping clause. The Congress still wouldn't accept that interpretation and this led to the League's boycott of the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly in December 1946:
CMP(17)- The League's boycott of the Constituent Assembly, Jinnah and Wavell, Mission insisting on compulsory grouping, etc. October 1946-January 1947

My earlier take on this issue:
CMP (18) - My take

What  'communal veto' and 'parity' implied in numbers:
CMP (19) - What did parity and communal veto mean in numbers?

 Last modified: April 2006


CMP(1) -  From Ayesha Jalal's 'The Sole Spokesman'

CMP(2) -  Congress and Muslim League positions on 12 May 1946

CMP(3) -  The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946

CMP(4) - Jinnah  and ML  responses to the CMP 22 May  and June 6 1946

CMP(5) -  Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 4 April 1946

CMP(6) -  Jinnah's meeting with Missiion Delegation on 16 April 1946

CMP(7A) - Maulana Azad's meeting with Mission Delegation on 17 April 1946

CMP(7) -  The Congress unease with parity  8-9 May 1946

CMP(7B) - Jinnah and Azad responses to preliminary proposals 8-9 May 1946

CMP(8A) - Simla Conference meetings on 5 May 1946 on the powers of the Union

CMP(8) -  More exchanges on parity, Simla Conference meeting  11 May 1946

CMP(9) -  Jinnah and Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and CMP, 8 Jan. and 25 May 1946

CMP(10) -  Jinnah and Wyatt(2) on the interim government, 11 June 1946

CMP(11) -   Congress opposition to grouping. Gandhi, Patel and Azad, May 1946

CMP(12) - Congress Working Committee resolutions, May-June 1946

CMP(12A) - Arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim, June 1946

CMP(12B) - Behind the scenes-Gandhi, June-July 1946

CMP(12C) - Behind the scenes-Jinnah, June-July 1946

CMP(13) - Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946

CMP(14) - League rejected Plan, called Direct Action,  July-August 1946

CMP(15) - Viceroy strong-arming Nehru, Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick-Lawrence to Attlee, Aug -Sept 1946

CMP(16) - Intelligence assessment on Jinnah's options and threat of civil war, Sept. 1946

CMP(17) - League Boycott of the Constituent Assembly Dec. 1946

CMP(17A) - Congress "climbdown" on grouping and Jinnah's rejection, January 1947

CMP (A1) - Plain speaking from Sir Khizr Hayat, Abell on the Breakdown plan, Wavell

CMP(A2) - North West Frontier Province, Oct-Nov 1946 and Feb-March 1947

CMP(A3) - Bengal and Bihar, August - November 1946

CMP(A4) - Punjab, February - March 1947

CMP (18) - My take

CMP (19) - What did parity and communal veto mean in numbers?

CMP(20) - Another take -with links to reference material

CMP(21) - Mountbatten discussing CMP with Patel and Jinnah, 24-26 Apr 1947

CMP(22) - A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan

Extra(1) - Jinnah's speech in March 1941 on independent sovereign Pakistan

Extra(1A) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1941-1942

Extra(1B) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1938-1940

Extra(1C) - Jinnah's speeches and Statements from 1943-45

Extra(2) - Gandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan

Extra(3) - BR Ambedkar quoted from his book 'Pakistan or the Partition of India'

Extra(4) - Congress and Muslim parties' on the Communal question 1927-1931

Extra(4A) - Excerpts of Motilal Nehru Committee Report 1928

Extra(4B) - Nehru, Bose, Jinnah Correspondence 1937-38

Extra(5) -  BR Ambedkar on Communal Representation 1909-1947

Extra(6) - Gandhiji's scheme of offering the Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947

Extra(6A) - Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43

Extra (6B) - Apr-Jul 1947 Negotiations on Pakistan between Mountbatten and Jinnah

Extra(7) - M.A.Jinnah and Maulana Azad on two nation theory

Extra(8) - On Separate electorates, Joint electorates and Reserved constituencies

Extra(9) - Links to cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys from the Daily Mail, UK, 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth

Extra(10) -Nehru Report 1928 (10 MB pdf)
Extra(11) -Iqbal's letters to Jinnah, May-June 1937

Extra(12) -Jinnah, Linlithgow, Sikander Hayat, Pakistan rumblings 1942-43

Durga Das (1) 1919-1931, Jallianwala Bagh to Bhagat Singh

Durga Das (2) 1931-1936, Crescent Card: Jinnah in London to Fazli Husain in Punjab

Durga Das(3) 1937-1940, Provincial Autonomy to Jinnah gets the veto

Durga Das(4) 1940-1945, The War Years: India's War Effort-Pakistan on a platter

Durga Das(5) 1945-1947, The Cabinet Mission to Divide and Quit

1937-1940(2)  Congress and Jinnah fall out in U.P., Jinnah's anti-Congress campaign and the Viceroy gives Jinnah a Veto: Ayesha Jalal, Sarvepalli Gopal and Stanley Wolpert

1937: Congress-Jinnah tussle over coalition government in U. P., M.J. Akbar

1937: Nehru, Jinnah and Coalition Governments, Bimal Prasad

1939-1940: India and the War, Anita Inder Singh

1945-1946: The Elections of 1945-46, Anita Inder Singh

1857-1938 Glimpses of British policy in Punjab: Ian Talbot and David Page

1930-1939 Congress Decline in Bengal, John Gallagher

Glendevon (1) 1937: Congress's Office Acceptance Saga over Governor's Powers

Glendevon (2) 1937-1940: Federation, Jinnah, Congress activism in Princely States

Glendevon (3) 1939-1942: Linlithgow, Congress, Jinnah,War-time Realignments

1939-1947: Jinnah and the Anglo-Muslim League Alliance, Narendra Singh Sarila

1944: Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Jaswant Singh

1830s-1898: British Forward Policy(1)

1899-1947: British Forward Policy(2)

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