Parity and Communal Veto in numbers

Parity and Communal veto - what did these terms mean in numbers?
To understand the kind of Congress-League and Hindu-Muslim settlement which was being sought by the Muslim League in demanding parity and the communal veto, it is educative to look closer at some numbers.

Parity in the Interim government discussions

What did Jinnah's demand of Congress-League parity in the interim government in 1946 mean?

The Congress had won all but nine seats of General quota (i.e., 201 out of 210) in the Constituent  Assembly and Muslim League won all but five of the Muslim seats (73 out of 78) in the Constituent Assembly. This was without counting the members from princely states.

So Congress-League parity meant a parity between 201 Congress legislators and 73 League legislators. 

In the 1946 parleys for the Interim government, Jinnah would not accept caste Hindu-Muslim parity, a formula offered by some Congress leaders in 1945. One ostensible reason for Jinnah's refusal was that Congress had swept most Scheduled Caste seats in the 1946 elections and Congress could legitimately lay claim to appointing at least one Scheduled Caste appointee. That meant that if caste Hindu-Muslim parity were maintained, Congress could legitimately have at least one  seat more than the League in the interim government.

So Jinnah refused caste Hindu -Muslim parity (ref. CMP(10)) and insisted on Congress-League parity so that Congress caste Hindus, Congress Scheduled Castes and any Congress minorities would all be squeezed into parity with the Muslim League.

When that formula was not accepted by the Congress, Jinnah was given the right to be consulted in the appointment of Scheduled Castes and other minority members (in addition to the right to appoint all the Muslims, of course).

Maulana Azad wrote to the Viceroy objecting to this,  pointing out that with these conditions Jinnah  was not only demanding that Congress be denied the right to appoint any Muslim within its own quota  but Jinnah would also exert a veto on whom  else the Congress appointed in its quota as well. [CMP(12C)]. 

On the day before  Direct Action Day in August 1946,  Nehru visited Jinnah at Jinnah's home and offered the League 5 seats out of 14 (Congress would have 6). Jinnah refused the offer saying that Muslims would be in a minority and that Congress would be free to appoint a Muslim in its own quota. In the event, Congress did appoint  a Congress Muslim Asaf Ali* in its own quota when the Congress-League interim government finally took office in October 1946. (*Corrected March 5 2006).

It is interesting to note that an year earlier during the first Simla Conference in 1945 Jinnah had refused a Congress-League parity offer to Indianize the Executive Council on the excuse that Muslims did not get 50% of total seats on the council. [Also see Extra(1C)]

According to Durga Das in 'India from  Curzon to Nehru and after', the formula Jinnah rejected was
Congress 5(2 Hindus + 1 Muslim + 1 Christian + 1 Parsee)+
League 5 Muslims +
2 Viceroy nominated Scheduled Caste +
1 Viceroy nominated Sikh +
1 Viceroy nominated Unionist Muslim,

resulting in 7 Muslims in a Council of 14 and a clear minority of Hindus.

According to Durga Das,  Jinnah said he refused because of the inclusion of a Congress Muslim. Durga Das writes  that Jinnah told him the real reason that  he refused was because he had been secretly offered 'Pakistan on a platter' by some British civil servants for sabotaging  the Wavell effort.

According to Viceroy Wavell (The Transfer of Power 1942-7, ed. Nicholas Mansergh and Moon) the final formula which was rejected in 1945 Simla Conference was actually
4 Congress (all Hindus) +
4 League (all Muslims) +
1 Viceroy nominated Hindu +
1 Viceroy nominated Muslim (Unionist) +
2 Viceroy nominated Scheduled Caste +
1 Viceroy nominated Sikh +
1 Viceroy nominated Christian

resulting in 5 Muslims in a Council of 14

The Viceroy wrote that Jinnah refused this formula because of inclusion of the Unionist Muslim and because Muslims did not have parity with all the rest combined, i.e. Muslims did not get 50% or 7 berths.

It is to be remembered  that during this period, Muslims constituted 25% of the population.

[More on parity and Simla Conference 1945  in Extra(1C)]

Communal veto in Central legislature

Under paragraph 15(2) of the Cabinet Mission Plan (ref. CMP(3)),

(2) The Union should have an Executive and a Legislature constituted from British Indian and States' representatives. Any question raising a major communal issue in the Legislature should require for its decision a majority of the representatives present and voting of each of the two major communities as well as a majority of all members present and voting.

The Congress supported the provision of such a communal veto in the Union Constituent Assembly, but not in any future Union legislature. Jinnah was against the existence of any Union legislature, but wanted such a veto if  such a Union legislature existed(CMP(2)).

A communal veto meant that  a majority of each community, i.e., a majority of Hindus AND a majority of Muslims had to vote in favor of a measure for that measure to be passed in the legislature.

Here is an example of what separate communal voting in legislature implied in real numbers.

Suppose there were 78 Muslims and 214 General+ Sikh in a hypothetical future Union Legislative Assembly, taking the same numbers as constituted the Constituent Assembly without the princely states.

Now suppose some country approached the Pakistan section of the Indian Union and promised it aid, and convinced it of the need to wage jihad in Afghanistan ( a not inconceivable possibility). But though a majority of the Union legislature voted against it, 'Pakistani' Muslims, though a minority, went ahead and adopted the jihad policy and the Union of India could not stop them.

How did this happen? Under paragraph 15(2) of the Cabinet Mission Plan.

The way it happened was
a) 'Pakistani' Muslims said that the issue of whether to wage jihad in Afghanistan was a major communal issue.

So under paragraph 15 (2) separate communal voting had to be held in Union legislature (which decided matters on three subjects only - defence, foreign affairs and communications related to defence).

b) During this vote, 214 General+sikh voted against since they did not favor waging jihad in Afghanistan.

c) Some Muslims also voted against it but 'Pakistani' Muslims who were the majority of the 78 Muslims in Legislature voted FOR waging jihad.

d) Since the measure could not be passed unless a majority of both communities voted for it, the measure in favor of jihad did not pass.

e) But Muslims had had 50% weight in voting. Pakistani Muslims who had first brought up the issue said "islam was in danger again, because who the heck are non Muslims to disallow jihad which is our farz and the Union can not stop us anyway".

Muslim League had already gotten the Indian Army dissolved and reconstituted on two-nation basis as Jinnah had demanded. So Pakistan and the Pakistan Army decided to launch jihad in Afghanistan against the wishes of the majority of India and the Union which could not prevent it.

f) Again, why couldn't the anti-jihad majority prevent it? Because the non Muslim part of that dissenting majority though holding 214 seats had had only 50% say in the matter and the Muslim part of the dissenting majority was outvoted by the Pakistani Muslims in their section of 78 seats.

The Muslims and non Muslims who opposed jihad though an overall overwhelming majority combined were forbidden from such combining by paragraph 15(2) rule of Cabinet Mission Plan's insistence on separate communal voting.

Under this rule their votes were to be counted separately - the non Muslims' no go votes counted for only 50% and the dissenting Muslims no go votes were outvoted by the Pakistani Muslims.

So the majority could not together garner an anti-jihad majority consensus to empower the Union government to prevent the minority Pakistani Muslims/Army from waging jihad in Afghanistan.

What were the numbers?

Under paragraph 15(2), if only  a majority of the Muslim members, in other words, 78/2+1 = 40 Muslims out of a total Union legislature of 292 voted in favor of Pakistani Army waging jihad in Afghanistan, no one in United India could stop them under the Cabinet Mission Plan.  

Clearly it didn't matter what were the absolute numbers, one more than exactly half of the total Muslim members, whatever their number, were  all that were needed.

In other words, the majority could not have the foreign policy it wanted but the minority could pursue the foreign policy it wanted in defiance of the majority and Union government. There is no meaning in such a federation and this situation would lead to an end of the federation.


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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