SS4 M J Akbar

1937 Congress-Jinnah tussle over coalition government in United Provinces, M. J. Akbar
Quotes included:
  • M. J. Akbar in Nehru, The Making of India, 'Rituraj' and The Hero on a Roller-Coaster (excerpts)
  • M.A. Jinnah's reply to an address presented to him, Simla, September 18, 1937 (excerpts)
  • M.A.Jinnah's Presidential Address at the Sind Muslim League Conference, Karachi, October 8, 1938 (excerpts)
  • B.R. Ambedkar in Pakistan or the Partition of India, Chapter IX,  Lessons from Abroad (excerpts)
  • R.J.Moore in The Crisis of Indian Unity 1917-1940, The Strains of Devolution (excerpts)

M. J. Akbar quoted from Nehru, The Making of India,  Viking,  1988,  by kind permission of the author.
M.A. Jinnah quoted from Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam, Vol. I, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore.
B.R. Ambedkar quoted from
Pakistan or the Partition of India available online here.
R.J. Moore quoted from  The Crisis of Indian Unity 1917-1940
,  Oxford University Press, Delhi 1974.

In his sweeping and comprehensive biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, M. J. Akbar provides the grateful reader invaluable perspective and a wealth of facts and quotes. Excerpts are presented here from chapters covering the developments in the United Provinces (U.P.) in 1937,  which signaled a decisive  estrangement between M. A. Jinnah and the Congress. 

The primary context for Jinnah's politics consisted of the provisions for Muslims in Government of India Act 1935 under which the 1937 provincial elections had been held, and the conditions set for responsible provincial and national government in the Act[Glend(1)][Glend(2)][
Extra(5)]. These were more favorable to Muslims than to Congress and its chief constituency of Hindus. The Congress's own positions on minority representation and unitary federal government, expressed in the 1937-39 period [Extra(4B)] [Extra(1B)] and earlier [Extra(4)] [Extra(4A)] [Extra(8)], too constitute important context in this respect.   Excerpts of some speeches and statements of Jinnah's  in 1937 exhorting the Congress to heed him can be found here

As an example of the prevailing international context of Jinnah's politics, Jinnah's and B.R.Ambedkar's remarks on 1937-39 Czechoslovakia are also excerpted below. The constitutional implications of the League's conditions for coalition government with the Congress in 1937 are also examined. 

Nehru, The Making of India, 'Rituraj' and The Hero on a Roller-Coaster (excerpts):

M. J. Akbar writes:

Jawaharlal's confidence in his political line was reinforced by the dramatic results of the elections in January and February 1937. In 1920, 7 million Indians had been eligible for the vote; this time the electorate was 36 million spread over 1,585 seats in the eleven provincial legislatures of British India in a total population of some 300 million. Of them 808 were general seats, and 777 were 'tied' or reserved for special representation, for Muslims, of course, but also for landlords, Europeans, business men, etc. Despite the odds, the Congress won 456 of the 808 seats, securing absolute majorities in the United Provinces, Madras, Central Provinces, Bihar and Orissa and emerging as the single largest party in Bombay, Bengal, Assam and the North-West Frontier Province. . .

The Congress won 65 per cent of the votes and 159 seats out of 215 in Madras; 75 per cent of the vote and 98 out of 152 seats in Bihar; 61 per cent of the vote and 70 out of 112 seats in Central Provinces and Berar; 56 percent of the vote and 86 of 175 seats in Bombay; 65 percent of the vote and 134 out of 228 seats in United Provinces; and 60 per cent of the vote and 36 out of 60 seats in Orissa. The party also did well in N W F P, with 38 per cent of the vote and 19 out of 50 seats, and was easily able to form a government when the signal from the working committee came. It had fared at best reasonably in Bengal(25 per cent of the vote and 56 seats out of 250 - Bengal was the largest province) and Assam, with 33 seats out of 108. But the party was routed in Sind (7 seats out of 60) and Punjab(18 seats out of 175) where the landlords and smaller landowners effectively reduced the Congress to an urban Hindu party, and neither the Sikh nor the Muslim peasantry were willing to vote Congress in preference to the Unionists. . . .

Jawaharlal was particularly elated that the Congress had overcome the challenge posed by both Hindu and Muslim communalism, as well as reactionaries like the landlord-dominated National Agriculturist Party of Agra and Awadh upon whom the British had been banking heavily; the N A P got only 13 seats in Agra and 12 in Awadh. He had every right to gloat at the discomfiture of the League. The party created in the name of 'Muslim India' found surprisingly few Muslims in its ranks, though its leader was prominent enough: of the total Muslim votes cast (7,319,445) the League got only 321,772 or an abysmal 4.4 percent. It must be stressed once again that the electorates were communal, so Muslims only had the choice of a selection of Muslims in their constituencies - despite which they rejected the League quite decisively. In Madras, the League got 10 out of 28 Muslim seats; in Bombay 20 out of 29; in Assam 9 out of 34; in Bengal 39 out of 117; in U P 27 out of 64; and in Punjab just 2 out of 84. In the Frontier they did not win a single seat out of 36, and none also of the 39 seats in Bihar, 14 seats in Central Provinces and 4 seats in Orissa. . . .

On 4 January[1937], as we have noted, Jinnah warned Nehru to leave Muslims alone and accept them and the League as the third party in India. The election results exposed the League's claims. In the United Provinces the Muslims were at a loss. The traditional saviours, the landlords, nesting in the Agricultural Party, had suffered stunning defeat after having lived in the legislatures for more than a decade. And the qasba-elected Muslim League just did not enough seats to make a rational bid for a place in power. The Congress reacted to its great victory with a fierce internal debate on whether to accept office. Thus far, the Congress had avoided a formal answer to the question as to why it was contesting the elections, for the good reason that the two camps were bitterly divided over the answer. Nehru treated the polls as the opportunity to wreck the Constitution written by the British from within, while the Congress Right, led by the Patel-Rajagopalachari axis, was equally determined to sit in office, even through the 1935 Act had not even conceded dominion status. . . .

On 7 March [1937] the U P P C C at Lucknow, rejected office acceptance by a comfortable majority of thirty votes, and Jawaharlal was heartened enough to warn against 'loose talk' about ministries, by Congressman and newspapers. . . .[On 19 March]The working committee endorsed the party president's view that the results had proved very convincingly that the people wanted the Congress to wreck the Constitution - and then authorized qualified acceptance of office. . . .

[On 7 July 1937, after a statement by Lord Linlithgow] the Congress working committee resolved that 'Congressmen be permitted to accepted office where they may be invited thereto'. The eager C. Rajagopalachari became premier in Madras, B.G. Kher in Bombay, Pandit G.B. Pant in U.P., Srikrishna Sinha in Bihar, Dr N.B. Khare in C.P., Dr. Khan Sahib in N W F P and Biswanath Das in Orissa. A little later, Bordoloi replaced Saadullah in Assam.

That settled one problem- and started another.

The Congress had put up just nine candidates for the sixty-four Muslim seats of United Provinces, even leading to speculation that there was some secret alliance with the League. (Nehru did admit to supporting some League candidates, if they met two conditions: if there was no Congress candidate in the constituency, and the Leaguer was 'progressive'.) It lost all. (Its one seat came later.) Nehru took the defeat in Muslim seats personally and used every opportunity to urge colleagues and workers to rise to the challenge and intensify work among the Muslim masses. He thought it might be difficult to change the Muslim mood in the small towns in the short run but was quite confident of sweeping the rural vote on an economic platform the next time around. The British, naturally, did what they could to sabotage any Muslim support the Congress might have. The case of Maulvi Abul Qasim of Shahjahanpur was typical; the British arrested him for a speech made at an informal Muslim conference organized in the Congress interest. We know of this incident because of a letter Nehru wrote to Kailas Nath Katju on 10 July 1937 requesting Katju to appear in the Maulvi's defence. Nehru noted: ' There is a set attempt being made on the part of the government to control and suppress Muslim workers on behalf of the Congress and it is up to us to give such persons as much help as we can.'. . . .

Nehru announced a 'mass contact' programme aimed at wooing Muslims. On 31 March[1937] he sent a circular to all the provincial Congress committees with a self-explanatory heading : 'The need for greater contacts with Muslims.' He set up a separate department in the party and made preparations for the launch of an Urdu weekly, Hindusthan, in July from 6 Neill Road, Lucknow. Orders were issued that all party pamphlets and notices to be prepared in both Devanagari and Urdu scripts. The mass contact programme made the Muslim League leaders, already smarting under the rejection of the electorate, absolutely furious. Maulana Shaukat Ali, always ready to threaten doom where a mere objection might serve, lashed out in a statement to the press on 21 April:

All that is being talked and written in the press about Muslim mass contact and the Muslim League would have been very amusing if it was not so tragic and full of danger. Howsoever Pandit Jawaharlal may be encouraged by what paid or unpaid Muslims may say to him, he will fail unless he meets real Muslims. Efforts like this will only widen the gulf and lead to a fearful catastrophe.

The statement is particularly interesting  because it establishes the themes of the Muslim League propaganda in that dangerous decade between 1937 and 1947; first, that the only 'real' Muslims were those who were in the Muslim League second, that any Muslim who opted for Gandhi and the secularism of the Congress was nothing more than a paid agent of Hindus and therefore despicable; third, that the Congress had no right to seek the support of any Muslims, who were the preserve of either the Muslim League or those leaders and parties who had been certified by the League. Finally, there was, as always, the threat that there would be some cataclysmic catastrophe if the Muslim League's due demands were not conceded - including, and in particular, the League's right to represent all Muslims.

There was nothing new in the central charge; when Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan merged his Khudai Khidmatgars(Servants of God) into the Congress he had to face the same propaganda. As Mushirul Hasan notes in 'Congress Muslims' (Struggling and Ruling: The Indian National Congress 1885-1985), Ghaffar Khan defended himself in November 1931:

People complain against me for having joined the Congress by selling my nation. The Congress is a national and not a Hindu body. It is a jirga composed of Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Parsis and Muslims. The Congress as a body is working against the British. The British nation is the enemy of the Congress and of the Pathans. I have therefore joined it and made common cause with the Congress to get rid of the British.

Even while the Maulana Shaukat Alis huffed and puffed in public, a silent deal with the Congress was being forged by common friends. The most important of these was Nehru's old friend Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, scion of a taluqdar family who traced his ancestry to no less than the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakar Siddiq. He was almost an exact contemporary of Jawaharlal, born about six weeks later, on Christmas Day of 1889.  Nehru was in England getting his degree when Khaliq took a break from Aligarh Muslim University in 1912 to join the famous medical mission to Turkey under Dr. M.A.Ansari, which gave him an entree into politics. Whenever he came to Allahabad for political meetings, Anand Bhavan was his abode, and a warm friendship developed with Jawaharlal. But though he was party president, in addition to being a friend, it was not through Jawaharlal that the first approach to the Congress was made.

It was a former secretary of Motilal Nehru, Abdul Walli(1885-1941), who had worked for Motilal in the Swarajist Party days of 1923-6 and now published an Urdu monthly, Maloomat, who first gave Jawaharlal an idea of what was going on. In a letter sent on 28 March 1937 Walli told the Congress president that Khaliq was hatching a scheme for a Congress-League coalition in United Provinces. Walli put his finger on the nub of the issue when he wrote in his letter :

'Once the Congress enters into a pact with the Muslim League it loses the right to ask the Muslims to join it.'

This old Congressman had struck a deep and fundamental note, for at stake lay the very ideology of the Congress. Was every Indian equal in its ranks or not? If yes, then how could the Congress ever hand over the Muslims of the country as the sole property of the League? Nehru saw the point at once; it was in his mind already. After a sad reference to Khaliq-

I have myself been much put out at the way he has been drifting away from the Congress. For so many years past I have had a warm corner in my heart for him and I believe that my affection for him is reciprocated. . . . For nearly a year I have neither seen him nor corresponded with him. I would be happy indeed if he broke loose from the reactionaries who surround him..

Nehru mentioned, in his reply, that he was surprised to hear of a 'scheme being hatched. . . . I have not heard anything about it. I am entirely opposed to this as I am opposed to all pacts and coalition with small groups at the top.' He added that Maulana Azad was also definitely opposed to the idea. The story soon broke, a debate started , and Jinnah, already thoroughly irritated by Nehru, chose to spar with the younger man on this issue. When Jayabharat, a Bombay daily, editorially suggested in April that Congress should accept Jinnah's offer of co-operation, Nehru avoided a direct answer and sent a wire saying that Congress was still bound by its resolution to reject the new Constitution.

Jinnah immediately took umbrage and replied: 'It appears to me that he has taken the position of a dictator. It comes to this, "Accept what I have already decided then I shall talk to you." This is not the way to arrive at a settlement.'

Nehru's rejoinder, in a statement to the press from Allahabad on 25 April, was sharp and spicy : 'I am sorry that anything I have said or done should lead Mr. Jinnah to think that I want to function as a dictator. Far from dictating to others, I cannot even dictate to myself. . . .Personally I find it difficult to think of any question on communal lines. I think on political and economic lines.' Adding that the Congress attached the greatest importance to the removal of suspicions between various religious groups, he nevertheless insisted: 'It cannot be a unity of subjection.' The same day Nehru released a long statement on Congress and Muslims where he admitted that his party had neglected the Muslim masses, but he asserted that the whole League position was bogus because 'Only a lunatic can think that the Muslims can be dominated and coerced by any religious majority in India.' In any case, the Congress had declared categorically over and over again 'that the fundamental and basic rights of all Indians contain provisions for the freedom of conscience, for the protection of the culture, language and script of minorities.' This was the manifesto of unity. Against this, 'to think in terms of communal groups functioning politically is to think in terms of medievalism. And that is the reason why communal groups in India fail so dismally in the political field.'

Jinnah was furious. On 29 April he responded : 'It is quite clear that he[Nehru] is talking as if he were a sovereign authority.'

It is hard to conceive, in the light of bitter personal and ideological differences between the two party leaders, how this alliance was ever going to come about, but Khaliq's desire to become one of the two Muslim League ministers in the alliance government gave the idea enough momentum to keep it going.

Nehru catalogued the reasons why the idea could never work in another statement on 2 May, from Allahabad. The most important of them remained the same that prevented the Congress from allying with the Hindu Mahasabha: that these were communal parties. In any case, the one condition that Jinnah insisted on, that the Congress stop working among Muslims, made the very idea a non-starter: 'The objection is not political, it is communal. . . .'

The bitterness was reinforced by the events of the Bundelkhand by-election in July, and if Nehru had even the smallest hope of the League becoming less reactionary it disappeared after the experience of the campaign. He explained his position in a long letter to Khaliquzzaman on 1 July, in which he tried to bring his friend back to the Congress and the 'progressive side':

The Bundelkhand election has a certain temporary value but, after all, it is a small affair and will pass. The Muslim League has a perfect right to put up a candidate to represent its policy. It is not that I object to it but the astounding notices that are coming show the depths to which the League has fallen. Even Jinnah has no other argument left in a political contest but to appeal in the name of Allah and the Holy Koran. . . . Fortunately there are many Muslims who do not adopt these tactics and they will serve their community as well as the larger cause far better.

 He then entered his ideological objections:

Is the League a democratic organization or is it just a close preserve of certain individuals? Why should I accept it as the representatives of the Muslims of India when I know it represents the handful of Muslims at the top who deliberately seek refuge in the name of religion to avoid discussing mass problems? . . . . Do you not see that this communal policy which the Muslim League here has fathered is a policy more injurious to the Muslims of India than anything that a majority could do would be ?

One can only comment by quoting Khaliquzzaman himself. Just before he died he gave an interview to the well-known Pakistani journalists M.B.Naqvi in which he accepted that Pakistan had been a mistake - that it had hurt Muslims, not helped them. Jawaharlal had also been provoked to write this letter by a statement signed by Khaliquzzaman, among others, which said :

'Musalmans. . . . have been ordered. . . . by God and His Prophet to support the Muslim League candidate[in Bundelkhand] to give a crushing reply to the non-Muslim organization so that in future it will not dare interfere in the affairs of Mussalmans.'

The League had decided that its most reliable campaigner was going to be Allah. Jinnah added to this by reasserting in a statement on 1 July that only he could be the spokesman of Indian Muslims:

In my opinion this policy of mass contacts with Mussalmans by Congress is fraught with very serious consequences. There is plenty of scope for Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to improve his own people, the Hindus, as there is a lot of undesirable element among them. Similarly the Muslim League should do the same thing, as there is plenty of undesirable element among the Mussalmans.

Nehru replied in a statement from Wardha on 3 July: 'I am advised by Mr.Jinnah to improve my own people, the Hindus. Not being religiously or communally inclined, I venture to think of my people as the Indian people as a whole. . . .'

As it happened, it was not Islam but a hangover of an undesirable element of Hinduism which helped the League candidate Rafiuddin Ahmed defeat Congressman Nisar Ahmad Shervani by a margin of 727 votes (4,557 votes were cast out of an electorate of 7,500). Rafiuddin Ahmed had been converted from the Hindu caste of Malkhan Rajputs, and caste affinity had survived conversion to the casteless brotherhood of Islam. A caste panchayat (council) had ordered every member of this community, which was a quarter of the electorate, to vote for Rafiuddin on pain of penalties. Not only was Islam in danger for the League candidate, but caste was also apparently in danger.

The tensions generated by this election were substantial. A group of League hoodlums even stoned Jawaharlal's car and smashed a window pane in yet another first incident of its kind. Luckily, no one was hurt. However, negotiations for a coalition were not allowed to melt in the heat of election rhetoric. The League wanted two seats in the ministry, one for Khaliq and the other for Nawab Ismail Khan, the president of the U P League board. Maulana Azad handled the negotiations on behalf of the Congress and was tempted by the offer; he felt that this coalition would lead to the absorption of the League in the Congress. Nehru was reluctant and worried about the impact this might have on Muslims loyal to the Congress. But Pant, Azad, Acharya Kripalani and Narendra Dev prevailed over his objections and the Congress offered its conditions for the alliance.

First, the Congress working committee resolution in March on Congress policy on the legislatures had to be accepted fully by the League to prevent any misapprehensions. Second, the Muslim League groups would be wound up, including the U P parliamentary board. Third, all League M L As would become full members of the Congress (though they were exempted adherence to the Congress pledge). Fourth, all would be subjected to Congress discipline. Fifth, there would be no separate candidates in by-elections. Khaliq replied that they could not accept two of the conditions. Nehru was relieved at the temporary impasse, repelled as he was by the whole deal, particularly with Bundelkhand's propaganda ringing in his ears and the anger of Muslim Congressmen rising as they heard whispers about those not terribly secret negotiations. Maulana Azad had his own reservations too; he did not want Nawab Ismail Khan because of his feudal background and suggested a young man, Hafiz Ibrahim, as the League minister in the coalition instead.

The Assembly session was due to start on 27 July; formal discussions between the parties began on 12 July. A second round of talks took place on 15 July.  On 24 July, Maulana Azad gave a final draft to Khaliquzzaman. The next day, Maulana Azad got a telephone call from Khaliq; instead of the expected agreement, the Congress leadership heard of a totally new demand. In Khaliquzzaman's own words in his autobiography, Pathway to Pakistan(1961), the new proviso was 'Provided that the Muslim League Party members in the U P Assembly  will be free to vote in accordance with their conscience, on communal matters.' Azad was shocked and upset at this. Both he and Pant knew that there was no need to even refer this new condition to Nehru. The League had sabotaged the idea by its final communal demand, for the League had arrogated to itself exclusive rights on Muslim questions, as if Congressmen could not be trusted on the matter. It was obviously impossible for any Congressman to accept this condition.

Simply wishing a contradiction as fundamental as this away does not make it disappear. Nehru's objections to the deal were ideological, but he had allowed Azad and Pant the opportunity to try to see if a bridge could be built out of such flimsy material. And, as Khaliquzzaman's account in any case proves, it was the League which scuttled the deal with this last-minute condition.

Azad would later give currency to the allegation  that Nehru had become the unwitting sponsor of the League by rejecting the agreement, but as Jawaharalal pointed out at a meeting of Muslims in Ahmedabad on 17 September 1937:

'The Congress is a political body whose doors are open to all. [The League's] policy and programme differ from those of the Congress. How can there be unity between the two bodies unless the Congress gives up its ideals?' He insisted that it was the duty of the Congress to rout both the Hindu Mahasabha (which it had done) and the Muslim League.

After the last-minute condition had sabotaged the chance of an agreement, Jinnah exploited Jawaharlal's ideological reservations against the coalition extremely brilliantly. Jinnah's propaganda converted this failure into the evidence that was necessary to prove that the 'Hindu' Congress would never co-operate with 'Muslims'. (In Jinnah's view, of course, 'true' Muslims did not exist outside the League.)

It is evident that the sharp taste of defeat in the January and February elections had convinced Jinnah that the only hope lay in shedding the last vestiges of moderation and plunging into extremism-hardly an unusual phenomenon in politics. By the time of the next test for the Muslim vote, in the by-election of Bijnor, the League's communal propaganda, not to mention its use of violence, had become even more extreme. Nehru was upset at N.A.K.Sherwani's defeat in Bundelkhand, but he had taken comfort in the comparatively reasonable margin, and in the fact that the rural Muslim vote had gone almost entirely for the Congress. At Bijnor much more was at stake than at Bundelkhand, for it was a revenge election.

Muslim landlords had begun to shift towards the League from 1936, a process spurred by the rout of their Agriculturist Party in the elections. Although Nawab Liaquat Ali Khan takes credit for being among those who persuaded Jinnah to return from London to take over the defunct League, he himself was not one of the 39 League candidates (27 rural and 12 urban) in 1937. Men like Raja Shaban Ali Khan of Salempur, however, had come over to the League in October 1936, and their arrival had made the party only more reactionary, to the dismay of some of the younger men. When the Raja of Salempur became the state president, the tensions led to a number of resignations.

Among those who left was a man who had been a U P council member of Motilal's Swaraj Party between 1923 and 1926, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim (1889-1964), who formally joined the Congress. Since he had won the 1937 election on the League ticket, he honourably resigned his seat and sought re-election from his constituency, Bijnor, on a Congress ticket.

The manifesto issued by the joint secretary of the U P Muslim League parliamentary board for the Bijnor election said that the Congress wanted to suppress, dominate and cripple Indian Muslims so that they may never rise again. How? What the Congress wanted to do, they explained, was to make the Muslims prostrate before Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru rather than before Allah. In their speeches the League orators claimed that the Congress wanted to eliminate Urdu, ban cow slaughter and force people to wear the 'Hindu' dhoti instead of the 'Muslim' pyjama. The propaganda was as crude as this. In an effort to win the support of the Shias, who had at the All-India Shia Conference on 11-12 October at Lucknow resolved to support the Congress, the League also alleged that the Congress government would ban the tazia pageant during Moharrum. The only Muslims with the Congress, the League leaders said, were the ulema who had been bribed. A personal letter from Jawaharlal to Rafi Ahmed Kidwai in which he had discussed election travel expenditure had found its way to Rafiuddin Ahmed, the League candidate at Bundelkhand, by mistake; this was touted by no less a person than Jinnah as evidence of 'bribery' of the ulemas by the Congress.

The implication was that Muslim stooges were being financed to fight their selfless, honest brethren in the League. Lies were freely used. Nehru was accused of having snatched and torn every flag bearing the Islamic slogan 'Allah-o-Akbar'('God is Great') at Najibabad. It was an utter canard, of course, but truth was at a premium. Maulana Shaukat Ali was evocative in his vilification. Congress leaders like Dr. K. M. Ashraf were accused of having said that, like Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, the Congress too would destroy religion. Violence was freely used; thugs entered Indian electioneering for the first time. Even an institution like Aligarh University, from where restraint if not ideological sobriety might have been expected, became the scene of communal violence. The League's slogans were unabashed incitement to anti-Hindu violence. 'Congress murdabad, Gandhi murdabad; Hindu kafir hain, unko maarne se ham bahisht jayenge'("Death to Congress, death to Gandhi; Hindus are infidels, we shall reach heaven by killing them"). Nehru was horrified at this political depravity and wrote to Krishna Menon on 11 November 1937:

'Everything up to murder on religious grounds is preached and the worst type of fanaticism aroused.' Nehru tried every appeal for calm and sense, but no one was listening.

The Congress position on minorities had been restated at the All-India Congress Committee meeting in Calcutta between 26 October and 1 November through a comprehensive resolution promising to protect the various rights of minorities and stressing that 'The objective of the Congress is an independent and united India where no class or group or majority or minority may exploit another to its own advantage..'

Hafiz Ibrahim won comfortably in Bijnor, by 5,000 votes, defeating this awesome barrage of propaganda (he would remain in India after partition and serve as minister in every Congress government till he passed away in 1964, as governor of Punjab), but the result only inspired the League to greater levels of communalism. The Bijnor campaign by the Muslim League provoked tension all over the province, and the usual rash of disputes over familiar issues like cow slaughter threatened to make it a bloodstained winter. As  president, Nehru's instruction to his party men was unambiguous. He wrote to Mela Ram on 31 December 1937: 'It is better to err on the side of generosity.'

But it was a time when the limits of generosity were being severely taxed. A lead had been given, and now opportunist leaders like Fazlul Haq dipped into this bubbling well of communalism to water a fresh crop. At a meeting of the All-India Muslim Students' Federation at Calcutta on 28 December 1937, the premier of Bengal made an explicit call for violence: 'We are surrounded by enemies on all sides and we must therefore be ready for the fight.' Between the December of 1936 and the December of 1937 much had changed. One of the most significant events on this very dramatic and crowded calendar was the Muslim League session at Lucknow between 15 and 18 October. . . .

When Jinnah reached Lucknow from Bombay on the evening of 13 October 1937 he had achieved at least one of his objectives: he was the supreme authority in his party. The 1937 elections had, however rather exposed the pretensions it was not a party worth being supreme authority of. As Iqbal, the poet-philosopher who led the Punjab League, said in his letter to Jinnah on 28 May 1937, the League needed a new political raison d'être for sheer survival. Its commitment to upper-class Muslim interests (an analysis which coincided with Nehru's view of the League) was responsible for its current hopeless state, Iqbal wrote, and the League had to address itself to the vital question of Muslim poverty. But Jinnah, with his own ideas on class and property being what they were, was in no mood to offer any radical economic programme, either on socialist lines or even on the precepts of equality and justice offered by the Quran, as Iqbal advised. The economic philosophy of the League was based on the premise that Muslim prosperity was linked to the power and influence of Muslim zemindars and business men. Hence the League's attack on the Congress schemes for the abolition of zemindari at the Lucknow session, and on Nehru's socialism. . . .

On 21 June 1937 Iqbal wrote to Jinnah: 'Why should not the Muslims of North-West India and Bengal be considered as nations entitled to self-determination just as other nations in India are? Personally I think that the Muslims of North-West India and Bengal ought at present [to] ignore Muslim minority provinces.' It was a most interesting thought. Jinnah, however, immensely more practical and political than Iqbal, saw no reason why he should ignore the Muslim-minority provinces, when the far more sensible thing to do would be to feed their frustrations, build their anger and then exploit their strength for a dream in which eventually they would have no place. It was no accident that after Lucknow the next session of the League was held in Patna. The League's effective propaganda machine found an ideal target: the Congress Hindu premiers in United Province and Bihar who had taken office in late 1937.

Everything the Congress did  became an attack on Muslim culture. While objections to Vande Matram had some partial merit (the Congress, in response, amended the version it used), to call the hoisting of the Congress tricolour an insult to Muslims was more consistent with the level of League propaganda. All this was flavoured with Jinnah's  constant charge that the Congress had only one aim in mind: to annihilate the Muslim wherever it was in power.

By October 1937, Jinnah knew that the League would not survive unless he could make it something more than a shadow of his own personal stature. The crowds that welcomed him at Lucknow station, brought by Khaliq and the Raja of Mahmudabad, were large and emotional, yet Jinnah knew he needed a new political charter in order to expand his strength. His strategy was to concentrate on the centre, to leave the provinces to the local satraps in return for their endorsement of him as the sole voice of Muslims at the national level. It was a claim which would have no meaning without the support of Punjab and Bengal.   He was willing to pay any price for this, and so simply liquidated the League in these two provinces in exchange for the support of the two premiers. Simultaneously wanting to keep a useful line open to the British, he was hesitant about the now obligatory resolution demanding full independence at this session of the League, until Khaliquzzaman convinced him that any milder option at this stage would destroy whatever credibility the League had among the people.

The 14th of October was a historic day, for Jinnah got what he wanted from the premiers of Punjab and Bengal. Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, looking no further than the preservation of his Unionist government, thought he had extracted a very heavy price from the League in exchange for the pact with Jinnah. He had, on the one hand, ensured the obliteration of the League in Punjab, which would go down well with his partners in the coalition like Sir Chotu Ram, while his own loyalty to the League was left as even less than nominal.

Bengal was much easier for Jinnah, for all he had to do was ensure that Fazlul Haq retained his chair, which Jinnah did by ditching Haq's bitter foe and his own loyalist, Khwaja Nazimuddin. Haq predictably became more loyal than the king, promising revenge against Hindus in Bengal if any Muslim was touched under any Congress Raj. In his speech of 17 October at the League session he orated: 'If the Hindu Congress ministries continue their policy of oppression of the Muslim minorities in their provinces, I declare it from this platform that I shall retaliate in Bengal even if it costs my life . . . .hypocrisy, untruth and deceit are the basis of Congress policies and the Congress is trying to establish a Hindu raj in India.'

As the British governor of Bengal had noted in another context, these adjectives were more applicable to Haq than to anyone else. Some of the League leaders were embarrassed by the passion of this new convert; and Nehru was disgusted. He wrote to Subhas Bose on 20 October: 'The recent meeting of the Muslim League and the fulminations of Fazlul Haq there have shown the recrudescence of an intensive and low type of communalism.' Jinnah kept his counsel. He had found the allies he would need.
(end quotes from M. J. Akbar's Nehru, The Making of India)

One could possibly conclude from these excerpts of Mr. Akbar's narration as well as others' [Durga Das(3)][1937-1940(2)] that Congress and Muslim League failed to form coalition governments in 1937 not only because of personal acrimony between Nehru and Jinnah but due to real ideological differences about representative government. This failure is said to have led to Jinnah giving up on Indian nationalism  and committing himself to Muslim separatism and stridently communal politics from 1937 onward.

Could this 'drift' into Muslim separatism have been avoided by Congress agreeing to Jinnah's conditions for coalition government in U.P. that year? What would have been the implications of an ideological compromise by Congress to satisfy Jinnah and would such compromise have better enabled Congress to stave off Muslim separatism in subsequent months and years?

Jinnah's campaign against the Congress in 1937-1939 period must also be viewed against the prevailing international environment of the time.   It is also worth understanding the constitutional implications of Jinnah's conditions for coalition government. 

Prevailing international environment and constitutional implications

The example of Czechoslovakia

Jinnah said in Simla on September 18,  1937 [Further excerpts of this speech here] :

 ". . . .the freedom of our country does not mean freedom for the majority and the rule of the majority. I may assert that even the ordinary majority can be extremely oppressive and tyrannical. It, therefore, stands to reason that the majority, with a fundamentally different culture, traditions, social life and outlook always tries to force its ideals on the minorities.

Historical instances come from Czechoslovakia. That country is governed by a sovereign majority, while we are all slaves and yet two million Germans out of 14 million Czeches and Slavs had apprehensions and fears of the majority. After a long and strenuous struggle, and no doubt, under pressure from the League of Nations, which is responsible for the protection of the minorities in sovereign States and with backing from the German nation, this small German minority compelled this sovereign majority to guarantee to it security of its culture and language. Is this religious? Is this communalism?

Germans, Czeches and Slavs are all Christians. They are more homogenous than any community in India. They dress alike, eat alike, live alike and inter-marry and yet their fear and apprehensions of the destruction of their culture and language had to be removed. In the same way Mussalmans want that their religious culture, language and political existence in national life should be adequately and effectively safeguarded. There is no communalism or religion involved in this demand.

It was pure and simple a question of the minorities which had to be faced by statesmen in other countries and was to be solved. . . . "
(end quote)

On October 8, 1938, in his Presidential Address at the Sind Muslim League Conference, Karachi, Jinnah said:

". . . .In India I may draw attention of His Majesty's Government and the British statesmen who I am sure are not under any delusion that the Congress represents the people of India or Indian nation, for there are 90 millions of Mussalmans.

And I would draw their attention and here also of the Congress High Command and ask them to mark, learn and inwardly digest the recent upheaval and its consequent developments which threatened the world war. It was because the Sudetan Germans who were forced under the heel of the majority of Czechoslovakia who oppressed them, suppressed them, maltreated them and showed a brutal and callous disregard for their rights and interests for two decades hence the inevitable result that the Republic of Czechoslovakia is now broken up and a new map will have to be drawn. Just as the Sudeten Germans were not defenseless and survived the oppression and persecution for two decades so also the Mussalmans are not defenseless and cannot give you their national entity and aspirations in this great continent. . . ."
(end quote)

It is interesting to note that in that period, a party of Sudeten Germans of Czechoslovakia, Sudeten German Party, led by Konrad Henlein,  asserted the claim of being the sole spokesman of Sudeten Germans.  Hitler is said to have told Henlein to set his demands so high that the Czechoslovakian government could not agree to them.  Later in 1938, Henlein put forward the Karlsbad Eight Points,  in which one demand, for instance, was that the approximately 23% German minority 'nation' be granted equality with the more than 50% Czech majority nation (the Slovaks constituted about 16%).  Later, in international talks in September 1938 (the Munich Conference), to which the Czechoslovakian government was not invited, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his French counterparts agreed to Hitler's demand for unconditional cession of Sudeten German majority regions to Germany and Polish and Hungarian ethnic regions to Poland and Hungary respectively. In spite of all his demands being granted, Hitler invaded the rump Czechoslovakia in March 1939  and used 'protection of minority rights' as the pretext to carry his battle into non-German majority regions of Czechoslovakia.

B.R.Ambedkar's perspective of the destruction of the Czechoslovakian state, expressed in context of Jinnah's subsequent demand for Pakistan,  is also interesting.

B R Ambedkar writes in Pakistan or the Partition of India, Lessons from Abroad:

Czechoslovakia proved to be a very short-lived state. It lived exactly for two decades. On the 15th March 1939 it perished or rather was destroyed as an independent state. It became a protectorate of Germany. . . .By signing the Munich Pact on 30th September 1938—of which the protectorate was an inevitable consequence, Great Britain, France and Italy assisted Germany, their former enemy of the Great War, to conquer Czechoslovakia, their former ally. All the work of the Czechs of the past century to gain freedom was wiped off. They were once more to be the slaves of their former German overlords. . . .

What is the cause of the destruction of Czechoslovakia ?

The general impression is that it was the result of German aggression. To some extent that is true. But it is not the whole truth. If Germany was the only enemy of Czechoslovakia, all that she would have lost was the fringe of her borderland which was inhabited by the Sudeten Germans. German aggression need have cost her nothing more. Really speaking the destruction of Czechoslovakia was brought about by an enemy within her own borders. That enemy was the intransigent nationalism of the Slovaks who were out to break up the unity of the state and secure the independence of Slovakia.

The union of the Slovaks with the Czechs, as units of a single state, was based upon certain assumptions. First, the two were believed to be so closely akin as to be one people, and that the Slovaks were only a branch of Czechoslovaks. Second, the two spoke a single * Czechoslovak * language. Third, there was no separate Slovak national consciousness. Nobody examined these assumptions at the time, because the Slovaks themselves desired this union, expressing their wish in 1918 by formal declaration of their representatives at the Peace Conference. This was a superficial and hasty view of the matter. As Prof. Macartney points out:

". . . . ' the central political fact which emerges from the consideration of this history (of the relations between the Czechs and Slovaks) for the purposes of the present age is the final crystallization of a Slovak national consciousness . . . '"

This national consciousness of the Slovaks, which was always alive, began to burst forth on seeing that the Sudeten Germans had made certain demands on Czechoslovakia for autonomy. The Germans sought to achieve their objective by the application of gangster morality to international politics, saying " Give us what we ask or we shall burst up your shop."

The Slovaks followed suit by making their demands for autonomy but with a different face. They did not resort to gangster methods but modulated their demands to autonomy only. They had eschewed all idea of independence, and, in the proclamation issued on October 8 by Dr. Tiso, the leading man in the autonomist movement in Slovakia, it was said "We shall proceed in the spirit of our motto, for God and the Nation, in a Christian and national spirit."

Believing in their bona fides and desiring to give no room to the Gravamin Politic [politics of grievance] of which the Slovaks were making full use to disturb the friendly relations between the Czechs and the Slovaks, the National Assembly in Prague passed an Act in November 1938—immediately after the Munich Pact—called the " Constitutional Act on the Autonomy of Slovakia."

Its provisions were of a far-reaching character. There was to be a separate parliament for Slovakia and this parliament was to decide the constitution of Slovakia within the framework of the legal system of the Czechoslovak Republic. An alteration in the territory of Slovakia was to be with the consent of the two-third majority in the Slovak parliament. The consent of the Slovak parliament was made necessary for international treaties which exclusively concerned Slovakia. Officials of the central state administration in Slovakia were to be primarily Slovaks. Proportional representation of Slovakia was guaranteed in all central institutions, councils, commissions and other organizations. Similarly, Slovakia was to be proportionally represented on all international organizations in which the Czechoslovak Republic was called upon to participate. Slovak soldiers, in peace time, were to be stationed in Slovakia as far as possible. As far as legislative authority was concerned all subjects which were strictly of common concern were assigned to the parliament of Czechoslovakia.

By way of guaranteeing these rights to the Slovaks, the Constitution Act provided that the decision of the National Assembly to make constitutional changes shall be valid only if the majority constitutionally required for such changes includes also a proportionate majority of the members of the National Assembly elected in Slovakia. Similarly, the election of the President of the Republic required the consent not merely of the constitutionally determined majority of the members of the parliament, but also of a proportionate majority of the Slovak members. Further to emphasize that the central government must enjoy the confidence of the Slovaks it was provided by the constitution that one-third of the Slovak members of parliament may propose a motion of ' No Confidence. '

These constitutional changes introduced, much against the will of the Czechs, a hyphen between the Czechs and the Slovaks which did not exist before. But it was done in the hope that, once the relatively minor quarrels between the two were got out of the way, the very nationalism of the Slovaks was more likely to bring them closer to the Czechs than otherwise. With the constitutional changes guaranteeing an independent status to Slovakia and the fact that the status so guaranteed could not be changed without the consent of the Slovaks themselves, there was no question of the Slovaks ever losing their national identity through submergence by the Czechs.  The autonomy introduced by the hyphen separated the cultural waters and saved the Slovaks from losing their colour.

 The first Slovak parliament elected under the new constitution was opened on January 18, 1939, and Dr. Martin Sokol, the President of the parliament, declared, " The period of the Slovak's struggle for freedom is ended. Now begins the period of national rebirth." Other speeches made on the occasion indicated that now that Slovakia had its autonomy the Slovaks would never feel animosity towards the Czechs and that both would loyally abide by the Czecho-Slovak State.

Not even a month elapsed since the inauguration of the Slovak parliament before the Slovak politicians began their battle against the hyphen and for complete separation. They made excited speeches in which they attacked the Czechs, talked about Czech oppression and demanded a completely independent Slovakia. By the beginning of March, the various forms of separatism in Slovakia were seriously threatening the integrity of the Czechoslovak State. On March 9 it was learnt that Tiso, the Slovak Premier, had decided to proclaim the independence of Slovakia. On the 10th, in anticipation of such an act, troops were moved in Slovakia and Tiso, the Prime Minister, was dismissed along with other Slovak ministers by the President of the Republic, Dr. Hacha. On the next day Tiso, supposed to be under police supervision, telephoned to Berlin and asked for help. On Monday Tiso and Hitler met and had an hour and a half talk in Berlin. Immediately  after the talk with Hitler, Tiso got on the phone to Prague and passed on the German orders.
They were:—
(i)              All Czech troops to be withdrawn from Slovakia;
(ii)             Slovakia to be an independent state under German protection;
(iii)            The Slovak parliament to be summoned by President Hacha to hear the proclamation of independence.

There was nothing that President Hacha and the Prague Government could do except say ' yes ' for they knew very well that dozens of divisions of German troops were massed round the defenceless frontiers of Czechoslovakia ready to march in at any moment if the demands made by Germany in the interest of and at the instance of Slovakia were refused. Thus ended the new state of Czechoslovakia. . . .

What is the lesson to be drawn from the story. . . .?
As to Czechoslovakia, she began with the recognition that both the Czechs and the Slovaks were one people. Within a few years, the Slovaks claimed to be a separate nation. They would not even admit that they were a branch of the same stock as the Czechs. Their nationalism compelled the Czechs to recognize the fact that they were a distinct people. The Czechs sought to pacify the nationalism of the Slovaks by drawing a hyphen as a mark indicating distinctness. In place of Czechoslovakia they agreed to have Czecho-Slovakia.

But even with the hyphen the Slovak nationalism remained discontented. The act of autonomy was both, a hyphen separating them from the Czechs as well as a link joining them with the Czechs. The hyphen as making separation was welcome to the Slovaks but as making a link with the Czechs was very irksome to them. The Slovaks accepted the autonomy with its hyphen with great relief and promised to be content and loyal to the state. But evidently this was only a matter of strategy. They did not accept it as an ultimate end. They accepted it because they thought that they could use it as a vantage ground for destroying the hyphen which was their main aim and convert autonomy into independence. The nationalism of the Slovaks was not content with a hyphen. It wanted a bar in place of the hyphen. Immediately the hyphen was introduced, they began their battle to replace the hyphen between the Czechs and the Slovaks by a bar. They did not care what means they should employ. Their nationalism was so wrong-headed and so intense that when they failed they did not hesitate to call the aid of the Germans. . . ."
(end quote from B.R. Ambedkar)

The case of Czechoslovakia in the 1937-1939 period exemplified the flux in which the world existed at the time; a flux in which a minority community could realistically aspire to nationhood and statehood unbounded by any need for accommodation with other communities; a flux in which such competing nationalisms in a region offered  a convenient pretext for competing great powers to change power equations and extend their territorial influence; and a time when accommodation of resurgent nationalisms within the existing state could result in that state's ultimate destruction.  Jinnah's politics in that period must be viewed in this context.

Constitutional implications of Sole Spokesmanship and Communal Vote
However, leaving aside Jinnah's rhetoric about the Hindu majority threat to India's Muslims, his primary conditions for coalition government in U.P.  in 1937 need to be viewed purely and simply on their own merits. These primary conditions were, in my opinion,  Congress acceptance of Muslim League as sole representative party of Muslims, implying consequently, inclusion of Muslim League in every Congress government on its own (the League's own) terms  and a unilateral communal vote for League members; all,  irrespective of any Congress legislative majority. What would Congress have lost if it had accepted these conditions?

By conceding to Muslim League the sole right to represent and appoint Muslims,  Congress would have to abandon its nationalist creed of canvassing the interests of all Indians,  of professing the equality of all Indians in its nationalist conception,  and of courting all religious and ethnic communities as being equally welcome in its fold. Congress would have to betray its existing long-standing Muslim members,  lose the right to seek any Muslim members at all and confine itself to speaking only to and on behalf of,  Hindus.  As a Hindu-only party which voluntarily gave up its right to canvass the interests of all Indians, Congress would have become even more powerless to resist Muslim separatism than it, in the event did, by refusing Jinnah's demands.

The Congress had won an absolute majority in U.P. mainly (say writers including  Sarvepalli Gopal and Durga Das) on a tenantry reform platform. Must a party which was already in absolute majority, and which would be taking responsibility towards voters for implementing its election platform, necessarily include in government another party, Muslim League, which had no such platform and refused to agree to vote with Congress on the floor of the house?  Jinnah felt that to safeguard Muslim rights, the Congress must do so.  What would have been the consequences?

Muslims were in U.P., by population, 14% and in legislative strength 30%.  In a provincial Cabinet of say, 10 members, had there been a total of two Muslim League ministers holding a communal vote (which would effectively be a communal veto), one League minister could vote against and thereby nullify the decisions of the total 10 ministers; and consequently nullify the vote of the entire Congress majority in legislature in all matters which the Muslim League deemed to be of communal  concern.

In such a situation,   Congress's ability to fulfill those election promises which won it an elected majority, would be put under veto of an elected minority. Making the executive responsible to the  legislative majority would hinge upon first fulfilling the professed communal concerns of a party in legislative minority. Also, such a communal vote cannot be considered an unqualified safeguard for a religious minority, because what would happen to the physical safety of the minorities after a period of their exercising a series of contentious vetoes over the majority community's prerogative?

In the event, the U.P. ministry had Congress Muslim members in it. And the Muslim League while sitting in opposition, did oppose tenantry reform and say Islam was in danger because Muslims landlords, the repositories of Muslim culture, were being undermined by Congress legislation.  What would be the consequence if while in absolute majority, Congress had subjected itself to a Muslim League veto; abandoned tenantry reform; thereby betrayed its promises to its voters  and rather, preferred to keep the Muslim landlords on its side? Congress would have surrendered all credibility among its own electorate for the sake of keeping happy another constituency whose votes Congress would have barred itself from seeking! 

In short, Jinnah's primary conditions for coalition(namely sole spokesmanship of Muslims, consequently inclusion of Muslim League in every government on its own terms  and a unilateral communal vote) would have resulted in a system where the elected executive was decided by fixed religious quotas not party platforms, paralyzed by religious groups' vetoes; therefore could not be responsible to  nor would it be empowered by, the majority in elected legislature. In other words, it wouldn't have been parliamentary democracy.  Congress would have abandoned its decades-old goal of self-rule by responsible government, surrendered its democratic prerogative to a League veto and given up its party creed after winning elections in 7 out of 11 provinces campaigning on that very creed. 
It is worth noting that Jinnah, via his above-mentioned conditions in 1937 including a communal vote,  sought to essentially roll back the 1935 Government of India Act's constitutional advance to responsible provincial government in Muslim-minority provinces (he offered no such coalition governments or communal vote to non-Muslim minorities in Muslim-majority provinces). 

He essentially sought to resurrect some of the provisions of the 1916 Lucknow Pact between Congress and Muslim League.  Legislative representation granted to Muslims in various provinces by the later Government of India Act 1935 was, of course, in excess of that provided in the 1916 Lucknow Pact[Extra(5)]. However, there were other safeguards in the Lucknow Pact which were inconsistent with responsible government and had not been incorporated in either the 1919 Montagu-Chelmsford reforms or in the 1935 Government of India Act.

R.J. Moore writes  in The Crisis of Indian Unity 1917-1940,  The Strains of Devolution:
"The scheme[the Lucknow Pact 1916] also provided other safeguards. No bill affecting a community could be passed by a legislature if three-quarters of the community's representatives opposed it. Furthermore, the scheme envisaged central and provincial governments whose members would be appointed for five years and up to one half of whom might be non-Indians. An irremovable or non-responsible executive government was therefore assumed, which, together with the European strength in the government, gave the Muslims substantial safeguards against Hindu-dominated legislatures.

The Montford reforms[of 1919] implemented in substance the Congress-League scheme of representation, though the proposal for a communal veto on legislation was rejected, and, of course, the principle of responsibility was adumbrated in the provinces. In 1918 the League failed to calculate at once the implications of provincial self-government for the Muslims.  In its reaction to the Montford constitution it marched in step with the Congress, calling in 1918 for full self-government immediately, and agreeing in 1919 to work dyarchy in order to achieve early self-government.  Caught up in the anti-British euphoria, in 1920 the League resolved that swaraj should be achieved by all legitimate and peaceful means. . . .

In the early twenties Muslims became increasingly aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their position under the new constitution. The League's strategies, first at Lucknow and secondly in response to the reforms, had each been based upon  an extreme and unreal assumption : the first,  upon the continuation of representative government without responsibility, of a political order in which executive authority could be checked by a communal veto and tempered by British arbiters; the second, upon a leap to swaraj at once and India's inheritance of the constitutional structure of the Raj essentially intact.

The Montford approach was different: the decentralization of the structure and the steady devolution of power upon responsible Indians in the provinces.  The first step, dyarchy, gave Indian ministers the realities of power and patronage in important departments of state. In their majority provinces the Muslims soon enjoyed the fruits of devolution. . . . Decentralization, devolution, and the rights of numbers brought power to Muslim politicians in majority provinces. The lesson was clear: Muslims should press for further Muslim-majority provinces being carved out of British India, and for the steady devolution of central authority upon autonomous provinces. The corollary of the proposition was a federation of free states, rather than the perpetuation under swaraj of unitary government. . . ."
(end quote from R.J. Moore)

It thus appears that in 1937, Jinnah wanted to preserve the devolution and parliamentary/responsible government principle in Muslim majority provinces where legislatures were Muslim majority, and simultaneously demand from Congress as necessary safeguard, non-responsible governments under League veto in the Muslim minority provinces, where legislatures were Hindu majority. 

The Congress had since the 1920s advocated 'joint electorates' under which the majority religious community would not necessarily constitute a permanent majority nor the minority religious community a permanent minority as was the case with separate electorates. So Jinnah's rhetoric on the lines of 'Muslims will always be out of power and under Hindu Congress raj' was not wholly accurate in this respect. But Muslim groups had consistently resisted giving up separate electorates even in exchange for reserved constituencies which would have ensured at a minimum, representation of Muslims in proportion to their population. 

Over the previous decades, Congress Party had developed a multi-dimensional nationalist agenda for realization of self-rule, which looked beyond the pursuit of snatching greater shares of state power and ultimately wresting sovereignty  from the British. The foreign stranglehold on Indians was to be  banished not only from governance via government responsible to elected legislature, but also from India's economic and foreign affairs.  To display consistency on the principle of just rule of Indians over themselves, the Congress had enunciated its linguistic state framework for handling India's ethnic and linguistic diversity and also espoused economic and social justice agendas.

In contrast, Muslim League seems to have had no defined ideology beyond a one-dimensional pursuit of greater shares of state power and broader sovereignty for Muslims with respect to other Indians.  This single point agenda was presumably deemed sufficient to ensure all manner of rights and to settle all "secondary" matters of just governance, economic and social justice, linguistic diversity, for all classes of Muslims of all regions of India.

Jinnah himself rightly or wrongly seems to have come to regard electorates,  legislative quotas and executive power to be exclusive turf to be protected from Hindus, viewing constitutional advance solely in the light of expanding Muslim sovereignty regardless of the cost to other Indian communities, particularly Hindus. Would Congress in assisting such expansion of Muslim sovereignty  by yielding a unilateral League veto over itself, its nationalist agenda and majority Hindus in 1937, have been better empowered to stave off Muslim separatism? No. Rather, Congress would have  not only lost the right to speak of composite united nationalism but also have surrendered, in real terms, the power to outvote  the separatists.

It might thus even be argued that the Partition of India might have occurred even earlier than 1947 had Congress not resisted Jinnah's demands in 1937 and in subsequent years.

Also, even had Muslim separatism been staved off by Congress acceptance of Muslim League's terms in 1937, there might have been no end to demands for safeguards. This is evident from the fact  that today, 71 years later, Muslims hold virtually 100% of the legislatures and state power in Pakistan;  are completely sovereign;   and yet we are told that Hindus of India  still pose an existential threat to the Muslims of Pakistan and Islam is still in danger there. 
(end comment)


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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