Elections after Government of India Act 1935
Circumstances at the time of Election
As per the Congress, the act had more enemies than friends. In words of J L Nehru, it had all brakes not engine. The Federal provisions had already been condemned by all the political parties including the Congress and the Muslim League.
The Only parties to declare themselves in favor of the working of the Act of 1935, both in the provinces and the Central were —National Liberal Federation and Hindu Mahasabha.
In due course of time, the urge to fight the elections grew among them Congressmen. In 1936, When Congress met at Faizpur, the president of the session was Jawahar Lal Nehru. He said that
“there was no choice but to contest the elections as it would educate the masses on the political policies and economic programmes of the party”.
In the Faizpur session, there was a general opposition to the proposed federal portion, safeguards and Governor General’s overriding powers. So, the resolution of the congress was “not to submit to this constitution or to cooperate with it, but to combat it both inside and outside the legislatures so that it can be ended.”
But the provincial portion of the act was accepted. The Congress launched the Election campaign and in its manifesto the top thing was “A demand for the Constituent Assembly“.
In the same year 1936, Jinnah was elected president of the Muslim League. Thus the Muslim league which was up till now was in moribund state got a fresh lease of life. The Muslim league appointed a Central parliamentary board to direct the elections.
Elections and Results
The Congress swept the polls. It won absolute majority in 5 provinces viz. Madras, United Provinces, Central provinces, Bihar & Orissa, Bombay, Assam and North West Frontier Province it emerged at the largest political party and formed the governments. Later Assam and NWFP also came under Congress rule.
In Bengal, Punjab and Sind, Congress had no majority.
In Punjab, the Muslim League with Unionist Party formed a coalition government. However, later a faction of Unionist Party in the premiership of Sikandar Hayat Khan mixed up with the Muslim league and remained so till 1947.
In Bengal, Muslim league formed a coalition government with Krishak Praja Party under Fazlul Haq.
In Sindh, during 1937-1947, two leaders remained premiers viz. Ghulam Hussain Hidayutulla and Alla Bakhsh. They were non congress leaders.
The Muslim league got 108 sats out of the total 485 Muslim Seats. Congress contested on 58 Muslim seats and won 26 seats out of them.
Congress remained in office for more than two years. Under this tenure, Tenancy acts were passes un United Provinces and Bihar, to protect the tenants from the moneylenders. They took pro-labor stand but remained away from the class struggle.
In 1937, the Congress Government in Bombay appointed a Textile Inquiry Committee which recommended a wage increase for labor.
In November 1938, the Congress Government in Bombay introduced the “Industrial Disputes Act”. The act was based upon the principles of arbitrage and avoided the strikes and lock outs.
In these two years Congress did all that lifted its image from a political party to a party that can lead the masses of India not only in protests but also in Governance. The Ministers of Congress traveled in second and third class of railways and voluntarily reduced their salaries by Rs. 500 per month.
Rise of Separatism
In 1937, after the Provincial elections, the Congress had refused to make coalition Governments with the Muslim league. This gave the Muslim League leaders an opportunity to accuse the ministries of oppressing the Muslims. Apart from that, Muslim League had the view that it alone had the right to contact with the Muslims and take care of them. When Congress started mass contacts in villages, the Muslim league did not approve it.
A dream was shown to the middle and lower class Muslims of the country that if they remain in united country, they will always be unable to compete with the Kafirs who will not allow them to get the higher jobs and prospects. If a separate sovereign state is created, then it would be the middle and lower class Muslims that would get the most benefit.
There was one more reason of a press for separate Muslim nation. It was the Wardha Scheme of Education, which led the Muslim league to champion for the cause of Pakistan.