Political Reactions to the Government of India Act 1935
The Government of India act came into force on 4 August 1935.
The provinces namely Madras, Bombay, Bengal, United Provinces, Punjab, Bihar, Central Provinces and Berar, Assam, North West Frontier Province, Orissa and Sind were now in a proposed federation. The chief commissioner’s provinces namely Delhi, Ajmer-Mewar, Coorg, British Baluchistan, Andmana & Nicobar Islands, Panth Piploda were also to be in the Federation.
In the case of the provinces, accession to the Federation would be automatic. But in case of the princely states this accession was to be voluntary. This means that the ruler of an Indian Princely state would acceded to the Federation by executing an “Instrument of Accession”, which would have to be accepted by Viceroy of India and this Federation would be brought by a Royal proclamation. But here was a big confusion. ..
No such proclamation would be issued until the rulers of the States, representing not less than half of the aggregate population of the States, and also entitled to not less than half of the seats allotted to the states in the Federal Upper Chamber, had signified their desire to accede to a Federation, and both the houses of the Parliament had presented an address to His majesty that such proclamation be issued.
Since, for the princely states, this was something similar to surrendering the remnants of the autocratic powers which was left with them. So, this was a nonstarter. No princely states were ready to join the proposed federation.
- The first reaction was towards the way, the representation of the princely states was proposed. The delegates were not to be elected by the public but by the rulers.
- This was because, they (princely states) were the “natural” allies of the British Government of India. So, here Dr. Rajendra Prasad commented:
It will be a kind of federation in which unabashed autocracy will sit entrenched in one third of India and peep in now and then to strangle the popular will in the remaining two thirds.
- Second important reaction was against the proposed form of dyarchy.
- The Dyarchy had been total failure in the provinces, but now there was an experiment coming up at the centre.
- The safeguards and the special powers vested in the Governor General was something like a “Charter of Slavery” as mentioned by Jawahar Lal Nehru. He compared it with a “machine with all brakes, no engine“.
- Similarly Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya said:
“the act is somewhat democratic in its appearance but completely hallow from inside”.
- Jinnah commented it as “thoroughly rotten, fundamentally bad and totally unacceptable“.
- Jinnah’s point of view was based upon the feeling that it would substantially increase Hindu majority at the center.
- However Jinnah was ready to accept the provincial scheme, as it seemed that it would ensure Muslim control of the four Muslim majority provinces.
The result of above hotch potch was that the proposed Federation of India was shelved. Next was the provincial elections. The Elections to the provincial legislatures were held in the January and February 1937. This was a radical change in the politics of India.
The political reaction of the Government of India Act 1935 was so that the proposed Federation of India was shelved. Next were the provincial elections. The Elections to the provincial legislatures were held in the January and February 1937. This was a radical change in the politics of India.
Before we move ahead, please note the following important points:
- The Population of British Indian Provinces under the 1931 Census was 256 million. 11.5% of the population was enfranchised.
- The Section 93 of the Government of India Act 1935 provided that at any time of the Governor of the Province was satisfied that a situation had arisen in which the Government of the Province could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the act, he could by proclamation take upon himself, the administration of the province. This was the primitive model of President Rule of present in India as today and was provided by the Section 93 of the Government of India Act 1935.
- The Chief Commissioners Provinces were directly governed by the Central Government. But Coorg was an exception. In Coorg, there was a legislative council.
- If there was any dispute regarding the domains of powers between the Central Government and the Provincial Government, there was a Federal Court Established.
- This Federal Court consisted of One Chief Justice and 2 regular Judges.