“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library



With the growth of left-wing influence and militancy within the nationalist ranks, the stage was set for another round of nationalist mass movements but at this time there was a crisis at the top level.

Rise of Subhash Chandra ” Deshnayak” Bose

SC Bose was the unanimous choice of president in 1938 and he decided to contest once again in 1939 as the representative of militant nationalism and left-wing. Bose declared that he represented new ideas, ideologies, programs, and problems but other leaders like Sardar Patel, and Rajendra Prasad issued a counter-statement saying the president was just a constitutional head who represented unity and solidarity of the nation. With the blessings of Gandhiji, they put P Sittaramaiya as the nominee. But he was defeated.

Bose after being elected declared that Gandhian supporters were right-wing and were ready to compromise with the British and looked forward to ministerial and parliamentary work and hence opposed the nomination of a leftist. Since he cast aspersions on the character of his colleagues Gandhiji and others including Nehru criticized him for this.

He differed with Gandhiji on matters of policy and estimating the strength of the congress. He felt that the world war could be used to our advantage and an ultimatum should be given to the British failing which mass civil disobedience should be launched. Gandhiji disagreed with him on this view as there was communal strife in the country, corruption within the congress, and internal dissensions.

SC Bose had overestimated his majority in the congress elections. He was asked by other leaders to appoint a working committee on the advice of Gandhiji but Gandhiji refused to impose a committee on him. Bose wanted Gandhiji to head the struggle but use tactics and style laid by the leftists and Bose. But Gandhiji refused to be in a situation where strategy was not his but implementation was his responsibility.

Bose made a mistake in understanding the congress members’ mentality, although they had elected him this didn’t mean that they had lost belief in Gandhiji’s leadership. When Bose made comments on Gandhiji’s character he lost the support of even his close allies in Congress.

Bose resigned from presidentship and Rajendra Prasad was elected.

The CPI and the congress socialists didn’t join Bose as they too wanted the support of a united congress under Gandhiji’s leadership.

Isolated Bose formed a forward bloc within the congress and called for a nationwide strike. Congress took disciplinary action and barred him from any congress office for 3 years. When Britain declared war on Germany, India too was dragged into it without being consulted. Congress was divided on this question. Gandhiji wanted support from the British, and Bose and the leftist wanted a mass civil disobedience as the war was for imperialistic reasons [win colonies] but Nehru wanted the middle path that India shouldn’t fight the war till it gained independence nor launch civil disobedience. Nehru asked the British government to issue a statement giving freedom to India after the war but the British reply was completely negative.

Claiming that the congress represents only Hindus, the British propped up communalists and declared that in the interest of minorities freedom can’t be given at this stage or after the war too. This was met with anger by all leaders and congress ordered its ministries to resign immediately. However, a mass struggle wasn’t launched yet

An alternative to the position of the Gandhians was that of the forward bloc, CSP, CPI, and other leftists. They believed that the war was an imperialist war and the situation should be used to the advantage of Indians by means of an all-out struggle for independence. They accepted that weaknesses in the congress organization existed but these could be easily handled once the mass struggle began. Subhash Bose wanted the left wing to leave the congress and believed that people would support the left-led mass movement. But even the left parties doubted this as they felt he overestimated their strength and no movement was possible without the support of Gandhiji and the congress.

Finally, the majority of the congress party decided that no mass struggle for now but their patience was wearing and the government too was in no mood to relent and went on issuing ordinances that took away civil liberties. Finally, the government asked Gandhiji to take charge.

August Offer

To get congress support in the war British government made an announcement known as the August offer to it. The offer said that after the war a representative body of Indians would be set up to form the new constitution. Gandhiji wasn’t satisfied with this offer.

Gandhiji decided to launch individual Satyagraha [in response to the august offer] – satyagrahi would inform the district magistrate about the place of making anti-war speeches. If the government didn’t arrest the satyagraha he would move to the next villages progressively towards Delhi [Chalo Delhi]. Thus Satyagraha in small doses was necessary so that the British would know that India doesn’t support their war efforts but at the same time not disrupt the fight against Nazism.

The war by 1941 had reached the borders of India and the congress leaders released from prison were anxious in this situation working committee passed a resolution that if the British agreed to give freedom after the war then congress would support the British in the war effort.

Cripps Proposal

The British responded to the pressure put by the allies of the war by sending Stafford Cripps to meet and negotiate with the leaders. The draft declaration made had the following points:

  1.  Constitution-making body after the war
  2.  Dominion status
  3.  Members of the constituent assembly shall be elected from provinces and nominated members from the princely states.
  4.  Pakistan’s demand was partly accepted by giving freedom to provinces that didn’t want to join the constitution and could sign a separate agreement with the British.

Congress didn’t support the Cripps proposal as it didn’t have a provision for complete independence. Gandhiji called it a post-dated cheque from a crumbling bank. People’s frustration was at its peak and now a time comes for the final assault on imperialism.

Analysis of the – CRIPPS MISSION

    • Stafford Cripps was sent to India with constitutional proposals to seek Indian support for the war. Stafford Cripps was a left-wing Laborite, the leader of the House of Commons, and a member of the British War Cabinet who had actively supported the Indian national movement.
    • Cripps Mission was Sent because :
      • Because of the reverses suffered by Britain in South-East Asia, the Japanese threat to invade India seemed real now and Indian support became crucial
      • There was pressure on Britain from the Allies (USA, USSR, China) to seek Indian cooperation.
      • Indian nationalists had agreed to support the Allied cause if substantial power was transferred immediately and complete independence given after the war.
    • The main proposals of the mission were as follows :
      • An Indian Union with a dominion status would be set up; it would be free to decide its relations with the Commonwealth and free to participate in. the United Nations and other international bodies.
      • After the end of the war, a constituent assembly would be convened to frame a new constitution. Members of this assembly would be partly elected by the provincial assemblies through proportional representation and partly nominated by the princes.
      • The British Government would accept the new constitution subject to two conditions: (i) any province not willing to join the Union could have a separate constitution and form a separate Union, and (ii) the new constitution-making body and the British Government would negotiate a treaty to effect the transfer of power and to safeguard racial and religious minorities.
      • In the meantime, the defense of India would remain in British hands and the governor-general’s powers would remain intact.
    • Departures from the Past and Implications
      • The making of the constitution was to be solely in Indian hands now (and not “mainly” in Indian hands — as contained in the August Offer). A concrete plan was provided for the constituent assembly.
      •  The option was available to any province to have a separate constitution—a blueprint for India’s partition.
      • Free India could withdraw from the Commonwealth. Indians were allowed a large share in the administration in the interim period.

Why Cripps failed

    • The Cripps Mission proposals turned out to be merely a propaganda device for the US and Chinese consumption.
    • The Congress objected to the offer of dominion status instead of a provision for complete independence. Representation of the states by nominees and not by elected representatives. Right to provinces to secede as this went against the principle of national unity.
    • Absence of any plan for immediate transfer of power and absence of any real share in defence; the governor general’s supremacy had been retained, and the demand for the governor general being only the constitutional head had not been accepted.
    • The Muslim League criticised the idea of a single Indian Union. It did not like the machinery for the creation of a constituent assembly and the procedure to decide on the accession of provinces to the Union. It is thought that the proposals denied the Muslims the right to self-determination and the creation of Pakistan.
    • Other groups also objected to the provinces’ right to secede. The Liberals considered the secession proposals to be against the unity and security of India. The Hindu Mahasabha criticized the basis of the right to secede. The depressed classes thought that partition would leave them at the mercy of the caste Hindus. The Sikhs objected that partition would take away Punjab from them.
    • The incapacity of Cripps to go beyond the Draft Declaration and the adoption of a rigid “take it or leave it” attitude added to the deadlock. Cripps had earlier talked of “cabinet” and “national government” but later he said that he had only meant an expansion of the executive council.
    • Churchill (the British prime minister), Amery (the secretary of state), Linlithgow (the viceroy), and Ward (the commander-in-chief) consistently torpedoed Cripps’ efforts.
    • It was not clear who would implement and interpret the treaty affecting the transfer of power.


    • C. Rajagopalachari, the veteran Congress leader, prepared a formula for Congress-League cooperation. It was a tacit acceptance of the League’s demand for Pakistan. Gandhi supported the formula. The main points in CR Plan were:
      • Muslim League to endorse Congress’s demand for independence.
      • League to cooperate with Congress in forming a provisional government at the center
      • After the end of the war, the entire population of Muslim majority areas in the North-West and North-East India decided by a plebiscite, whether or not to form a separate sovereign state.
      • In case of acceptance of partition, an agreement is to be made jointly for safeguarding defence, commerce, communications, etc. The above terms are to be operative only if England transferred full powers to India.
    • Jinnah’s Objections to the CR plan were: Jinnah wanted Congress to accept the two-nation theory. He wanted only the Muslims of the North-West and North-East to vote in the plebiscite and not the entire population.
    • He also opposed the idea of a common center. While the Congress was ready to cooperate with the League for the independence of the Indian Union, the League did not care for the independence of the Union. It was only interesting in a separate nation.
    • Hindu leaders led by Vir Savarkar condemned the CR Plan.


    • Efforts continued to end the deadlock. Bhulabhai Desai, leader of the Congress Party in the Central Legislative Assembly, met Liaqat Ali Khan, deputy leader of the Muslim League in that Assembly, and both of them came up with the draft proposal for the formation of an interim government at the center, consisting of
    • An equal number of persons were nominated by Congress and the League in the central legislature.
    • 20% reserved seats for minorities. No settlement could be reached between the Congress and the League on these lines, but the fact that a sort of parity between the Congress and the League was decided upon, had far-reaching consequences.


    • Although the war in Europe came to an end in May 1945, the Japanese threat still remained. The Conservative Government in Britain led by Churchill was keen to reach a solution to the constitutional question in India. The viceroy, Lord Wavell was permitted to start negotiations with Indian leaders. Congress leaders were released from jails in June 1945.
    • The Government was Keen on a Solution Now :
      • The general election in England was scheduled for mid-1945. The Conservatives wanted to be seen as sincere in reaching a solution.
      • There was pressure from the Allies to seek further Indian cooperation in the war.
      • The Government wanted to divert Indian energies into channels more profitable for the British.
    • Features of Wavell plan:
      • The idea was to reconstruct the governor general’s executive council pending the preparation of a new constitution. For this purpose, a conference was convened by the viceroy, Lord Wavell, at Shimla in June 1945. The main proposals of the Wavell Plan were as follows.
      • With the exception of the governor-general and the commander-in-chief, all members of the executive council were to be Indians.
      • Caste Hindus and Muslims were to have equal representation.
      • The reconstructed council was to function as an interim government within the framework of the 1935 Act (i.e. not responding to the Central Assembly).
      • Governor-general was to exercise his veto on the advice of ministers.
      • Representatives of different parties were, to submit a joint list to the viceroy for nominations to the executive council. If a joint list was not possible, then separate lists were to be submitted.
      • Possibilities were to be, kept open for negotiations on a new constitution once the war was finally won.
    • The League wanted all Muslim members to be League nominees because it feared that since the aims of other minorities—depressed classes, Sikhs, Christians, etc. were the same as those of the Congress, this arrangement would reduce the League: to a one-third minority.
    • (Wave wanted Khizr Hyatt Khan as the Muslim representative from Western Punjab.)
    • The League claimed some kind of veto in the council with decisions opposed’ to Muslims needing a two-thirds majority for approval.
    • The Congress objected to the plan as “an attempt to reduce the Congress to the status of a pure caste Hindu party and insisted on its right to include members of all communities among its nominees”.
    • Wavell announced a breakdown of talks thus giving the League a virtual veto. This strengthened the League’s position, as was evident from the elections in 1945-46, boosted Jinnah’s position; and exposed the real character of the Conservative Government of Churchill.

A civil servant who worked under Lord Wavell noticed that ‘vanity, pomposity and other such weaknesses never touched him’, another way of saying that he did not look to, or care about, how history would judge him. Yet it is Lord Wavell who should get most of the credit for initiating the end of British rule in India. While skeptical of the political class, he was, despite the reserve which he displayed to them, deeply sympathetic to Indian aspirations. It was he who set in motion the discussions and negotiations at the end of the war, and it was he who pressed for a clear timetable for withdrawal. But it was left to his flamboyant successor (Lord Mountbatten) to make the last dramatic gestures that announced the birth of the two new nations.

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