Essay on the Government of India Act, 1935

While the Congress was in the thick of battle, the Third Round Table Conference met in London in November 1932, once again without the leaders of the Congress.

Its discussions eventually led to the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935. The Act provided for the establishment of an All India Federation and a new system of government for the provinces on the basis of provincial autonomy.

The federation was to be based on union ofthe provinces of British India and the princely states. There was to be a bicameral federal legislature in which the states were given disproportionate weight age. Moreover, the representatives of the states were not to be elected by the people, but appointed directly by the rulers.

Only 14 per cent of the total population in British India was given the right to vote. Even this legislature, in which the princes were once again to be used to check and counter the nationalist elements, was denied any real Power.

Defense and foreign affairs remained outside its control, while the Governor-General retained special control over the other subjects.

The Governor-General and the Governors were to be appointed by the British government and were to be responsible to it. In the provinces, local power was increased. Ministers responsible to the provincial assemblies were to control all departments of provincial administration.

But the Governors were given special powers. They could veto legislative action and legislate on their own. Moreover, they retained full control over the civil service and the police.

The Act could not satisfy the nationalist aspiration for both political and economic power continued to be concentrated in the hands of the British government.

Foreign rule was to continue as before; only a few popularly elected ministers were to be added to the structure of British administration in India. The Congress condemned the Act as "totally disappointing".

The federal part of the Act was never introduced but the provincial part was soon put into operation. Bitterly opposed to the Act though the Congress was, it decided to contest the elections under the new Act of 193 5, though with the declared aim of showing how unpopular the Act was.

The whirlwind election campaign of the Congress met with massive popular response, even though Gandhiji did not address a single election meeting.

The elections, held in February 1937, conclusively demonstrated that a large majority of Indian people supported the Congress which swept the polls in most of the provinces.

Congress ministries were formed in July 1937 in seven out of eleven provinces. Later, Congress formed coalition governments in two others.

Only Bengal and Punjab had non-Congress ministries. Punjab was ruled by the Unionist Party and Bengal by a coalition of the Krishak Praja Party and the Muslim League.