1947: Gandhi’s offer of PM-ship to Jinnah
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The origin of the debate
A misconception exists that, in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru reacted angrily to Gandhi's suggestion that Jinnah should be given the Prime Ministership of India and solely for this reason, this last ditch attempt to prevent the Partition of India failed. The implication of various historians has been that Nehru was power-hungry and hence forced Partition on India instead of generously handing the Prime Ministership to Jinnah in a grand gesture of sacrifice.
Documents used in this page
Viceroy Mountbatten's Interview with Gandhiji, 1 April 1947 (full text)
Viceroy Mountbatten's Interview with Pandit Nehru, 1 April 1947 (excerpt)
Note by Mr. V. P. Menon titled 'Criticism of the scheme for the Interim Govt. proposed by Gandhi'(full text)
Viceroy Mountbatten's Staff Meeting, 5 April 1947 (full text)
Lord Ismay to Mr. Gandhi, 6 April 1947 (excerpt)
Viceroy Mountbatten's Interview with Pandit Nehru, 8 April 1947 (excerpt)
Minutes of Viceroy's Staff Meetings, Eleventh Meeting, April 8, 1947 (excerpt)
Gandhiji's note entitled 'DRAFT FORMULA', 10 April 1947 (full text)
Gandhiji's letter to Viceroy Mountbatten, 11 April 1947 (excerpt)
Unless otherwise specified, quoted from The Transfer of Power 1942-7 Volume X The Mountbatten Viceroyalty, Formulation of a Plan.
What the records show
However, the record shows that
1. According to the Viceroy's personal account in the Mountbatten papers, Nehru did not in fact react angrily or with 'shock' to the suggestion as for example, Stanley Wolpert writes in 'Jinnah of Pakistan'. He merely expressed doubt that Gandhi's suggestion would be accepted by Jinnah.
2. Both Nehru and V.P. Menon separately pointed out to Viceroy Mountbatten that Gandhi had made the offer of Prime Ministership to Jinnah on earlier occasions as well, and that Jinnah had not accepted it on those earlier occasions for his own reasons.
3. V.P. Menon and other British Indian officials pointed out to the Viceroy that Gandhi's suggestion of Jinnah's Prime Ministership posed difficulties for the Viceroy and British too.
4. Not only Nehru but many members of the Congress Working Committee also did not endorse Gandhi's suggestion, finally.
The factors in the failure of Gandhi's suggestion of offering the Prime Ministership to Jinnah were thus many, and Nehru alone can not be held responsible.
[Also see below, Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43 and Gandhi's 1943 letter to Jinnah from jail]
From Cabinet Mission Plan
Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43 and the episode of Gandhi's 1943 letter to Jinnah from jail
Documents used in this section
Jinnah's speech in the Central Legislative Assembly, November 19, 1940 (excerpts). [More excerpts in the section ‘Jinnah’s reaction’ )]
Jinnah's speech at public meeting, Delhi, November 30, 1940(excerpt).
Jinnah's statement on Congress Working Committee Resolution(the Quit India Resolution), Bombay, August 8, 1942(excerpts).
Jinnah's Presidential Address delivered at the Thirtieth Session of the All India Muslim League, Delhi, April 24 1943(excerpts).
Gandhi's letter to Jinnah, 4 May 1943(full text). From The Transfer of Power 1942-7 Eds. Nicholas Mansergh and E.W.R Lumby, Volume III 'Reassertion of Authority, Gandhiji's fast and the succession to the Viceroyalty'.
Jinnah's statement on Government communiqué regarding Mr. Gandhi's letter, Bombay, May 28, 1943(full text).
Viceroy Linlithgow's letter to Mr. Amery lauding Jinnah, 1 June 1943 (excerpt). From The Transfer of Power 1942-7 , Volume III.
Unless otherwise specified, quoted from 'Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam', Vol. II and III, ed. Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore.
Gandhi and some other leaders, speaking on behalf of Congress, offered M.A. Jinnah the Prime Ministership of India heading an all-Muslim League national government in 1940 and during the Quit India movement in 1942. These excerpts cover Jinnah's response to these offers.
During the All India Muslim League meeting in April 1943, Jinnah, in a public speech [More excerpts in the section ‘Jinnah’s reaction’ )] invited Gandhi to write to him if he had changed his mind on Pakistan. Having read about this invitation in a newspaper in jail, Gandhi wrote a letter to Jinnah which the Viceroy refused to deliver, and which eventually Jinnah disowned all interest in, accusing Gandhi of trying to embroil the Muslim League in conflict with the British government and to secure his own release from jail.
Jinnah's Speech in Legislative Assembly, Nov 19, 1940
(1) Jinnah's Speech in the Central Legislative Assembly, on the Indian Finance (No. 2) Bill, New Delhi, November 19, 1940(excerpts)
"If you drop your first part and if you mean a composite Government, responsible to the elected Members of this Legislature, provisionally, let us not lose our sense of proportion. I say to the Honourable gentlemen of the Congress Party, we are in danger: say what you like. We cannot be indifferent now. If you really have a practical proposal which can be accepted by all reasonable parties, why don't you adopt the correct channel, the proper procedure, the proper method? What is the use of addressing them. What is the use of despatching it to the Daily Herald. Well, they cannot make up their mind. Mr. Rajagopalacharya has made a 'sporting offer'. Now, we have been told day in and day out even by the able and competent gentlemen of the Press here, the army of them that I see: what is this? Mr. Rajagopalacharya's sporting offer is also not considered. But where is the offer? What does Mr. Rajagopalacharya say ? May I read the few lines in which he has compressed this offer. He says:
'In answer to Mr. Amery's difficulty as to the minorities, I may make a sporting offer that if His Majesty's Government agree to a provisional National Government being formed at once, I shall undertake to persuade my colleagues in the Congress to agree to the Muslim League being invited to nominate the Prime Minister and to let him form a National Government as he would consider best.."
Now, Sir, why does he not invite the prospective Prime Minister to have a talk with him, instead of firing it off to the Daily Herald and saying "I will persuade my colleagues of the Working Committee to do this, that and the other?" I do ask my honourable friends - is this business? And to-day Mr. Rajagopalacharya justifies why he did not make that offer to the Muslim League.
I tell you, I cannot restrain my utter astonishment and amazement as to how that mind works. It is impossible to understand it. This is what he says to-day. I shall only refer to that portion which relates to this subject. The other parts have nothing to do with it. Of course he has paid us a compliment that the Muslims are more ardent for independence than others. I am very glad.
Sir Syed Raza Ali: When did you discover that.
Mr. S. Satyamurti: Before you did!
[At this stage, President (The Honourable Sir. Abdur Rahim) resumed the Chair.]
Mr. M.A. Jinnah: The point is this. They say that the British Government did not take any notice of the 'sporting offer' and some critics suggested that it should have been made to Mr. Jinnah, and not to the British Government. But the offer was not made to the British Government even, though I admit that the British Government have taken note of it. It would, in his opinion, have been improper to make it to Mr. Jinnah in the first instance as Mr. Jinnah would then have had legitimate ground for considering it an insult and retorting that he was not after jobs. I ask, if Mr. Amery had accepted this offer, and, then, if that offer had been made to me, would it not have been open to the same retort, because it is the same offer and the terms are the same. I would have said : "Both Mr. Amery and Mr. Rajagopalacharya are insulting me and that I am not here for jobs." Do give some credit to other people at least for commonsense. Is this really the explanation?
An Honourable Member : Read the later portion also.
Mr. M.A. Jinnah: I am quite willing to read the other part. He says:
"Assuming that Mr. Jinnah accepted the offer, it would not be in the speaker's power to implement it unless there was the prior commitment by the British Government to part with power."
His argument is, if I had accepted it, it was not in his power to implement it. It may not be in his power to implement nor is it in my power to implement, but the latest and authoritative pronouncement of the British Government is this: "If you can put your heads together and bring some agreement we are willing to consider it." Then what is the use of making this offer to Mr. Amery over the head of the Muslim League?
An Honourable Member: We can agree provided they are willing to part with power.
Mr. M.A.Jinnah: I do not think they have ever gone the length that you want to go but they have said this: we are willing immediately to associate the representatives of the political parties and to give them an effective and important share in the Government of India by the proposal of the expanded Executive Council.
Surely that is not the last word. In fact the last word is never spoken in politics. Now if you really think they must give you beforehand the blank cheque that Mr. Gandhi has been giving me for the last 25 years, it is useless. Why not you and I meet and put our heads together? If you make a practical proposition, we present a common united demand to Mr. Amery, or, for the matter of that, to the British Parliament or the British nation if you like.
An Honourable Member: No response from the Congress Party.
Mr. M.A.Jinnah: The Constituent Assembly is a panacea for all the ills of India. Complete Independence. My complaint is- then you stick to that, Godspeed! stick to it honestly: I may agree with you or I may not agree with you, but you will command my admiration and respect: stick to it: and if you do not want to stick to it, then come down to earth and let us deal, as practical men, and face the realities, as Mr. Bhulabhai Desai says, and do not allow others to take advantage- as the Manchester Guardian says - a British Journal - frankly, our power and position in India is due to the mistake of the others, and it will continue if you go on making this mistake." The position is this, I am only dealing with the present. I am not dealing with the future.
There is one last sentence and I will finish. When we talk of this little innocent baby which is put forward, viz., the demand for a National Government responsible to the elected Members of this Legislature, there are far-reaching implications when you examine it in detail - far reaching implications. It will mean fundamental alterations and changes in the Constitution in order to constitute that Cabinet; and when that Cabinet is constituted, it will responsible to the elected Members of the Legislature. Mr. Bhulabhai Desai throughout his speech only emphasized two things: "Democracy, democracy, democracy and a National Government! What is the use? Whatever that cabinet may be, it will be responsible to this Legislature - in which Mr. Bhulabhai Desai can command two thirds of the elected Members. I will pity the man who happens to be in that Cabinet who does not obey the Congress command and the Congress mandate!
== Jinnah's Speech, Delhi, Nov 30, 1940 (2) Jinnah's Speech at public meeting, Delhi, November 30, 1940(excerpt)
Muslims Have Grown Up
Proceeding Mr. Jinnah referred to statements frequently made in the press by Congressmen and declared that these would not help. Congress leaders say that they are willing to make Mr. Jinnah or any Muslim League nominee Prime Minister of India. They say, 'Let Muslims have all the power. We do not want power. We are ready to accept Muslim rule rather than British rule.' Can any man with a grain of sense believe this? No. The Mussalmans have grown up. They are different totally fundamentally, radically different from what they were three years ago, and I am sure as I am standing here that five years hence they will be more different still..." == Jinnah's Statement, Aug 8, 1942 (3) Jinnah's Statement on Congress Working Committee Resolution(the Quit India Resolution), Bombay, August 8, 1942(excerpt)
…Congress leaders have now started foreign propaganda. According to them the Congress is fighting purely from an altruistic point of view and does not wish to have any share in the authority and power of the government; the government of India may be handed over to the Muslim League and they will willingly accept Muslim raj rather than British raj. What is most amazing is the fact that Mr. Gandhi has endorsed such individual utterances.
In the first place no intelligent man can believe the sincerity of such a desire, for it is too good to be true. But if they are sincere, I should welcome it. If the British Government accepts the solemn recommendation of Mr. Gandhi and by an arrangement hands over the government of the country to the Muslim League, I am sure that under Muslim rule non Muslims would be treated fairly, nay, generously: and further the British will be making full amends to the Muslims by restoring the government of India to them from whom they had taken it. I am sure Muslims would welcome such a decision on the part of the British Government...
Jinnah's AIML Presidential Address, Apr 24 1943
(4) Jinnah's Presidential Address delivered at the Thirtieth Session of the All India Muslim League, Delhi, April 24 1943(excerpts)
.. The Congress position has been from the start up to August 8- that the policy and demand for Pakistan is an untruth. In his correspondence with the Viceroy Mr. Gandhi had forgotten to mention this point altogether, and hence he puts this in a post-script. "The Government have evidently ignored or overlooked the very material fact that the Congress by its August resolution asked nothing for itself. All its demands were for the whole people. As you should be aware the Congress was willing and prepared for the Government inviting Quaid-e-Azam Mr. Jinnah to form a National Government subject to such agreed adjustments as may be necessary for the duration of the war, such Government being responsible to a duly elected assembly."
Am I wrong?
This is Mr. Gandhi's language. The whole crux of this proposal is that he wants such a government as will be responsible to a duly elected assembly. I ask you: what is left, if this is carried out? Is there any doubt that Lord Linlithgow will be immediately turned into a constitutional Co-Governor-General or he might get a kick? The India Office will be abolished and the British Parliament will have no say in India. This central constitution can only be brought into effect by repealing the present constitution completely and substituting another. If I am wrong I shall stand corrected. Once the present central foundation structure is gone the surrounding provincial structure cannot last. What about the provinces? Are they to remain under the Governor? Are they to remain under the present constitution? Therefore you must overhaul, repeal the present constitution and undertake the framing of an entirely new constitution for the whole of India including Indian states. We are asked: what is wrong with that? Pakistan is only to be postponed. The answer is that the moment you accept and undertake this position on the basis of Mr. Gandhi's proposal, Pakistan demand is torpedoed by our consent; the framing of a new constitution on the lines suggested by Mr. Gandhi would lead to the bitterest controversies if any such attempt were made- to say nothing about who was to be authorised to frame such a constitution. Therefore the position of the Congress is exactly the same as ever. Only it is put in different words and in a different language but it means Hindu Raj on an Akhand Hindustan basis- a position which we can never accept.
Nobody would welcome it more than myself if Mr. Gandhi is even now really willing to come to a settlement with the Muslim League on the basis of Pakistan. Let me tell you that it will be the greatest day for both for the Hindus and the Mussalmans. If he has made up his mind, what is there to prevent Mr. Gandhi from writing direct to me? He is writing letters to the Viceroy. Why does he not write to me direct? Who is there that can prevent him from doing so? What is the use of going to the Viceroy and leading deputations and carrying on correspondence? Who is to prevent Mr. Gandhi to-day? I cannot believe for a single moment - strong as this Government may be in this country-you may say anything you like against this Government- I cannot believe that they will have the daring to stop such a letter if it is sent to me.
It will be a very serious thing, indeed, if such a thing is done by the government. But I do not see any evidence of any kind of change of policy on the part of Mr. Gandhi or the Congress or the Hindu leadership...
..But great men also make mistakes. Mr. Gandhi gets all the information, all the newspapers and knows and understands what is going in. If there is any change of heart on his part, he has only to drop me a few lines, when, I assure you, the Muslim League will not fail, whatever may have been our controversies in the past.."
Gandhi's letter to Jinnah, May 1943
(5) Gandhi's letter to Jinnah(full text)
692 page 953
The Marquess of Linlithgow to Mr. Amery
Telegram 8 May 1943
No. 1128-S Reference my immediately preceding telegram No. 1127-S. Following is letter dated 4th May from Gandhi to Jinnah:-
Begins. Dear Qaid-e-Azam, When some time after my incarceration, the Government asked me for a list of newspapers I would like to have, I included the Dawn in my list. I have been receiving it with more or less regularity. Whenever it comes to me, I read it carefully. I have followed the proceedings of the League as reported in the Dawn columns. I noted your invitation to me to write to you. Hence this letter.
I welcome your invitation. I suggest our meeting face to face rather than talking through correspondence. But I am in your hands. I hope this letter will be sent to you and if you agree to my proposal, that the Government will let you visit me.
One thing I had better mention. There seems to be an "if" about your invitation. Do you say I should write only if I have changed my heart? God alone knows men's hearts. I would like you to take me as I am. Why should not both you and I approach the great question of communal unity as men determined on finding a common solution and work together to make our solution acceptable to all who are concerned with it or are interested in it?
Yours sincerely, M.K. Gandhi. Ends. == Jinnah's reaction, May 28, 1943 (6) Jinnah's Statement on Government communiqué regarding Mr. Gandhi's letter, Bombay, May 28, 1943(full text)
I have received a communication from the Secretary to the Government of India, Home Department, dated May 24, that Mr. Gandhi's letter merely expresses a wish to meet me, and this letter, Government have decided, cannot be forwarded to me.
This letter of Mr. Gandhi can only be construed as a move on his part to embroil the Muslim League to come into clash with the British Government solely for the purpose of helping his release, so that he would be free to do what he pleases thereafter.
There is really no change of policy on the part of Mr. Gandhi and no genuine desire to meet the suggestions that I made in my speech during the session of the All India Muslim League at Delhi. Although I have always been ready and willing to meet Mr. Gandhi or any other Hindu leader and shall be still glad to meet him, yet merely expressing his desire to meet me is not the kind of ephemeral letter that I suggested in my speech that Gandhi should write, and which has been now stopped by the Government.
No change of heart
My speech was directed to meet the appeals that were made to me and are now being made by Hindu leaders, that the Muslim League should do something towards the solution of the deadlock, and my suggestions about the kind of letter that Mr. Gandhi should write were in response to those appeals, when I said that I myself saw no change of heart.
There was no evidence of any change of policy on the part of Mr. Gandhi or Hindu leadership, and I referred to the recent correspondence that had been passed between Mr. Gandhi and the Viceroy, which, on the contrary, showed that Mr. Gandhi fully maintained his stand of August 8, 1942.
But nevertheless, some of the responsible Hindu leaders pressed upon me that Mr. Gandhi has not realized that he had made a mistake and that he would be prepared to consider and retrace his step if he were given an opportunity to do so, and that he had changed his attitude towards Pakistan and would be willing to come to a settlement on the basis of Pakistan, but the British Government were preventing the Hindu-Muslim settlement by refusing people of position and standing to establish contact with him for this purpose. I therefore suggested that if Gandhi were to write to me a letter indicating that he was prepared to retrace his steps and abandon his policy and programme culminating in the resolution of the A.I.C.C of August 8, and was even now willing to come to a settlement with the Muslim League on the basis of Pakistan, we were willing to bury the past and forget it. I still believe that the Government will not dare stop such a letter if it came from Mr. Gandhi.
I regret that the Congress press, as usual, is indulging in cheap gibes and slogans based on the publication of isolated passages from my speech and even those are mutilated and important words are eliminated from them. This may serve as misleading and inimical propaganda but is not calculated to create a friendly atmosphere, which is essential. In my opinion the press and those who are indulging in various thoughtless statements are doing great disservice.
After this statement Viceroy Linlithgow wrote approvingly of Jinnah to the Secretary of State Amery.
Marquess of Linlithgow, June 1943
755 page 1032
The Marquess of Linlithgow to Mr. Amery(excerpts)
THE VICEROY'S HOUSE, NEW DELHI, 1 June 1943
..2. First of all for a word about our position here. The Gandhi-Jinnah business has gone off very well indeed. It is clear that as things stand, by adopting your technique and that of the Cabinet we are in a better position than we should have been had we followed my original proposals, for we remain intact on the principle of keeping Gandhi shut off from the world, while, thanks to the statesmanlike and courageous attitude which Jinnah has adopted, we find ourselves in a position which I hoped we would have attained by the procedure which I had originally recommended. In holding that on balance it would pay us to send the letter in order, first, to let them run their heads together, and secondly, to show the world that there was no sign of any real move on Gandhi's part, I undervalued Jinnah's skill.
So far as advertisement goes Jinnah has had bigger and better advertisement as things have worked out that he could have obtained had we sent the letter. I was myself more concerned about House of Commons reactions than about possible reactions here, and when I found that the Cabinet was set, and apparently happy about Parliament and the U.S.A., I did not come back a second time as I should have had I regarded the point as vital. But that is now all over.
Meanwhile the fact that Jinnah has wholly associated himself in his public statement on Gandhi's letter with the principle that there can be no communication with Gandhi so long as the Mahatma does not call off the policy of August last is a very valuable advance; and valuable, too, from another point of view since it puts us on perfectly firm ground as regards the content of Gandhi's letter to Jinnah.
Whatever Gandhi may have meant by his sibylline utterances in that letter about a change of heart, if those utterances were to be read as referring to Pakistan, one thing that is perfectly clear from his letter (particularly in view of his letter to Samuel which followed it) is that he has not made any move whatever from the political position which he adopted last year and as a result of which he has been in confinement since August last..."
What the records show: II
47 page 69 (full text)
Interview between Mountbatten and Gandhi, 1 April 1947
Record of Interview between Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and Mr. Gandhi Mountbatten Papers. Viceroy's Interview No. 19
1 April 1947
Mr. Gandhi asked if he might take a walk round the Viceroy's garden at 9 o'clock, which he did accompanied by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. Her Excellency went to meet him and accompanied him for part of the walk.
I met him at 9.30 as arranged, and we drew up chairs in the garden and continued our conversations.
He gave me his views on the origin of Hindu-Muslim animosity, and though he did not hold the British responsible for its origin, he said their policy of "Divide and Rule" had kept the tension very much alive, and that I should now reap what my predecessors had deliberately sown.
He urged me whatever happened to have the courage to see the truth, and act by it, even though the correct solution might mean grievous loss of life on our departure on an unprecedented scale.
Finally, he gave me the first brief summary of the solution which he wished me to adopt:
Mr. Jinnah should forthwith be invited to form the Central Interim Government with members of the Muslim League. This Government to operate under the Viceroy in the way the present Interim Government is operating.
Any difficulty experienced through Congress having a majority in the Assembly to be overcome by their able advocacy of the measures they wished to introduce.
I need not say that this solution coming at this time staggered me. I asked "What would Mr. Jinnah say to such a proposal"? The reply was "If you tell him I am the author he will reply 'Wily Gandhi'." I then remarked "And I presume Mr. Jinnah will be right"? To which he replied with great fervour "No, I am entirely sincere in my suggestion."
At this moment the A.D.C reported that the Tibetan Mission had arrived, and our conversation therefore had to be terminated until the following day.
I did however obtain Mr. Gandhi's permission to discuss the matter with Pandit Nehru and Maulana Azad, in strict confidence, the next time they came to see me.
During the course of the discussion Mr. Gandhi gave it as his considered opinion as a student of history and of world politics that never before, in any case of history he had read about in the recent or past times, had so difficult or responsible a task been imposed on any one man as that which now faced me. I thanked him sincerely for realizing the position in which I was placed.
Interview between Mountbatten and Nehru, 1 April 1947
48 page 70(excerpt)
Record of Interview between Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and Pandit Nehru
Mountbatten Papers, Viceroy's Interview No. 20
1 April 1947
The interview lasted from 3 to 4.20 p.m.
I began by giving him an account of my talk with Mr. Gandhi, which the latter had agreed I should do. Pandit Nehru was not surprised to hear of the solution which had been suggested, since this was the same solution that Mr. Gandhi had put up to the Cabinet Mission. It was turned down then as being quite impracticable; and the policy of Direct action by the Muslim League, and the bloodshed and bitterness in which it had resulted, made the solution even less realistic now than a year ago.
He said he was anxious for Mr. Gandhi to stay a few days longer in Delhi, as he had been away for four months and was rapidly getting out of touch with events at the Centre.
We next discussed the partition of the Punjab and Ghazanfar Ali Khan's suggestion for fresh elections. Pandit Nehru pointed out that the atmosphere engendered by fresh elections could not fail to lead to a recrudescence of communal strife and bloodshed; and that at the end of the elections there was absolutely no guarantee that a Muslim League Government could be formed. And even if they had a small paper majority, the districts in which Sikhs and Hindus predominated would now in no circumstances willing accept the rule of an unrepresentative Government.
He linked the question of partition of Bengal with that of the Punjab. He had not yet had the opportunity of discussing with Mr. Gandhi his reasons for opposing the Congress resolution on partition; but he realized that Mr. Gandhi was immensely keen on a unified India, at any immediate cost, for the benefit of the long term future.
I told Pandit Nehru that I recognized that there were long term and short term considerations which must affect the decision I had to make, and that although the long term ones should theoretically predominate, I hoped he would agree that I could not base my decision solely on them if the consequences were to be greatly increased chances of heavy bloodshed in the immediate future. He said that no reasonable man would argue with these premises.
We discussed the position between Bengal and Assam.."
Note by Mr. V. P. Menon
75 page 122
Note by Mr. V. P. Menon
Mountbatten Papers. Official Correspondence Files:Plans, Alternative(For Transfer of Power), Part 1 undated
Criticism of the scheme for the Interim Govt. proposed by Gandhi.
Gandhi is not being quite fair to H.E when he puts forward his proposal that the selection of the Cabinet for an Interim Government should be left entirely to Jinnah. He knows full well that similar offers have been made by him in the past and that Jinnah never took them seriously.
2. In August 1940, on the concluding day of the Congress Working Committee's session, in which they rejected Lord Linlithgow's offer for the reformation of the Central Government, Rajagopalachari in a statement to the Daily Herald made a "sporting offer" intended to dissipate "Mr. Amery's difficulty as to minorities". He said that if H.M.G would agree to a Provisional National Government being formed at once, he would persuade his colleagues in the Congress to agree to the Muslim League being invited to nominate the Prime Minister who would form a National Government as he might consider best.
3. Subsequently, Gandhi issued a statement to the effect that Congress had no desire to mount to power at the expense of a single national interest and that Lord Linlithgow would therefore have no opposition from Congress if he formed a Cabinet composed of representatives of different parties. He however qualified this statement by a very important proviso, namely, that Congress would be content to remain in opposition so far as the war effort was concerned and so long as the Government machinery had to subserve imperialistic ends.
No one- least of all the Muslim League-took this offer seriously; the joke, if joke it was, failed to amuse the Congress world; and it thoroughly annoyed the Hindu Mahasabha.
4.This question of participation in the Central Government on the basis of Lord Linlithgow's offer of August 1940 was considered by the Working Committee of the Muslim League. A minority of about 5 were against co-operation with the Government and Jinnah himself stood with this group. The late Sir Sikander Hayat Khan opposed further haggling and said that the offer should be accepted in principle, details being settled personally. Jinnah said that he was prepared to abide by the advice of the majority but warned the members of the consequences of full co-operation; the entire burden of responsibility for protecting the Indian Empire, crushing the Congress, suppressing internal strife, supplying men and money, and running the administration, would fall on the League; and at the same time, they would have to work under the constant fear that Congress might decide to co-operate, and that Government might refuse to consider the Pakistan scheme. Jinnah's adroitness was proved by the sequel. Though in this meeting he was in a minority on the main question, he prevented any outright decision in favour of accepting the Government's offer, and subsequently obtained a verdict of rejection.
5. There is no reason to suppose that Jinnah will now accept an offer which he has rejected previously. If he forms a Government composed entirely of Muslim League nominees, that Government will find itself facing a predominantly Congress majority in the Central Legislature from which Jinnah has to get his essential legislation and supply. On the other hand, if there is a coalition, it will have to be formed on conditions more acceptable to the Congress than to the League. In either event, the assurance of co-operation by the Congress is more a wishful thinking and would certainly place Jinnah in the position of having to adjust his views to those of the Congress. This is perhaps not un-intended by Gandhi. In a Legislature where the Congress has got predominant representation, the question whether a "particular proposal is in the interests of the Indian people" will in practice be decided by that party. The fact that H.E as the arbitrator has decided on a particular course of action will not help Jinnah either with the Legislature or with the public.
6. The position of H.E will become under the proposed arrangement one of very great difficulty and embarrassment. At no time is it desirable that the Governor-General should be brought into the vortex of party politics. This is to be particularly avoided at the present juncture when we are engaged in the process of transfer of power and our primary duty should therefore be to concentrate on devising an arrangement under which the parties themselves will have to face up to their tasks and responsibilities. Further, such a development might well cast doubts on H.E's bona fides and might do irreparable damage to good relations between India and Great Britain.
7. According to Gandhi's proposal, Jinnah is at liberty to plan for Pakistan and even to put his plans into effect provided that he is successful in appealing to reason and does not use force. This is asking for the impossible. If Jinnah could persuade the Sikhs and Hindus of the Punjab and Hindus of Bengal to join Pakistan, he would automatically get his Pakistan without joining the Interim Government on dubious terms. On the other hand, if Jinnah still persists in his scheme of separation, he will be giving his case away by entering the Central Government. This was the main motive which induced him to keep out of the Central Government in the past; and, as a matter of fact, he has never attached any importance to effective participation on the side of the Muslim League in the present Interim Government.
8. It is Gandhi's habit to make propositions, leaving many of their implications unsaid, and this method of negotiation has put him and the Congress in difficult positions in the past. For example, there is no reference here to the Muslim League participation in the Constituent Assembly. If Jinnah were to accept his proposal, Gandhi probably takes it for granted that the Muslim League would enter the Constituent Assembly. It seems to me clear therefore that the present proposals do not expose his full mind.
9. Since the Cabinet Delegation's visit last year, Gandhi is out of accord with the policy of the Congress Working Committee as well as the members of the Interim Government on several questions of major importance. It should not therefore be taken for granted that his present proposals will carry the support of either the Congress Working Committee or of Nehru and Patel.
10. It is suggested that if Jinnah rejects the offer the same offer is to be made mutatis mutandi to the Congress. It should be borne in mind that all the factors which have been mentioned as working to the disadvantage of Jinnah will for the same reason work to the advantage of the Congress. H.E's main task is to find a solution to the present deadlock between the League and the Congress. It is no solution to suggest that power should be transferred to the Congress to the exclusion of the Muslim League. If the proposition were as simple as that, it would have been solved long ago.
Viceroy's Staff Meetings
76 page 125 (full text)
Viceroy's Staff Meetings
Uncirculated Record of Discussion No.3
Those present during during this discussion which took place at the end of The Viceroy's Ninth Staff Meeting held at The Viceroy's House, New Delhi on 5 April 1947 at 10 am were: Rear Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma, Lord Ismay, Sir E. Mieville, Mr. Abell, Captain Brockman, Mr. Campbell-Johnson, Lieutenant-Colonel Erskine Crum.
LORD ISMAY said that he had spent an hour with Mr. Gandhi the previous day after the latter's interview with the Viceroy. He had reduced to writing an outline of Mr. Gandhi's scheme for an Interim Government pending the transfer of power. The salient features of this scheme were that Mr. Jinnah was to be given the option of forming a Cabinet of his own selection; and that if he rejected this offer, the same offer should be made mutatis mutandis to Congress.
LORD ISMAY said that he had sent copies of this outline to Sir Eric Mieville, Mr. Abell and Rao Bahadur Menon, and after a meeting with them on the subject, Rao Bahadur Menon had rendered a note containing criticism of the scheme. It was clear that Mr. Gandhi's plan was not a new one. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY pointed out that Mr. Gandhi had made no attempt to disguise this fact.
LORD ISMAY said that, after their talk the previous evening, he, Sir Eric Mieville, Mr. Abell and Rao Bahadur Menon had come to the unanimous conclusion that Mr. Gandhi's scheme was not workable. It would put the Viceroy in an impossible position; Mr. Jinnah's Government would be completely at the mercy of the Congress majority; every single legislative or political measure would be brought up to the Viceroy for decision and every action the Viceroy took after the initial stages would be misrepresented. LORD ISMAY pointed out in support of this belief that Mr. Gandhi the previous day had accused Sir Evan Jenkins of responsibility for the present situation in the Punjab; Sir Olaf Caroe of responsibility for the present North-West Frontier trouble; Sir Francis Mudie of excessive support of the Muslim League Government in Sind; and the whole Civil Service and Indian Political Service of all manner of sins; including corruption.
SIR ERIC MIEVILLE agreed that under Mr. Gandhi's scheme the position of the Viceroy would become one of the greatest difficulty and embarrassment and read an extract from Rao Bahadur Menon's note to support this opinion. He asked what influence Mr. Gandhi had with the rank and file of the Congress party. Could he, for example, sway the Congress majority in the Assembly to his wishes?
MR. ABELL replies that Mr. Gandhi's influence with the rank and file of the Congress party was very considerable but he had more difficulty with the leaders, particularly Sardar Patel. Moreover, Mr. Gandhi could not stay in Delhi and thus be in control of the situation all the time.
LORD ISMAY said that Mr. Gandhi's proposition had already been put up to Mr. Jinnah who had rejected it and would do so again. He wondered whether Mr. Gandhi would now take any further steps on the scheme outside.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that Mr. Gandhi's scheme was undoubtedly wild except for the fact of Mr. Gandhi's amazing personal influence which might induce Congress to accept it. A main danger in his opinion was that Mr. Gandhi might die-then the scheme would completely break down. He had made it quite clear to Mr. Gandhi, during one of their talks, that he was not going to be a party to any manoeuvre whereby he would make an offer to Mr. Jinnah which the latter was likely to refuse. Mr. Gandhi had quite sincerely stated that he would prefer Mr. Jinnah to form a Government, but had insisted on the inclusion of the clause that if Mr. Jinnah rejected the offer it must thereafter be made to Congress.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he had told Mr. Gandhi that he intended to formulate all conceivable workable alternative plans for the future of India, talk over them all with the different Indian leaders and finally discuss them at the projected meeting at Simla. He intended to inform Mr. Jinnah of Mr. Gandhi's scheme, and all the other alternatives, at an early stage so that he could discuss it with the other leading Muslim League personalities before the Simla house party. He felt that Mr. Jinnah should be told all the possible plans and that there should be no manoevring.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he was sure that the only way for him to handle the situation was to make it quite clear that there was a completely new element in the way in which negotiations were to be conducted. Unlike the Cabinet Mission, which had to obtain the agreement of all major parties, his task was only to recommend to His Majesty's Government what, in his opinion, was the best solution. He would clearly not choose any solution which was completely unacceptable to either side, but on the other hand he would not ask either side for their acceptance. This would have to be made quite clear. He would make up his own mind. If either party raised vociferous objections to the solution he recommended, that would go against them.
LORD ISMAY, SIR ERIC MIEVILLE and MR. ABELL all agreed that it was desirable that the Indian leaders should not be asked to given their written acceptance of the selected plan. MR. ABELL pointed out that, if Mr. Gandhi went to Congress with his offer, it would put the Muslim League in a very awkward position. Therefore, he did not consider that Mr. Gandhi's scheme should be ranked as a possible solution.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that, nevertheless, it would serve to remain as a frightening alternative to Mr. Jinnah. It would not be very easy for Mr. Jinnah to refuse Mr. Gandhi's offer. Basically, Mr. Gandhi's object was to retain the unity of India and basically he was right in this. Mr. Gandhi honestly considered that the only hope of unity came from a Coalition Government. He thought that the present Coalition Government was functioning very creakily. He felt that the Muslims' fear must be removed before it could be made to work better. Once the British had handed over to a unified India, Mr. Gandhi doubtless thought that the Indians themselves would be able to adjust matters and set up some sort of Pakistan, if necessary. Mr. Gandhi's viewpoint was that, since it was impossible to get Mr. Jinnah to agree to the Congress running the Interim Government, the only way was to get Mr. Jinnah to run it himself and for him (Mr. Gandhi) to use his great influence to induce Congress to accept that.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he had asked Dr. Matthai whether there was any hope of turning over to a unified India. Dr. Matthai had expressed the opinion that the Indians attached great importance to words. They were most unlikely to accept such a term as "federation" although they might accept an "alliance" which would produce identical results. It was the same thing with the word "Commonwealth". Dr. Matthai had also emphasized that no single person in India had really addressed themselves yet to the problem of the handover in June 1948. When that time came the Indian leaders would be in absolute despair. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he had reiterated to Dr. Matthai His Majesty's Government's determination to withdraw in June 1948, but Dr. Matthai had asked him whether the British would stay on if all parties asked them. MR. ABELL recalled that Mr. Gandhi had told the Viceroy that he expected, when the time came, to be the only person who then still wanted the British to leave.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY then summarized the several ideas which were at present in his mind. Firstly, everybody was agreed that the decision must be made as soon as there was enough data to go on- possibly in two months time.
Secondly, the form of decision would not be an agreement which the Indian leaders would publicly accept, but a unilateral decision from which there would be no appeal. Thirdly, efforts would have to be made to get His Majesty's Government to approve it at once. He hoped that it would be legally possible for him to make an announcement of the decision in India while the legislation to put it into force was still being passed through Parliament. Fourthly, the earliest possible legislation and implementation was essential. The new organization, whatever it was, should be working by the end of 1947. He would remain until June 1948 in the role of an umpire and adviser. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY emphasized that this gave the best prospects of British withdrawal by June 1948 and was therefore the most honest approach. However, His Majesty's Government would have kept their pledge when the handover took place at the end of 1947, so it might be necessary for him to ask the India Cabinet whether they wanted him to stay until June 1948.
MR. ABELL cast doubt on the possibility of the Viceroy staying on as envisaged in the guise of an umpire and adviser. This he considered would be impossible if the Indian parties were fighting each other. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY emphasized that whatever solution he eventually came to, he could not imagine himself agreeing to one which completely abolished the centre. If this abolition was the only possible solution, it could not be brought into effect before June 1948. Whatever the eventual answer was, it must be one that put a stop to communal strife.
SIR ERIC MIEVILLE reverted to the point that there was a possibility of Mr. Gandhi putting up his scheme prematurely to Congress and possibly passing a resolution on it through the Congress Working Committee. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he would talk about this with Pandit Nehru that day. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY:-
(i) invited C.V.S and Pers. Sec to prepared an appreciation on the various possible solutions;
(ii) directed Pers. Sec. to include in his next letter to the Secretary of State an outline of his present thoughts on the future timetable;
(iii) decided to talk to Pandit Nehru that afternoon about Mr. Gandhi's scheme.
Lord Ismay to Gandhi, 6 April 1946
85 page 140(excerpt)
Lord Ismay to Mr. Gandhi
Mountbatten Papers. Official Correspondence Files: Interim Government of India, Part I
6 April 1946 [Indpaedia: We hope 1946 is not a typing error by the aforesaid anonymous Cabinet Mission Plan researchers who compiled much of this page because, from their original arrangement of documents, it would seem that this pertains to 1947 ]
Enclosure to No. 85
OUTLINE OF A SCHEME FOR AN INTERIM GOVERNMENT PENDING TRANSFER OF POWER
1. Mr. Jinnah to be given the option of forming a Cabinet.
2. The selection of the Cabinet is left entirely to Mr. Jinnah. The members may be all Moslems, or all non-Moslems, or they may be representatives of all classes and creeds of the Indian people.
3. If Mr. Jinnah accepted this offer, the Congress would guarantee to cooperate freely and sincerely, so long as all the measures that Mr. Jinnah's Cabinet bring forward are in the interest of the Indian people as a whole.
4. The sole referee for what is or what is not in the interests of India as a whole will be Lord Mountbatten, in his personal capacity.
5. Mr. Jinnah must stipulate, on behalf of the League or of any other parties represented in the Cabinet formed by him that, so far as he or they are concerned, they will do their utmost to preserve peace throughout India.
6. There shall be no National Guards or any other form of private army.
7. Within the framework hereof Mr. Jinnah will be perfectly free to present for acceptance a scheme of Pakistan, even before the transfer of power, provided, however, that he is successful in his appeal to reason and not to the force of arms which he abjures for all time for this purpose. Thus, there will be no compulsion in this matter over a Province or part thereof.
8. In the Assembly the Congress has a decisive majority. But the Congress shall never use that majority against the League policy simply because of its identification with the League, but will give its hearty support to every measure brought forward by the League Government, provided that it is in the interest of the whole of India. Whether it is in such interest or not shall be decided by Lord Mountbatten as a man and not in his representative capacity.
9. If Mr. Jinnah rejects this offer, the same offer to be made mutatis mutandis to the Congress.
3 and 4 are marked 'There are now redundant owing to new para. 8.
7 and 8 are marked 'Mr. Gandhi's draft'.
Interview between Mountbatten and Nehru, 8 April 1947
96 page 154 (excerpt)
Record of Interview between Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and Pandit Nehru
Mountbatten Papers. Viceroy's Interview No. 39
8 April 1947
The meeting lasted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lord Ismay showed him his correspondence with Mr. Gandhi and explained the present position about the Gandhi plan. I asked Pandit Nehru to convey to Mr. Gandhi a message explaining that I could not yet say anything further about the Plan since I was still busy getting background information.
We then discussed with Pandit Nehru what his solution would be for the transfer of power. He thought it would not be right to impose any form of constitutional conditions on any community that had a majority in any specific area...
Nehru thought that the only way the Gandhi plan would be made use of was by offering the premiership of the Interim Government to Jinnah, with the object of strengthening the central authority until the handing over of power in June 1948.
Viceroy's Staff Meeting, April 8, 1947
The following is quoted from Mountbatten and the Partition of India Volume 1: March 22 - August 15, 1947, By Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1982.
Minutes of Viceroy's Staff Meetings Eleventh Meeting April 8, 1947
ITEM 5. ALTERNATIVE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE OF INDIA
His Excellency the Viceroy said that all the various factors on which a decision on India's future would be based were fast becoming clarified. With each talk he had with the different Indian leaders new facts arose, new plans were suggested.
Perhaps the outline plan put forward by Pandit Nehru was the best so far. Pandit Nehru had considered it probable that the 1935 Constitution (as at present modified by practice) would remain in force with the least possible number of changes until a new Constitution was devised.
Mr. Abell gave his view that this was bound to be the case -- for the whole of India if unity was maintained or for Hindustan in the event of partition.
His Excellency the Viceroy said that Pandit Nehru had also expressed the opinion that the only way in which the Gandhi scheme could be made use of was by offering Mr. Jinnah the leadership of the Interim Government. Pandit Nehru had emphasized that on no account should the strong central authority be dissolved until there were competent alternative authorities to which to hand over. In this opinion Pandit Nehru was in accordance with Rao Bahadur Menon.
. . .
Mr Abell doubted whether Mr Jinnah would come into the Interim Government as Premier if Dominion status was granted. There would not, in such a case, be sufficient safeguards against domination by the Congress majority of the Government.
DRAFT FORMULA 1: April 10, 1947
The following is quoted in full text from Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi at 
DRAFT FORMULA1 (full text)
[April 10, 1947]
1. So far as pakistan is concerned and so far as the Congress is concerned nothing will be yielded to force. But everything just will be conceded readily if it appeals to reason. Since nothing is to be forcibly taken, it should be open to any province or part thereof to abstain from joining Pakistan and remain with the remaining provinces. Thus, so far as the Congress is aware today, the Frontier Province is with it (Congress) and the Eastern part of the Punjab where the Hindus and the Sikhs combined have a decisive majority will remain out of the pakistan zone.
Similarly in the East, Assam is clearly outside the zone of Pakistan and the Western part of Bengal including Darjeeling, Dinajpur, Calcutta, Burdwan, Midnapore, Khulna, 24- Paraganas, etc., where the Hindus are in a decisive majority will remain outside the Pakistan zone. And since the Congress is willing to concede to reason every- thing just, it is open to the muslim League to appeal to the Hindus, by present just treatment, to reconsider their expressed view and to divide Bengal.
2. It is well to mention in this connection that if the suggested agreement3 goes through, the Muslim League will participate fully in the Constituent Assembly in a spirit of co-operation. It might also be mentioned that it is the settled policy with the Congress that the system of separate electorates has done the greatest harm to the national cause and therefore the Congress will insist on joint electorates throughout with reservation of seats wherever it is considered necessary.
3. The present raid of Assam4 and the contemplated so-called civil disobedience5 within should stop altogether.
4. Muslim League intrigues, said to be going on, with the Frontier tribes for creating disturbances in the Frontier Province and onward should also stop.
5. Frankly anti-Hindu legislation hurried through the sind Legislature in utter disregard of Hindu feeling and opposition should be abandoned.
6. The attempt that is being nakedly pursued in the Muslim majority provinces to pack civil and police services with Muslims irrespective of merit and to the deliberate exclusion of Hindus must be given up forthwith.
7. Speeches inciting to hatred, including murder, arson and loot, should cease.
8. Newspapers like the Dawn, Morning News, Star of India, Azad and others, whether in English or in any of the Indian vernaculars, should change their policy of inculcating hatred against the Hindus.
9. Private armies under the guise of National Guards, secretly or openly armed, should cease.
10. Forcible conversion, rape, abduction, arson and loot culminating in murders of men, women and children by Muslims should stop.
11. What the Congress expects the Muslim League to do will readily be done in the fullest measure by the Congress.
12. What is stated here applies equally to the inhabitants of Princes’ India, Portuguese India and French India.
13. The foregoing is the test of either’s sincerity and that being granted publicly and in writing in the form of an agreement, the Congress would have no objection whatsoever to the Muslim League forming the whole of the Cabinet consisting of Muslims only or partly Muslims and partly non-Muslims.
14. Subject to the foregoing the Congress pledges itself to give full co-operation to the Muslim League Cabinet if it is formed and never to use the Congress majority against the League with the sole purpose of defeating the Muslims. On the contrary every measure will be considered on its merits and receive full co-operation from the Congress members whenever a particular measure is provably in the interests of the whole of India.
1 Gandhiji wrote on this in Hindi “Gandhi’s draft”.
2 According to the letter to Lord Mountbatten dated April 11, 1947, vide pp. 254-5, Gandhiji discussed the formula with the Congress Working Committee members on the previous night.
3 Vide “Outline of Draft Agreement”, 4-4-1947
4 The Muslim League had launched a large-scale invasion of Assam using Muslim immigrants to alter the communal ratio of the population in the province.
5 The Working Committee of the Assam Provincial Muslim League had, on March 30, decided to start a civil disobedience movement in Assam.
Gandhi to Mountbatten, 11 April 1947
From The Transfer of Power 1942-7 Volume X The Mountbatten Viceroyalty, Formulation of a Plan.
123 page 197 (excerpt)
Mr. Gandhi to Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma
Mountbatten Papers. Papers of Special Interest, File(2) of 1947
BHANGI COLONY, READING ROAD,
NEW DELHI, 11 April 1947
I had several short talks with Pandit Nehru and an hour's talk with him alone, and then with several members of the Congress Working Committee last night, about the formula I had sketched before you and which I had filled in for them with all the implications. I am sorry to say that I failed to carry any of them with me except Badshah Khan.
I do not know that, having failed to carry both the head and heart of Pandit Nehru with me, I would have wanted to carry the matter further. But Panditji was so good that he would not be satisfied until the whole plan was discussed with the few members of the Congress Working Committee who were present. I felt sorry that I could not convince them of the correctness of my plan from every point of view. Nor could they dislodge me from my position although I had not closed my mind against every argument. Thus, I have to ask you to omit me from your consideration. Congressmen, who are in the Interim Government are stalwarts, seasoned servants of the nation and, therefore so far as the Congress point of view is concerned, they will be complete advisers..."
Could Partition have been averted?
Antony Copley, British historian
The noted British historian, ANTONY COPLEY, whose areas of specialisation include, Hinduism, Modern Indian History, the life and career of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, (Rajaji), and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, has been an active India-watcher for years. A senior member of the Faculty of History in the University of Kent at Canterbury, England since 1967, he has written many books on various aspects of Indian history and culture. Prof. Copley was recently in India on a study tour and RANDOR GUY spoke to him about some events of recent Indian history. Excerpts from the interview.
Many think that the Partition of India in August 1947 could have been averted! Do you think so?
OVER the last 10 years that led to the Partition, there was lot of poor communication, possibly dishonesty and lots of misunderstanding. People were adopting positions, fencing for the future power structure in India and in doing so opportunities were constantly being lost...
When you say, "people", who were they?
The leading representatives of the Congress starting with Pandit Nehru with Gandhi beginning to be marginalised. Sardar Patel was, of course, another key player... On the other side was Jinnah, the outstanding figure of the Muslim League, and the representatives of the British Government, this was the structure. The only last possible moment when the division could have been avoided was in 1946 when the Cabinet Mission came here — Lord Pethick-Lawrence, A. V. Alexander and Sir Stafford Cripps. Those negotiations were the best prospect for any possible all-India settlement. Once the Cabinet Mission proposals had been discarded and the Muslims rejected them, there was no more opportunity.
Why did they reject them?
That was the beginning of a rethinking process by Nehru about the most possible future of independent India. Nehru began to sense that coming to some arrangement with the Muslim League was so off-putting. His experience with the Muslim League representatives in the Interim government cabinet in 1946 made him painfully aware that it was not worth the candle of trying to find some order over the division of power between the two forces. It made much more sense to cut your losses! So he began to move away from such division to reluctant toleration of partition of India. Jinnah too was for a showdown for the partition. The Congress was also scared of the initiative slipping away and getting out of their hands. The radical movements taking over especially the Leftists in Bengal! The biggest factor in the last stage was the readiness in West Bengal for partition. The Bengalis (Hindus) felt marginalised and alienated by the Muslims and were willing to accept a truncated Bengal to restore their prestige.
When you say that Gandhi was marginalised and Pandit Nehru took over, was it deliberately done by him and others or did Gandhi himself contribute to it by his moralistic stance and philosophy?
Nehru was very faithful to Gandhi. It was a painful process of setting aside the peculiar and high values of Gandhi. Once the practicalities of power politics began to be dominant, he realised that an idealist like Gandhi could not be the focus of the power structure. Gandhi said that when India became independent the Congress party should be disbanded and become a social service organisation! Besides he made some extraordinary proposals like Jinnah should become the Prime Minister of India! He even offered it to Jinnah, he never abandoned the idea even in 1947. Meanwhile the Congress moved in another direction.
Was there any lust for power in the Congress leaders at that time? They were only human...
People who had devoted major part of their adult lives in prison felt themselves getting closer to power and the prospects of an independent India seemed much brighter than ever before and they did not want to postpone what they have been seeking for years.
Looking back to 1942, when the Congress rejected the "Cripps Plan", Rajaji came up with his "CR-Plan". He advised the Congress to accept the formation of Pakistan but was violently opposed by the party. Some historians think that if only the Congress had only accepted the CR-Plan, the trauma of Partition in 1947 could well have been avoided. Do you agree?
The CR-Plan anticipated in acute detail what actually happened later in 1947. In a way he paved the way for talks if not a solution. Rajagopalachari largely engineered the Gandhi-Jinnah Talks of 1944. It gave Jinnah much publicity, much propaganda of his cause, much force and increased the chances of formation of Pakistan.
CR was the most brilliant, serious, rational and clever-thinking man India ever produced. Here was a man who could see far ahead but he could not grasp the human frailties in the situation. We now know that Cripps did not have the support of the Home Government in London! Winston Churchill was not for any proposals. And he did not want the Cripps Plan to work. FDR was pressing Churchill that he should do something for India and her demand for freedom. So Churchill knew he had to make some of gesture to the Americans to get them off his back.
So he was trying to please Roosevelt more than anything else!
I think that, as far as Churchill was concerned, it was his perceptual objective that there should be no offer to India for freedom especially in the war situation. Cripps was entirely in a false position. He thought it would work. He did not know that Amery (the Secretary of Sate for India) was hand in glove with Churchill!
There is an interesting incident not known to many. Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyer, then the Dewan of Travancore State, met Sardar Patel in Bombay. Both were on their way to meet Sir Stafford Cripps. Patel told Sir C. P. that nothing would come out of the Cripps Plan. The whole thing was a front engineered by Nehru to become the Prime Minister of India and it would not happen for he (Patel) was putting it down and going to kill it! He had already told Gandhi and he had agreed that it should be done! Sir C. P. was taken aback at this revelation. So he wrote a secret communication to Lord Linlithgow who was equally surprised! He narrated it all in a secret letter to Amery in London, which I read in the " Transfer of Power" Documents.
In 1942 Nehru was genuinely anxious that the Cripps proposals should work, though on Congress terms. He was a genuine democrat — anti-fascist. He was anxious to get the Congress to agree to some arrangement with the Raj, He felt that it would help to avert in the future the partition of India.
Talking of Jinnah, do you think that his role on Indian politics was much bigger than Gandhi's?
In terms of their moral presence Gandhi was by far a greater man. Jinnah had two moments of dominance in the Indian story. One was during the First World War (1914-1918), which the Congress just frittered away. Here was a man who could be a very powerful and useful ally but they alienated him and allowed him to drift into negative relationship with the Congress. And he comes back in 1935 with a new proposition, he has to work extremely hard to build up his position as the all India Muslim leader, and by 1945 he is a key player. But Jinnah was an impossible man to negotiate with.
Was it part of his psyche or a mere put-on?
He was naturally reserved, he had so many human setbacks, his marriage, the importance that Gandhi got from the "Khilafat Movement", he never really recovered from the serious hurt of the series of injuries he had in life. He was a very secretive man, kept his ideas well in control, a loner. I recognise him as master tactician of real politique. You may not like him but you have to recognise his political talents and manoeuvring skills. In the beginning he didn't want Pakistan but some all-India settlement for Muslims. He allowed the Pakistan Movement to become the vehicle to manoeuvre the politics of the Indian sub-continent. It was a case of the means becoming the end. Perhaps the means was Pakistan and the end was the Prime Ministership of India. He very much hoped in 1946 and was shattered when Lord Wavell (then Viceroy of India) didn't allow him and Nehru became the Prime Minister of the Interim Government. Gandhi did invite him to take over but it did not happen. We do not know when the tuberculosis he suffered from became rampant — he kept it a closely guarded secret but he knew he had not long to live. That's why he chose to become the President of Pakistan, and not Prime Minister.