Gandhi offer of Jinnah PM-ship 1947
Unless otherwise specified, quoted from The Transfer of Power 1942-7 Volume X The Mountbatten Viceroyalty, Formulation of a Plan.
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.
1 April 1947
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.
48 page 70(excerpt)
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..”
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.
76 page 125 (full text)
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:-
6 April 1946
1. Mr. Jinnah to be given the option of forming a Cabinet.
3 and 4 are marked ‘There are now redundant owing to new para. 8.
7 and 8 are marked ‘Mr. Gandhi’s draft’.
96 page 154 (excerpt)
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…
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.
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.
The following is quoted in full text from Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi at http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL094.PDF
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.
From The Transfer of Power 1942-7 Volume X The Mountbatten Viceroyalty, Formulation of a Plan.
BHANGI COLONY, READING ROAD,
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…”