The Interim Government

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Cabinet Mission Plan failed to achieve its goal of bringing an end to the political deadlock in India. However, the plan of establishing Interim Government, though reluctantly and with many differences, was accepted by both Congress and Muslim League and was finally executed. The main issue was that of the ratio of representation in the cabinet. Finally the British decided that in a cabinet of fourteen members 6 will be from Congress, 5 from Muslim League and three from other organizations.

On August 8, 1946 the Congress Working Committee agreed to accept the invitation to its President, Maulana Azad, to form Government. Muslim League, to begin with, refused to be a part of Congress led Interim Government. Wavell asked Azad and Nehru that the Muslim Seats in the Cabinet should be left vacant, however Congress leaders convinced him that in order to make the cabinet representative, those seats should be filled by Congress nominated Nationalist Muslims. In the final announcement of August 24, along with six Congress Hindus members (Nehru, Patel, Dr. Prasad, Sarat Changdra Bose, Rafjagopalachari and Jagjivan Ram), one Sikh (Sardar Baldev Sing), one Parsee (C.H. Bhabha) and one Indian Christian (Johan Matthai) three Muslims (Asaf Ali, Sir Shafaat Ahmad Khan and Syed Ali Zaheer) were also included as the members of the interim government. However, two Muslim seats were left vacant.

Wavell found it difficult for the Interim Government to function properly without the participation of the Muslim League and tried his utmost to convince League leadership to join the cabinet. Finally on October 26, five Muslim League nominees (Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Ismail Ibrahim Chundrigar and Jugindarnath Mandal) joined the interim government. To give way to the Muslim League members of the interim government Sir Shafaat Ahmad Khan, Syed Ali Zaheer and Sarat Chandra Bose resigned.

When League joined the government, a dispute started between Congress and League on the issue of the allotment of portfolios. Muslim League wanted home ministry but Congress and specially Sardar Patel was not ready to forgo that important slot. Congress tried to kill two birds with one stone by offering Muslim League the Fnance Ministry. On one hand they wanted to silence League leaders by giving them an important ministry and on the other hand they knew that none of the League leader was expert in the technical field of finance and were sure that they would prove to be a great failure in the field. The policy backfired on Congress, as Liaquat took the challenge and handled the Ministry in a very successful manner. He not only presented the famous poor man’s budget but also made Congress Ministers dependent on financial sanctions to run their affairs. Congress Ministers even could not employ a peon without the prior consent of Liaquat. Azad, himself acknowledged that Congress had committed a blunder by giving Finance Ministry to Muslim Leauge.

A part from Finance Ministry, Muslim League members of Interim Government were given the portfolios of Commerce, Communications, Law and Health. They ran all these departments quite successfully.

This article was last updated on Monday, Jan 01, 2007