This article deals with ‘ Swarajist Party – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here
- Non Cooperation Movement (NCM) ended in Feb 1922 . Gandhi arrested & sentenced for 6 years imprisonment for spreading disaffection against Government
- This resulted in spread of disintegration, disorganisation & demoralisation in nationalist ranks
- What congress was facing at this moment was the basic problem that any mass movement has to face: how were they to carry on political work in the movements’ non- active phases?
Note – years from 1922 to 1927 are at first sight dominated entirely by a sense of anti-climax, were all the more acute because Gandhi’s promise in 1920 of Swaraj within a year had aroused such soaring expectation.
-By March 1923, Congress membership (for the 16 out of 20 provinces which had sent reports to the AICC) had fallen to 106,046, less than one-third of what U.P. alone had claimed two years before.
Formation of Swaraj Party
- At Gaya Session (1922) one faction led by CR Das(President) & Motilal Nehru (Gen Sec ) demanded that they shouldn’t boycott elections for Legislative Assembly (LA) that was coming & should continue agenda after going in L.A & making work of Assembly impossible(Pro Changers)
- Other faction led by Patel & Rajendra Prasad opposed this(No Changers) & ultimately No changers won the vote .
- CR Das & Motilal resigned from Congress & announced formation of Congress Khilafat Swaraj Party or Swaraj Party on 1 Jan 1923.
Swarajist’s idea behind joining Legislative Assembly
- Work in the Councils was necessary to fill in the temporary political void, keep up the morale of the politicised Indians, fill the empty newspaper spaces, and enthuse the people.
- Even without Congressmen, Councils would continue to function . Non- Congressmen would capture positions of vantage and use them to weaken the Congress.
- By joining the councils and obstructing their work, Congressmen would prevent Government from getting some form of legitimacy for their laws.
Swarajists claimed that they would transform the Legislatures into arenas of political struggle on which the struggle for the overthrow of the Colonial State was to be carried out.
Motilal – Das Duo
- Das (born in 1870) and Motilal (born in 1861) were highly successful Lawyers who had once been Moderates but had accepted the politics of boycott and non-cooperation in 1920.
- They had given up their legal practice, joined the movement as whole time workers and donated to the nation their magnificent houses in Calcutta and Allahabad respectively.
- They were great admirers of Gandhi . Both were brilliant and effective Parliamentarians. One deeply religious and the other a virtual atheist , both were secular to the core.
- They complemented each other
and formed a legendary political combination.
- Das was imaginative and emotional and a great orator
- Motilal was firm, analytical, and a great organizer and disciplinarian
Argument of No Changers
- No-Changers opposed council-entry mainly on the ground that Parliamentary work would lead to the neglect of constructive and other work among the masses, the loss of revolutionary zeal and political corruption.
- Constructive work among the masses, on the other hand, would prepare them for the next round of Civil Disobedience.
- Fear of repetition of disastrous Split of 1907 was building up
- Both groups started to move towards mutual accommodation . Swarajists also realised that however useful parliamentry work might be, real sanctions which would compel government to accept national demand would be through mass movement & this need unity
- Special Session of the Congress held at Delhi in September 1923, the Congress suspended all propaganda against Council entry and permitted Congressmen to stand as candidates
Gandhi’s reaction towards Swarajists
- Gandhi released from jail on 5 Feb 1924 (elections were already over and Swarajists won many seats) on health grounds & he completely opposed the Swarajists in Council Entry & considered obstructing work of councils was inconsistent with Non Cooperation. Split seemed to be on horizon. Government hoped & banked for it
- But later his stance changed, courageous and uncompromising manner in which the Swarajists had functioned in the councils convinced Gandhi that, however politically wrong, they were certainly not becoming a limb of imperial administration.
- 6 November 1924, Gandhi brought the strife between the Swarajists and no-changers to an end, by signing a joint statement with Das and Motilal that the Swarajist Party would carry on work in the legislatures on behalf of the Congress and as an integral part of the Congress. This decision was endorsed in December at the Belgaum session of the Congress over which Gandhi presided. He also gave the Swarajists a majority of seats on his Working Committee.
Election propaganda & Work inside legislature
- Held in Nov 1923, although
Swarajists got very less time to prepare & there was very limited
franchise of less than 5%, they
- won 43 out of 101 seats in Central Assembly
- Emerged as largest party in Bengal & Bombay although not in Madras & Punjab
- They won most of seats against Liberals (who participated in 1920 elections too & were branded as government agents) but performed badly against independents who had local sympathies with them
- In Central Assembly, they formed alliance with Md Jinnah (independents) & Liberals like Madan Mohan Malviya & similar alliances in Provinces
- Although legislatures had very less power & Executive was responsible to British government . Along with that Viceroy & Governor can Veto any Bill but Swarajists forced Government to certify each legislation exposing to world real nature of Legislature
- Took three
major causes & delivered powerful speeches which Press covered in
- Problem of Constitutional advance leading to Self-Government
- Civil liberties, release of political prisoners, and repeal of repressive laws
- Development of indigenous industries
- Methods of the Swarajists
- Destructive side emphasised rejection of the votable parts of the budgets and rejection of proposals emanating from the bureaucracy.
- Constructive side, they sought to move resolutions calculated to promote a healthy national life and displacement of bureaucracy.
- Swarajist activity in the Legislatures was spectacular by any standards. It inspired the politicised persons and kept their political interest alive. People were thrilled each time the all- powerful foreign bureaucracy was humbled in the councils.
- During 1923-24, Congressmen
captured a large number of Municipalities and other local bodies.
- Das became the Mayor of Calcutta (with Subhas Bose as his Chief Executive Officer)
- Vithalbhai Patel- the President of Bombay Corporation
- Vallabhbhai Patel of Ahmedabad Municipality
- Rajendra Prasad of Patna Municipality
- Jawaharlal Nehru of Allahabad Municipality.
- The no-changers actively joined in these ventures since they believed that Local Bodies could be used to promote the constructive programme.
Constructive work by Swarajists
- Council Entry for wrecking reforms from within was the main, but by no means the sole, objective of the Swarajists.
- Swarajists could ill-afford to ignore the constructive programme as they knew that some day they might have to leave the Councils and resort to Civil Disobedience along with those who did not go to the Councils. Hence, they were also involved in Constructive work
- It must, however, be admitted that the Swarajists, being chiefly engaged in council-entry and Parliamentary politics, could do little to implement the programme as zealously and steadfastly as the No-Changers could.
1 . Khadi
- Swarajists didn’t share the views of Gandhi on Khaddar & hand spinning . Although CR Das accepted Charkha & Khaddar as instrument of improving life of Indian people but he didn’t subscribe to commercial utility of Khadi .
- Swarajists made no fetish of Khaddar but they missed no opportunity in exhorting people to use Khadi . The instructions issued by the Swaraj Party to all its members required them to attend the meetings of the Central Assembly and Provincial Councils dressed in pure Khaddar.
Note – Khadi was expensive as Gandhi admitted privately to Motilal in 1927 that khadi was proving an uphill task , it was still so much more expensive, after all, than either imported cloth or Indian mill-cloth.
- In Vykom, in South India , Reformers resorted to Satyagraha to secure for untouchables the right to use a public road leading to a Hindu temple. This initiative received full support from Gandhi and the Swarajists. The Swarajists passed a resolution sympathising with the satyagraha movement at Vykom.
- In Tarakeshwar incident, Swarajists took very keen interest against the autocracy of a Mahant. Under Swarajist pressure in Legislative Assembly, Temple was handed over to Committee by Mahant .
- Made people aware of the revenue of intoxicants that British government was earning & for alien government revenue was more important than health & moral welfare of people
End of Swaraj party
- Suffered major loss with death of CR Dass in June 1925
- In absence of any National Movement , Communalism raised its ugly head & political frustration of people begun to found expression in communal riots
- Limit of obstruction was reached & government was certifying every legislation they were rejecting . They realise that there was no going forward inside legislature & anything can be done by mass movement outside
- Swarajists also could not carry their coalition partners for ever and in every respect, for the latter did not believe in the Swarajists’ tactic of ‘uniform, continuous and consistent obstruction
- By 1924, the Swarajist position had weakened because of widespread
communal riots, split
among Swarajists themselves on Communal and Responsivist-Non-Responsivist
lines, and the death of C.R. Das in 1925 weakened it further.
- Responsivists among Swarajists—Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malaviya and N.C. Kelkar—advocated cooperation with the Government and holding of office wherever possible to protect the so-called Hindu interests.They accused the Non-Responsivists like Motilal Nehru of being anti-Hindu and a beef-eater.
- On the eve of the 1926 elections, Motilal’s old rival Madan mohan Malaviya formed an Independent Congress Party in alliance with Lajpat Rai and the Responsive Cooperators
Thus, the main leadership of the Swarajya Party reiterated faith in mass civil disobedience and withdrew from legislatures in March 1926, while another section of Swarajists went into the 1926 elections as a party in disarray, and did not fare well.
Achievements of Pro Changers
- Great achievement lay in their filling the political void at a time when the national movement was recouping its strength
- They showed that it was possible to use the legislatures in a creative manner
- They also successfully exposed the hollowness of the Reform Act of 1919 and showed the people that India was being ruled by “lawIess laws”
- Vithalbhai Patel was elected speaker of Central Legislative Assembly in 1925.
- A noteworthy achievement was the defeat of the Public Safety Bill which was aimed at empowering the Government to deport undesirable and subversive foreigners (because the Government was alarmed by the spread of Socialist and Communist ideas ).
- Development of considerable links between Indian business groups and Swarajist politicians, for the latter proved extremely helpful in prodding the government into granting protection to Tata’s steel industry in 1924, under the new policy of ‘discriminating protection‘ enunciated by the Fiscal Commission of 1921.
What No Changers did in meantime?
- No-Changers carried on laborious, quiet, undemonstrative, grass-roots constructive work around
- promotion of khadi and spinning
- national education
- Hindu-Muslim unity
- struggle against untouchability
- boycott of foreign cloth.
- This work was symbolized by hundreds of Ashrams that came up all over the country where political cadres got practical training in khadi work and work among the lower castes and tribal people
- It brought some much-needed relief to the poor, it promoted the process of the nation-in-the-making; and it made the urban-based and upper caste cadres familiar with the conditions of villages and lower castes.