Election Results

Background

  • A meeting of the Congress Working Committee in Wardha passed the Quit India Resolution on 14th July, 1942
  • It was later endorsed and passed on 8th August at the Bombay session of the Congress.
  • Before the movement could be launched all important leaders of Congress were arrested before the dawn of 9th August 1942.
  • Congress was banned and declared as an illegal organization.
  • By the end of the Second World War India’s struggle for freedom was almost coming to an end. The British realised that their power in India would not last long.
  • In July 1945, Labour Party formed the government in Britain.
  • Clement Attlee took over as the new Prime Minister.
  • After the election, the new British Government was welcomed in India with goodwill.
  • The new Labour Government was more sympathetic to Indian cause.

Announcement of Election

  • The Labour Party, which had come to power in Britain after the War, was in a hurry to settle the Indian problem.
  • As a result the ban on the Congress was lifted and congress leaders were released.
  • After the war elections seemed inevitable as the last elections had been held in 1934 for the centre and in 1937 for the provinces.
  • These elections were also important as the provincial assemblies thus formed were to then elect a new Constituent Assembly for an independent India.
  • In August 1945, elections to central and provincial assemblies were announced.
  • The news of announcement of election met with great enthusiasm among people.

Congress Election Campaign

  • The Congress had grave difficulties in fighting the elections. It had been in wilderness for more than three years.
  • Its organisation had broken down as many leaders and members were still in prison and its party fund bad been sequestrated by the Government.
  • But the trial of the Indian soldiers of the INA gave a psychological boost to the Congress.
  • Wild popular demonstrations were held all over the country against the trial of INA POWs, due to which government was forced into conciliatory mode.
  • When Congress leaders emerged from jail in mid-June 1945, they expected to find demoralized people.
  • To their surprise they found a politically charged atmosphere and people filled with political energy and impatient to do something.
  • This political atmosphere was channelized by the Congress in the upcoming elections, towards nationalistic aims.
  • The Congress’ aim was to win a majority in most provinces so it could press its claim to form a government of united (post-colonial) India.
  • In its manifesto it appealed to the voters all over the country to support its candidates and gave 'independence' pledge to the voters on January 26, 1946
  • The election campaign of the Congress was mainly focused on mobilizing the Indians against the British; It did not just appeal to the people for votes
  • The election campaign expressed the nationalistic sentiments against the state repression of the 1942 Quit India Movement.
  • To this effect, the martyrs were glorified and officials were condemned.
  • Government failed to check such speeches
  • This had a devastating effect on the morale of the services.
  • The prospect of return of the congress ministries further heightened the fear of those in government services.
  • A ‘gentleman agreement’ with the congress seemed necessary to the government.

Muslim League Election Campaign

  • Muslim League did not place before the country any economic, social or any other political programme for the General Election.
  • Jinnah declared that the General Election of 1946 would be taken as plebiscite of the Muslims of India on ‘Pakistan’.
  • The League claimed to be the only organisation of the 10 crores of Muslims of India.
  • The General Election of 1946 had been called 'a pitched battle with the Congress’

Election Results

General elections were held in December 1945 to elect members of the Central Legislature while provincial elections were held in 1946. The franchise was extremely limited. The voter turnout was high on the day of the polls.

Performance of the Congress

  • The Congress swept the general constituencies, capturing 91.3 per cent of the non-Muslim vote.
  • It captured 57 out of 102 seats in the central assembly.
  • In the provincial elections, it got majority in most provinces except in Bengal, Sindh and Punjab.
  • The congress majority provinces included NWFP and Assam which were being claimed for Pakistan.
  • The Congress formed its ministries in Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces, Madras, NWFP, Orissa and United Provinces.

Performance of the Muslim League

  • The League’s success in the seats reserved for Muslims was spectacular: it won all 30 reserved constituencies in the Centre with 86.6 per cent of the Muslim vote
  • It also secured 442 out of 509 reserve seats in the provincial elections.
  • In the provincial elections, it got majority in Bengal and Sindh.
  • The Muslim League formed its ministries in Bengal and Sind.
  • Only as late as 1946, therefore, did the League establish itself as the dominant party among Muslim voters, seeking to vindicate its claim to be the “sole spokesman” of India’s Muslims.

Coalition in Punjab

  • In the Punjab, the concerted effort of the Muslim League led to its greatest success, winning 73 seats of the total Muslim seats and becoming the largest single party in the Assembly.
  • The Unionist Party suffered heavy losses winning only 20 seats in total.
  • The Congress was the second largest party, winning 51 seats, whilst the Sikh centric Akali Dal came third with 22 seats
  • Ultimately, a Unionist-Congress-Akali coalition under Khizr Hyat Khan had assumed power in Punjab.

Significant features of Elections

The elections witnessed communal voting in contrast to the strong anti-British unity shown in various upsurges before the elections. This communal voting was due to

  1. Separate Electorates
  2. Limited Franchise - About 10 to 12 per cent of the population enjoyed the right to vote in the provincial elections and a mere 1 per cent in the elections for the Central Assembly.

Aftermath

  • The elections of 1945-46 had a significant role in partition of India and creation of “Pakistan”.
  • The election results of 1946 gave the Muslim League the authoritative position to represent Indian Muslims that Jinnah had long wanted.
  • The Communal polarisation had grown although the violence was to become significant only in 1946.
  • It was the growth in the electoral strength of the League and the popularity of the notion of Pakistan that compelled the Congress to take the demands of the League seriously.
  • The supporters of the two-nation theory regarded the verdict of 1946 as a vindication of their stand.
  • Gandhi was eager to avoid the division of the country and did not participate in all the discussions of the Congress about these developments during 1946.
  • He was in Noakhali in East Bengal trying to restore harmony.

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