History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2014: Q.2 (b)
Q.2 (b) “… instead of rejecting the plan (Cabinet Mission Plan), they (the Congress Leadership) resorted to a half-baked legalistic stratagem to reserve their position on its long-term arrangements and accepted its short-term provisions.” Critically examine.
The Cabinet Mission consisting of three British Cabinet Ministers was sent in 1946 to India. It aimed to discuss the transfer of power to Indian leadership, the way of drawing up the Constitution of Independent India, and to make arrangements for interim Government.
Long term arrangements of the Plan
The plan proposed to create a three tier arrangement of a loose federation of government.
The Union Government with an Executive and a Legislature would consist of both British India and Princely States’ representatives. The Union would be weak with power to deal with foreign affairs, defence and communication.
Any question raising major communal issues in the Legislature would require approval of each of the two major communities (Hindu and Muslim).
All subjects other than Union Subjects and all residuary power would be vested in the provinces.
The Princely States would retain all subjects and all residuary powers other than those ceded to the Union.
Province would be free to form “Group” with Executives and Legislatutes. As soon as the new constitutional arrangements come into operation, it would be open to any province to come out of any Group in which it had been placed.
Short term provisions
The short term provisions in the plan was to form an interim government and then formation of the Constituent Assembly. In interim government, all the portfolios would be held by Indian leaders having the full confidence of the people.
The reaponse of Congress
The response of various political parties including Congress over the recommendations of the Cabinet Mission Plan was ambiguous. Neither they could accept it in its entirety nor could they reject it in toto. Different parties accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan recommendations in their own interest with different interpretations.
Congress accepted the plan and decided to go for the formation of interim government and Constituent Assembly. At the same time, Congress interprated many long term arrangements like”Grouping” in its own way and objecting to several provisions like weak centre, communal voting and non-elected Princely States’ representives.
Sardar Patel maintained that the plan was against the formation of Pakistan with Muslim League’s veto gone and only one constituent Assembly was to form.
Congress rejected the League’s interpretation of provisions of Grouping which League had considered as having inherent idea of separate state, Pakistan.
Nehru retracted from the Mission Plan’s long term arrangements almost completely by saying that we are not bound by a single thing except that we have decided to go into the Constituent Assembly. The implication was that the Assembly was sovereign and would decide rules of procedure and could change the Mission Plan.
Muslim league first approved the plan. But when Nehru declared that it could change the scheme through its majority in the Constituent Assembly, they rejected the plan.
Hence, Congress’s response to the plan was confusing and instead of rejecting the plan completely, they reserved their position on several long term arrangements and accepted the short term provisions for the formation of interim government and Constituent Assembly. This type of the Congress response was due to the fact that on the one hand it viewed the plan as offering a great opportunity to draft the Constitution on the other hand it wanted democratic representations from Princely States, no communal votings and a strong centre to preserve unity of India.
But this half baked legalistic stratagem did not work as Muslim League rejected the plan and stalemate continued.