Solution: Daily Problem Practice [Modern India: Week 25]- 4 April
Q. “Emergence of the Swarajists was a manifestation of the aspirations of some leaders of nationalist ranks to start a new line of political program.” Discuss. Also examine the factors leading to the decline of the Swarajists. [20 Marks]
Swarajists wanted to put forward a new line of political programme after the suspension of the Non-cooperation Movement by Gandhiji. They wanted to give a new meaning and scope to ‘non-cooperation’ by advancing the program of carrying non-cooperation within legislature.
Emergence of the Swarajists was a manifestation of the aspirations to start a new line of political program
- Non-cooperation Movement had aroused enthusiasm and high hopes. Its abrupt suspension came as a shock and surprise to many nationalists. To many, Gandhian strategy had not provided for any definite line of political action. Hindu-Muslim unity had begun to receive death blow. Unity had begun to crumble.
- After Gandhi’s arrest (March 1922), there was disintegration, disorganisation and demoralisation among nationalist ranks. A debate started among Congressmen on what to do during the transition period, i.e., the passive phase of the movement.
- One section led by C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru and Ajmal Khan wanted an end to the boycott of legislative councils so that the nationalists could enter them to expose the basic weaknesses of these assemblies and use these councils as an arena of political struggle to arouse popular enthusiasm.
- They wanted to ‘end or mend’ these councils, i.e., if the Government did not respond to the nationalists’ demands, then they would obstruct the working of these councils.
- Those advocating entry into legislative councils came to be known as the Pro-changers or Swarajists, while the other school of thought led by Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari and M.A. Ansari came to be known as the ‘No-changers’.
- Swarajists Arguments:
- The Swarajists argued that entering the councils would not negate the non-cooperation programme; in fact, it would be like carrying on the movement through other means—opening a new front.
- In a time of political vacuum, council work would serve to enthuse the masses and keep up their morale.
- Entry of nationalists would deter the Government from stuffing the councils with undesirable elements who may be used to provide legitimacy to government measures.
- Their only intention was to use the councils as an arena of political struggle; they had no intention to use the councils as organs for gradual transformation of colonial rule.
- Swarajists Arguments:
- The ‘No-changers’ opposed council entry, advocated concentration on constructive work, and continuation of boycott and non- cooperation and quiet preparation for resumption of the suspended civil disobedience programme.
- No-Changers’ Arguments:
- The No-Changers argued that parliamentary work would lead to neglect of constructive work, loss of revolutionary zeal and to political corruption.
- Constructive work would prepare everyone for the next phase of civil disobedience.
- No-Changers’ Arguments:
- The differences over the question of council entry between the two schools of thought resulted in the defeat of the Swarajists’ proposal of ‘ending or mending’ the councils at the Gaya session of the Congress (December 1922).
- C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru resigned from the presidentship and secretaryship respectively of the Congress and announced the formation of Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party, or Swarajya Party with C.R. Das as the president and Motilal Nehru as one of the secretaries.
- Both sides wanted to avoid a 1907- type split and kept in touch with Gandhi who was in jail.
- Both sides’ realised the significance of putting up a united front to get a mass movement to force the Government to introduce reforms, and both sides accepted the necessity of Gandhi’s leadership of a united nationalist front.
- Keeping these factors in mind, a compromise was reached at a meeting in Delhi in September 1923.
- The Swarajists were allowed to contest elections as a group within the Congress. The Swarajists accepted the Congress programme with only one difference—that they would join legislative councils.
The elections to the newly constituted Central Legislative Assembly and to provincial assemblies were held in November 1923 and the Swarajists had managed to win 42 out of 141 elected seats and a clear majority in the provincial assembly of Central Provinces.
Factors for the decline of the Swarajist
- The Swarajists could not harmonise their constitutional politics inside legislature and mass politics outside it.
- They relied totally on newspaper reporting to communicate with the public.
- Both ‘Swarajist Programme’ and ‘Swarajist at Work’ showed marked contradictions and inadequacy of efforts. They stood for class collaborations i.e. unity of Zamindar and peasant, capitalists and workers which rested o irrational ground.
- They failed to support the peasants’ cause in Bengal and lost support among Muslim members who were pro- peasant.
- The strength of Swarajists as a politically viable force was the unity it forged in the legislatures and its development into a coalition. But the ground for ideological consensus on which the unity rested was weak which threatened disintegration as it was coalition of leaders of diverse and varied political outlook.
- The policy of obstruction or the policy of constitutional advance was not powerful enough to hold these leaders together. Two important expressions of the rift and defection were emergence of the Nationalist Party under Malviya, N C Kelker etc and the Independent Party under Jinnah.
- 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.
- The 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. 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.
- The Policy of obstruction and wrecking reforms from within had serious limitations. It could work up to a point and became severe constraint.
- In later phase, the tendency towards responsive cooperation appeared at work in stead of non-cooperation.They failed to resist the perks and privileges of power and office. Motilal Nehru sat on Skeen Committee, Vithalbhai Patel became the president of assembly and A. Ramaswamy Iyenger accepted membership of Public Accounts Committee.
- Coming of Simon Commission given rise to an new political situation– parties joining hands as a result of anti-simon agitation. Constitutional programme lost its relevance.
In 1930, the Swarajists finally walked out as a result of the Lahore Congress resolution on purna swaraj and merged with Congress and the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-34). But they were still can’t be called complete failure as they had several achievements like:
- With coalition partners, they outvoted the Government several times, even on matters relating to budgetary grants, and passed adjournment motions.
- They agitated through powerful speeches on self- government, civil liberties and industrialisation.
- A noteworthy achievement was the defeat of the Public Safety Bill in 1928 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).
- By their activities, they filled the political vacuum at a time when the national movement was recouping its strength.
- They exposed the hollowness of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms.
- They demonstrated that the councils could be used creatively.
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