The Wavell Plan

The Wavell Plan

Wavell Plan and Shimla Conference:

  • The war had ended, though Japan was yet to surrender. The heroic deeds of INA were about to end. There was a deadlock with the congress since 1939 resignations.
  • In October,1943 Lord Wavell who had succeeded Lord Linlithgow as Governor-General, made an attempt resolve the stalemate the deadlock in India.
    • He went to England for consultations in March 1945.
    • He broadcast to the people of Indian the proposals of the British Government to resolve the deadlock in India on 14th June which is called Wavell Plan. (Mr. Amery, the Secretary of State for India. On 14th June made a similar statement in the House of Commons)
  • Wavell Plan had the following schemes:
    • The renovation of the Governor-General’s Executive Council pending the preparation of a new constitution.
      • With the expectation of the Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief all other member of the Executive Council would be nominated from amongst leaders of Indian Political life.
    • This Council would have “a balanced representation of the main communities, including equal proportions of Muslims and caste Hindus. It would work, if formed, under the existing constitution.
      • The Scheduled Castes would also be separately represented; and doors would be open for discussion of a new constitution.
    • Though the Governor-General’s veto would not be abolished, it would not be used unnecessarily.
    • The portfolio of external Affairs was to be transferred from the Governor-General to an Indian member of Council.
    • A Conference of representatives chosen by the Viceroy was to be convened with a view to obtaining from the leaders of the various parties a joint list, or failing it, separate lists of worthy people to constitute the new Executive Council”.
    • It was also expected “that provincial ministers in Province would resume office and that there would be coalition.”
  • The Congress leaders were released to participate in the Simla Conference in June 1945. That marked the end of the phase of confrontation that had existed since August 1942.
  • Breakdown Plan:
    • Wavell Plan is also known as Breakdown Plan and was not accepted by the British, for whom, leaving without a universally agreed agreement was dishonorable.
    • It also said that in case of a disagreement, the British should withdraw to the 6 Pakistan Provinces, and leaving the Congress to deal with rest of India.

Shimla Conference:

  • To discuss the provisions of the Wavell Plan a conference of 21 Indian Political leaders was invited to the Summer Capital of British Government Shimla.
    • The leaders included Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was the President of the Congress at that time. Mohammad Ali Jinnah also reached in the conference.
  • Convened to agree on and approve the Wavell Plan for Indian self-government, it reached a potential agreement for the self-rule of India that provided separate representation to Muslims and reduced majority powers for both communities in their majority regions.
  • Talks stalled, however, on the issue of selection of Muslim representatives.
    • Jinnah said that no non-league Muslim should be represented to the Executive Council because only Muslim League has right to represent the Muslims of India. So, it was said that Congress had no right to nominate any Muslim in the Executive council.
  • Jinnah also demanded that in case of the division of votes and objection by the Muslim members, there should be a provision that vote is cleared only by 2/3rd of majority.
  • Wavell had given place to 6 Muslims in the Executive Council of 14, and British had given it the power of Veto to any constitutional proposal which was not in its interest.
    • But Muslims represented only 25% of Indian Population.
    • Thus, these unreasonable demands were rejected by Congress.
    • The Muslim league did not relent and Wavell dropped the plan.
  • Lord Wavell wound up the Conference by declaring a failure of the talks. This scuttled the conference, and perhaps the last viable opportunity for a united, independent India.

Responsibility of failure:

  • The Wavell Plan, in its essence, was the complete Indianisation of the Executive Council.
    • The caste Hindus and Muslims were to be represented on it on the basis of parity.
    • Mahatma Gandhi resented the use of the words “caste Hindus”.
    • The Muslim League clamoured for having the representation of the Muslim members in the Council.
    • The Congress, being a national organisation, insisted on the nomination of its representatives from all the communities.
    • The conference met with failure because neither the Congress nor the League was prepared to deviate from the stand taken by them.
  • The responsibilities for the failure lies partly on Lord Wavell himself and partly on Mr.Jinnah.
  • The three parties’ viz. Congress, Muslim League and Viceroy had to decide the fate of the conference the congress.
    • For Congress, India was a single nation but for Muslim League, the Muslims were not only a minority but a nation in themselves.
    • The viceroy’s decision was to be based upon this disagreement as the larger is the disagreement, larger may be the extension of the British rule.
      • It was Lord Wavell that formally handed over the power to veto-final authority in any constitutional progress in India to Jinnah.
      • So, this was the reason that Jinnah became sole representative of Muslims. Now Jinnah was Muslim League’s answer to Gandhi of Congress.
  • But at the same time, Wavell also reversed the proposals of Cripps mission which had recognized INC as the only platform which could discuss with the government. Thus Wavell created two platforms at Shimla.
    • Raise the level of Jinnah to that to the level of Gandhi
    • Make the Muslim league sole dispenser to the Muslim fate in India.

    The result was that Muslim League emerged as a great gainer and they were now closer to a separate nation of their own.

  • Lord Wavell should have taken the leaders into confidence as regards the composition of his own list of members of the Executive Council.
    • Possibly the Congress leaders might have been persuaded to accept that list either as a whole, or with minor modifications mutually agreed upon.
    • He should not have allowed the league practically to veto the whole plan and thus alone to block the path of progress.
  • It must be noted in this connections that the Viceroy had assured the Congress President that “no party to the conference could be allowed to obstruct settlement out of wilfulness”, but it seems that as in the parallel case of Cripps, Wavell’s hands were stayed at the last moment.
    • The tangible result of the failure of the Shimla Conference was to strengthen the position of Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim League which was clearly manifested in the elections of 1945-46.
  • Mr. Maulana Azad, the Congress President put the blame for the break down directly on the shoulders of Mr. Jinnah.
  • When the Indian National Congress and All India Muslim League reconvened under the Cabinet Mission the next year, the Indian National Congress was far less sympathetic to the Muslim League’s requests despite Jinnah’s approval of the British plan.

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