Deliberations on Post-Civil Disobedience Strategy

Arora IAS Class Notes

Following the Civil Disobedience Movement’s (CDM) withdrawal, nationalists debated their future course. The debates occurred in two stages:

Stage 1: Immediate Strategy (1934-35)

Three Perspectives Emerged:

  1. Constructive Work (Gandhian Line):Focus on social and economic development activities like khadi production.
  2. Constitutional Struggle & Elections:Advocated by M.A. Ansari, Asaf Ali, and others. Arguments:
    • Maintain political interest during a lull in mass movements.
    • Participation doesn’t imply faith in colonial rule.
    • Builds Congress’s strength and prepares for future mass action.
    • Gains prestige and influence in legislative bodies.
  3. Leftist Trend (Nehru):Critical of both options. Favored:
    • Resuming non-violent mass struggles.
    • Addressing economic inequalities and class struggle.
    • Organizing peasants and workers in unions affiliated with Congress.
    • Continuous confrontation with imperialism until its overthrow. (Struggle-Victory Strategy)

Nehru’s Opposition to “Struggle-Truce-Struggle” Strategy:

  • Gandhi and many Congressmen believed in alternating phases of mass action (struggle) and reprieve (truce) to allow the movement to regain strength.
  • Nehru criticized this approach, arguing for continuous pressure on British rule.

Stage 2: Office Acceptance in Provincial Elections (1937)

Nationalist Split Expected:

  • Both nationalists and British officials anticipated a potential Congress split similar to the Surat split (1907).

Gandhi’s Compromise:

  • To prevent a split, Gandhi allowed Congressmen to contest elections under the 1935 Government of India Act.
  • He clarified that this was not an endorsement of constitutionalism but a way for inactive members to contribute.

Gandhi’s Resignation and Underlying Reasons:

  • Gandhi felt out of step with the Congress’s growing interest in parliamentary politics.
  • He disagreed with the emphasis on the spinning wheel and the socialists’ vision of post-colonial India.
  • Resigned in October 1934 to focus on influencing the Congress from outside.

Socialist Strategy:

  • Nehru and socialists prioritized expelling the British before pursuing socialism.
  • They saw staying within the Congress as crucial for mass mobilization.

Right Wing’s Accommodation:

  • The right wing within Congress also accepted Gandhi’s compromise.

Election Results (November 1934):

  • The Congress won 45 out of 75 seats reserved for Indians in the Central Legislative Assembly.


  • The debates after the CDM reflected ideological differences within the Congress. Gandhi sought social and economic reforms, while Nehru and the left wing prioritized anti-colonial struggle and class issues.
  • Ultimately, a compromise was reached, allowing Congressmen to participate in elections while maintaining pressure on British rule.

Government of India Act, 1935


  • Passed in 1935 after the failed Third Round Table Conference (1932).


Main Features:

  1. All-India Federation (Not Implemented):
    • Conditional on princely state participation (not met).
    • Central government continued under 1919 Act provisions.
  2. Federal Level:


  • Governor-General held significant power.
  • Subjects divided into reserved (Governor-General’s control) and transferred (ministerial control).
  • Governor-General could act independently on security matters.


  • Bicameral: Council of States (upper) and Federal Assembly (lower).
  • Indirect election for Federal Assembly (oddly enough).
  • Council of States had some nominated members.
  • Three legislative lists: federal, provincial, and concurrent.
  • Federal Assembly could move no-confidence vote against ministers.
  • Extensive religious and class-based electorates.
  • Limited financial control for the legislature.
  • Governor-General had residuary powers (restoring cuts, certifying bills, ordinances, veto).


  1. Provincial Autonomy:
    • Replaced dyarchy system.
    • Increased provincial independence.
    • Separate legal identity and financial resources for provinces.


  • Governor (Crown’s representative) with special powers.


  • Separate electorates based on Communal Award.
  • Direct elections with expanded franchise (including women).
  • Ministerial responsibility to the legislature.
  • Provincial legislative powers for specific subjects.
  • Governor’s powers included refusing assent to bills, issuing ordinances, and enacting Governor’s Acts.


  • Numerous restrictions limited the Act’s effectiveness.
  • Governors retained significant power at the provincial level.
  • The Act enfranchised a small portion of the population (14%).
  • Communal electorates exacerbated divisions and contributed to partition.
  • Rigid constitution with no amendment power by Indians.


British Long-Term Strategy:

  • Weaken the national movement through co-optation.
  • Revive the political standing of moderate Indians.
  • Discourage further extra-parliamentary struggle by Congress.
  • Create divisions within Congress (appeasing right-wing, suppressing leftists).
  • Foster provincial autonomy to weaken central leadership.


Nationalist Response:

  • Nearly all sections of the nationalist movement rejected the Act.
  • The Congress demanded a Constituent Assembly for an independent India.
  • Only Hindu Mahasabha and National Liberal Federation supported the Act.


Second Stage Debate: Office Acceptance in Provincial Elections (1937)


  • Elections to provincial assemblies announced in early 1937.
  • Debate resumed on the nationalist strategy.

Agreement and Disagreement:

  • All nationalists opposed the 1935 Act.
  • Disagreement arose on how to oppose it during a lull in mass movements.


Left-Wing Position (Nehru, Bose, Socialists, Communists):

  • Against office acceptance and working under the 1935 Act.
  • Reasons:
    • Negate the rejection of the Act.
    • Assume responsibility without power.
    • Divert from revolutionary goals (freedom, social justice).
  • Counter-Strategy:
    • Enter councils to create deadlocks (similar to Swarajists).
    • Long-term: Focus on workers & peasants, integrate their unions with Congress, prepare for renewed mass movement.


Right-Wing Position:

  • Supported office acceptance as a short-term tactic.
  • Reasons:
    • Mass movement not feasible at the moment.
    • Independence achievable only through mass struggle.
    • Leverage legislatures for constructive work.
    • Counteract pro-government forces.

Gandhi’s Position:

  • Initially opposed office acceptance.
  • By 1936, open to forming Congress ministries.


Congress Decisions:

  • Fight elections, postpone decision on office acceptance.
  • Lucknow session (1936): “combat the Act… both inside and outside the legislatures.”
  • Faizpur session (1937): similar resolution.


Elections (February 1937):

  • First elections with wider enfranchisement (14% of population).
  • 11 provinces: Madras, Central Provinces, Bihar, Orissa, United Provinces, Bombay, Assam, NWFP, Bengal, Punjab, Sindh.
  • 1 million eligible voters (including 4.25 million women).
  • 5 million voted (including 917,000 women).


Congress Manifesto:

  • Rejected the 1935 Act.
  • Promised:
    • Release of prisoners.
    • Removal of gender/caste discrimination.
    • Agrarian reforms.
    • Debt reduction.
    • Labor rights (unions, strikes).
  • Gandhi did not campaign.


Congress Results:

  • Won 716 out of 1161 contested seats (majority in 6 provinces).
  • Largest party in Bengal, Assam, NWFP.
  • Increased Congress prestige.
  • Nehru reconciled to “Struggle-Truce-Struggle” strategy.


Important Leaders

  1. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari (1880-1936)

Early Life & Education (1880-1910)

  • Born: December 25, 1880, Yusufpur-Mohammadabad, Uttar Pradesh
  • Medical degree: Madras Medical College
  • Master of Surgery: University of Edinburgh (1910)

Nationalist & Political Leader

  • Joined Indian National Congress & Muslim League
  • President of Muslim League (1918 & 1920)
  • President of Indian National Congress (1927)
  • Supported Khilafat Movement

Founder of Jamia Millia Islamia

  • Co-founded Jamia Millia Islamia University
  • Chancellor (1928-1936)


  1. Aruna Asaf Ali (1909-1996)

Freedom Struggle

  • Known as ‘Grand Old Lady’ of Independence Movement
  • Hoisted Indian flag at Gowalia Tank Maidan (1942) – Iconic image of Quit India Movement
  • Member of Indian National Congress
  • Arrested during Salt Satyagraha (1930)


  • First Mayor of Delhi
  • Awarded Padma Vibhushan (1992) & Bharat Ratna (1997)













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