Lucknow Pact, 1916

The change in the leadership of both the Congress and Muslim League brought the two Parties closer. Ever since Annie Besant joined (1915) and Tilak rejoined (1916), the Congress party became more active. Muslim League also had a facelift. It was no longer controlled by the Zamindars or ‘feudal lords’ but came under the control of ‘Young Party‘. The new leadership of Muslim League was both Nationalist and progressive.

They were not happy with the British policies, like Britain’s refusal to help Turkey(a Muslim State), Annulment of Partition of Bengal in 1911, the Government’s refusal to set up a university at Aligarh, etc.

The annual session of the Congress party was held in December 1916 at Lucknow. Muslim League’s annual session was also held at the same venue. Separately they passed the same resolution, popularly known as the Lucknow Pact. Its first part was related with the political interests of Muslims in India, whereas its second part was related with general reforms for India.

Political interest of the Muslims

  1. Congress accepted the provision of Separate Electorate for Muslims, given through Indian Council Act of 1909. This was earlier opposed by the Congress.
  2. For Provincial Legislative Assembly, seats for Muslims was to be reserved. The Muslim leaders accepted under representation in Muslim-majority areas (for instance 40% of seats in Bengal, though the Muslim population in Bengal was 52%) in return for over-representation in provinces like Bombay or United Provinces (30%) . It is clear that the UP-based Muslim politicians dominated in the League.
  3. One-third elected seats of Central Legislative Assembly were re – served for Muslims, whose members had to come through separate electorate.
  4. If ¾th members of any community in a Legislative Assembly objects on any Resolution on the ground that it is against their interests, it would not be passed.

Pact related with India

  1. More autonomy to the provinces in financial matters.
  2. 80% members of both central and provincial Legislative Assembly should be elected.
  3. Half of the strength at least, of central and provincial Executive body shall come from elected Legislative body.
  4. Except army and External Affairs, the Legislative Council should have control over all departments.
  5. India should be treated as ‘Dominion Status country’.

Most of the Congress and League leaders were happy with this Pact except a few. Madan Mohan Malaviya opposed the Pact and believed that the Hindus have yielded too much to the Muslims. But Bipan Chandra rightly summed up—”The acceptance of the principle of separate electorate for Muslims was certainly a most controversial decision, it cannot be denied that the Pact was motivated by a sincere desire to allay minority fears about majority domination”.