Sunday, May 25, 2014

Punjab: 1946 Elections

Sardar Patel disagreed with Maulana Azad's strategy for Punjab in the 1946 elections, but deferred to him.  Some of his disagreement is recorded below.

I'm quoting below excerpts from a few letters from "The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel", Volume X, edited by P.N. Chopra.

On December 21, 1945, Sardar Patel wrote to Pandit Gobind Ballabh Pant, beginning "My Dear Pantji, I feel strongly that we have bungled in the Punjab and I am afraid if we continue to act in the same way in the matter of selection of candidates, we will suffer much."

Later in the letter, Sardar Patel wrote,  "There is another thing which irritates me and pains me also.  On the last day {of the Congress Working Committee meeting in Calcutta, Dec 7 - 11, 1945} I went to see Maulana and he told me that the help to be given to the Ahrars should be doubled...."

On the same day, Sardar Patel wrote to Maulana Azad, about sending him money,  "...but I am afraid we are wasting good money for nothing and the Congress reputation will in the end suffer badly.  I am enclosing herewith a Press cutting from which you will see what type of candidates are put by the Ahrar Party in the Punjab for whom they want our help.   From this cutting you will see that immediately the League candidates' nominations are declared invalid, the Ahrar candidates, who remained on the scene and whose nominations were declared valid, joined the Muslim League.  It is very sad that such candidates are chosen to oppose the League.   In any case it is very unwise that we should be mixed up with such a shady transaction.   I would still request you to reconsider the situation and withhold the help......"

Sardar Patel continued: "I am afraid we have mishandled the whole Punjab situation.  We have to fight the Akalis as there has been no settlement as was expected and we will not get more than 5 or 6 seats after a good deal of expense which could be easily avoided.   Please excuse me for bringing these facts to your notice but I have done so as I have been considerably oppressed by a feeling of failure in duty at a critical juncture in one of the most important provinces in these elections.   I do not wish to blame anybody but I do feel that if we continue to handle affairs in the same fashion, we will suffer a serious defeat in spite of such huge expenditure and good deal of time and energy being spent after it."

After the elections, in a letter dated March 6, 1946, Sardar Patel wrote to Maulana Azad regarding the decisions of the Congress Central Election Board: "You are certainly entitled to claim a generous attitude from us and I have done my best to do so, but you must also make allowance for an honest difference of opinion.  You cannot insist that your opinion is the only correct one.   In the Punjab we honestly held different opinions but you have never recognised that there is scope for such a difference of opinion in that matter and you have missed no opportunity to remind us about it."

".....In the Punjab I have differed strongly from you in the matter of the election campaign on many points, including the question of financial help to be given to the Congress Party.   I was expected to help them only in the matter of Muslim constituencies.  In this they have lost all (along) the line and I knew they were going to lose.  They insisted on financial help being given for non-Muslim constituencies and tried to put pressure on me through you.   I have agreed without hesitation to whatever you suggested in this connection.  They have avoided all responsibility but as you were all working against heavy odds, I thought it my duty to accept your suggestions without question.  In the matter of selection of candidates in the Punjab also we had differences but we have endorsed everything that you have done without the slightest hesitation."

Sardar Patel mentions a number of issues, and concludes "Perhaps it may be that your approach to these questions is different from mine and therefore it is difficult for me to understand or appreciate it.   It would therefore be better to relieve me from this embarrassing position altogether, as early as possible." 

Sho Kuwajima in his "Muslims, Nationalism and the Partition: 1946 Provincial Elections in India" notes:
"As noted earlier, Mian Iftikhar-ud-din left the Congress in September 1945. {Elsewhere Kuwajima notes that "When Mian Iftikhar-ud-din joined the Muslim League, Nehru wrote, "Iftikhar, middle-hearted man that he is, thinks he can reform the Muslim League from within-- a foolish idea, but he is foolish enough to do anything."  It is true that in his election campaign and in the post-independent history of Pakistan, Iftikhar-ud-din fought his isolated struggle for reform of the political system.   He was one of the few League leaders who warned against military-cum-bureaucratic rule in Pakistan.  The Viewpoint made its comment,  'if the art of politics lies in the ability to predict the course of events, then Mian Iftikhar-ud-din was a politician without peer in the land."}  It came as a big blow to the Punjab Congress, and particularly to the pro-Nehru faction to which Iftikhar-ud-din had belonged. Even before Iftikhar-ud-din left the Congress, it was ridden with factionalism, and Nehru and Patel were of the same view that it was in a deplorable condition".

"Already in the beginning of September 1945, Nehru wrote to Partap Singh Kairon (Chief Minister of the Punjab 1956-64), Secretary of the Punjab Congress, saying that if the public thought the Congressmen were split up into different parties, quarreling among themselves, their enthusiasm for the Congress would wane.   Nehru admitted that the Punjab Congress had been in the past a somewhat narrow organization without sufficient representation of important elements, especially rural."

"Amidst the election campaign in the Punjab, Patel regretted that the Punjab Congress had been divided into groups and factions of a very bitter type and hardly two men trusted each other.  Patel was distressed to find that even good Congressmen were not united in the Punjab.  He asked 'Can nothing be done to make Congress workers realize their sense of responsibility at this critical period?""

"In such a situation there was a serious rift between Azad and Patel.  They had different approaches to the election campaign and nominations of candidates.  Azad took a soft attitude towards the Ahrars and other Nationalist Muslims, while Patel thought that the Congress should send its candidates on the Congress tickets, not as Nationalist Muslims,  and did not lay his hope on the Ahrars who had some influence in the Punjab.  Relations between the two leaders were not smooth in their approach to the Akalis either....."

".....It can be said that this rift was basically caused by the absence of a mass Congress base in the Punjab, particularly in its rural areas.  The Congress had to find its allies among the Nationalist Muslims or the Akalis, to contain the Muslim League and the Communists."