- 1 FORMATION OF SWARAJ PARTY IN 1923: A REMARKABLE MILESTONE IN MODERN INDIAN HISTORY
FORMATION OF SWARAJ PARTY IN 1923: A REMARKABLE MILESTONE IN MODERN INDIAN HISTORY
CONTEXT: Aftermath the withdrawal of progressing Non-Cooperation Movement by Gandhi in February 1922 due to tragic Chaura-Chauri Incident in Uttar Pradesh, the nationalist INC leaders were disappointed with their achievements and rather than further boycotting the Provincial and Central Legislative Councils, a fragment of INC, including C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru and Srinivasa Iyengar, wanted to enter into council and highlight its weaknesses to the authority so to compel the colonial administrators to concede to the demand of self-Government, who are generally referred to as Swarajists or Pro-Changers.
The other fragment, including Jawahar Lal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose, who wished for the continuation of non-cooperation, a boycott of legislative councils, the preplanned preparation for Civil-Disobedience and more radical mass-agitation for accomplishing the goal of self-rule was termed as No-changers.
Through this article, I wish to understand the ideologies of Swarajists, their importance in the struggle for freedom, their achievements and their drawbacks.
FORMATION OF SWARAJ PARTY IN 1923:
Manifesting its prime objective of “SWARAJ” in its title name, the Swaraj Party also called Congress-Khilafat-Swarajya Party was founded by C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru on 9 January 1923 after resigning from INC since they were denied to enter into legislative councils in Gaya Session [December 1922.] The Swarajists asserted for entering the legislative councils for the following reasons:
- Through Council-entry, Swarajists wanted to politically expand the horizons of Non-Cooperation Program rather than creating a political vacuum.
- Through Council entry, Swarajists wanted to obstruct to government functioning of the council and thereby reflect the public the true nature of colonizers.
- Through Council entry, Swarajists wanted to keep up the enthusiasm amongst people during the passive phase or transition phase of movement otherwise it will again require tremendous effort to ignite the masses of the country.
The No-changers argued that council-entry Programme could lead to retardation of constructive work which is the pillar of Civil-Disobedience Movement and therefore, they rejected the entry in legislative councils. Despite much argumentation and dissention, the pro-changers and no-changers couldn’t resolve the matter and none of them again wanted political inaction like Surat Split 1907, henceforth on Gandhi’s exhortation, both agreed to stay together within INC and function independently. Fortunately, Swarajists were empowered to contest elections at Delhi Session in September 1923 which was presided by Abul Kalam Azad. Thereafter, they presented their Swarajist manifesto for elections in October 1923 that underlined following important points:
- The Swarajists would highlight the national demand of “SELF-RULE” to the colonial government which if rejected, would tend them to accept the policy of consistent obstructionism in the legislative council.
- The Swarajists would expose the hollowness of legislative reforms that had been presented by the colonial government so far in form of Government of India Act 1919.
GANDHI’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS SWARAJISTS:
Initially, Gandhi didn’t support the Swarajists for council entry but when he observed the broader metamorphosis and impacts of Swarajists on the political structure of India during his release from prison in February 1924, he ultimately reconciled with them. He realized that the Swarajists are functioning fearlessly against colonizers rather than accepting their demands and therefore when the imperialists suppressed them, he offered them full support at Belgaum Session in December 1924 where he [as the President] remarked: “Swarajist as an integral part of the Congress.” Therefore, Belgaum Session is significant for two major reasons:
- It’s is the first and only INC session presided by M.K. Gandhi.
- It marked the reconciliation of Swarajists and No-Changers.
SWARAJIST ACTION IN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL:
- With the political support of INC leaders, Madan Mohan Malviya and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Swarajists could be able to successfully win 42 out of 141 elected seats in November 1923 elections. But gradually, the communal views overshadowed Swarajists and it intrinsically broke down into Responsivists and Non-Responsivists which ultimately weakened the party’s functioning. Responsivists like N.C. Kelkar and Lala Lajpat Rai advocated the cooperation with the government while Non-Responsivists like Motilal Nehru didn’t support it and withdrew from legislatures and therefore, they were accused as “anti-Hindu” and “anti-Muslim.”
- They lost major Muslim support when they safely distanced themselves from the tenants’ cause in Bengal as the Muslim population was in large number.
- The excruciating demise of C.R. Das in 1925 further weakened its effective functioning.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF SWARAJ PARTY:
- The defeat of Public Safety Bill, 1928: The British Government passed Public Safety Bill in 1928, under which it intended to forcibly deport the foreign nationalists who were connected to socialist and communist activities in India and thereby, wanted to cut-off British contact with communist organizations. This bill suffered scathing criticism of Swarajists in council and couldn’t be implemented which is the foremost achievement of Swaraj Party.
- Swarajists openly revealed the hollowness of Montford Reform 1919.
- In 1925, Swarajist leader Vithalbhai Patel was elected as the speaker of Central Legislative Council.
- Through their powerful speeches in councils, they agitated on industrialization, civil liberties, self-government and repeal of repressive colonial actions.
- Its presence prevented the inactivity of the nationalist movement on a magnified scale in India.
DRAWBACKS OF SWARAJ PARTY:
- “Incapability of Swarajists to connect or even aware or sensitize nationals with the internal functioning of Legislative Assemblies” is the chief failure of Swaraj Party.
- Failure of Obstructionist Strategy of Swarajists.
- Ineffectiveness of Coalition Partners due to their conflicting ideologies: Swarajists who further classified themselves on religious grounds into Responsivists and Non-Responsivists had very opposite beliefs to each other and they could not strongly hold themselves, therefore proved inadequate and ineffective.
- Loss of peasant-support due to Swarajist silence on peasants’ cause in Bengal.
FUNCTIONING OF NO-CHANGERS:
No-changers or the leaders who rejected the council entry, involved themselves in constructive work during the passive phase of Gandhian movement and made the following contribution during the 1920s:
- Functioned for the popularization of indigenous practices like khadi and charkha.
- Functioned for the eradication of untouchability
- Functioned to maintain Hindu-Muslim integrity and collective mass-boycott of foreign goods.
- Functioned for promotion of national education that didn’t accept colonial ideologies
DRAWBACKS OF NO-CHANGERS:
- Even though they disregarded the social institution of untouchability, their actions couldn’t bring any noticeable changes in the socio-economic and agricultural conditions of untouchables.
- Even though they preached national education throughout the country, their educational campaigns were confined to the urban middle class and rich peasants only.