Architect of Swaraj - 7

It again fell to the lot of Patel as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee to raise funds, select candidates and to campaign for the election. In spite of his ill-health he undertook the task. As in 1937 Sardar proved himself equal to the task. The election results were a tribute to his organizing capacity. The Congress had been outlawed during the past three years and Jinnah had utilizing his genius, though negative to strengthen his party with the slogan "Islam in danger", "Congress is a Hindu Party." It was feared that Congress might not fare too well. But thanks to the efforts of Patel Congress won 91% of the general seats in the Central Legislature and a clear majority in eight provinces.

Prime Minister Attlee sent a Cabinet Mission to help India to attain her freedom as speedily and as fully as possible. To resolve the Congress-League differences a special Conference was called in Simla in which representatives of both the parties participated. The Congress was opposed to partition and the League insisted on it. Faced with a deadlock the Cabinet Mission its own proposal on May 16. 

The plan did not agree for the creation of Pakistan but still it appealed to the Muslim League for it provided for the States and the groups of States right of secession. And for that very reason Sardar Patel called the plan cumbersome and was rather unhappy about it. But still Congress accepted the plan. The League also accepted it but with reservation. When the time came for the formation of Interim Government, the Congress refused the concede the demand of the League to nominate all the Muslim members. Jinnah had hoped that if the Congress refused to form a Government he would be called to do so. But Wavell saw no point in forming a Government without the Congress and he dropped the idea of the formation of Interim Government. The infuriated Jinnah. He accused the British Government and announced in a mood of frustration that "Today we bid good bye to constitutional method." He fixed August 16 as "Direct Action Day".

In atmosphere of high tension, mutual distrust and communal riots, the Viceroy wanted to divest himself of responsibility and invited Jawaharlal Nehru, the President of the Congress, to form an Interim Government alone if Jinnah's co-operation was not forthcoming. Jinnah was furious at the way he had been snubbed. His prestige had gone down. But he was a shrewd man and tactfully he opened negotiations with the Viceroy and told him that the League was keen to join the Council. The Viceroy agreed and the five members of the League joined the Council on October 26th. The aim of these members was not to co-operate but to sabotage the Government from within. 

Even after joining the coalition Government League members continued to incite people to violence. The League supplied arms and weapons and serious riots broke out in Noakhali and Tipperah Districts on October 15. Plunder, destruction of property, murder and dishonoring of women were perpetrated on large scale. The Prime Minister issued a statement on February 20 which implied that the country would have to be partitioned unless Congress and the League united. 

Encouraged by Attlee's statement the League resorted once again with redoubled force to "Direct Action" in Assam and the Punjab. It was in this critical and frightful situation that Lord Mountbatten was sworn in as the new Viceroy on March 24, 1947. With the arrival of Lord Mountbatten things began to move fast. Even before his arrival Sardar Patel was convinced after working for about seven months with the League Ministers that partition was the only way out. 

Patel's reason for accepting partition were: "I agreed to partition as a last resort", said Sardar Patel, "When we should have lost all. Five Members of Muslim League had established themselves as Minister of the Interim Government with the sole object of partitioning the Country. We decided that partition should be agreed upon on the terms that Punjab and Bengal should be partitioned. I made further condition that in two months time power should be transferred and an Act should be passed by Parliament during that time guaranteeing that Britain would not interfere with the question of the Indian States. We will deal with the question.... Let paramountcy be dead."


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