Wavell Plan and Simla Conference 1945

 

Background

  • Once the tide of the war turned in their favour, the British started realising by the end of 1944 generally that, the Indian situation should not be allowed to remain where it stood after the Quit India Movement.
  • They realised that it would be impossible to hold India by force for long. A dialogue therefore, had to begin with the imprisoned Congress leaders, if not for anything else, at least for preventing them in future from taking advantage of an explosive post-war situation of economic hardships and unemployment
  • According to Wavell the energies of the Congress and its fellow-travellers were required to be directed from the path of agitation into “some more profitable channel, i.e. into dealing with the administrative problems of India and into trying to solve the constitutional problems”.
  • Thus, The viceroy, Lord Wavell was permitted to start negotiations with Indian leaders, with the release of Congress Leaders from jails in June 1945

 

Wavell Plan

  • The main proposals of the Wavell Plan were as follows.
    • With the exception of the governor-general and the commander-in-chief, all members of the executive council were to be Indians.
    • Caste Hindus and Muslims were to have equal representation.
    • The reconstructed council was to function as an interim government within the framework of the 1935 Act (i.e. not responsible to the Central Assembly).
    • The governor-general was to exercise his veto on the advice of ministers.
    • Representatives of different parties were to submit a joint list to the viceroy for nominations to the executive council. If a joint list was not possible, then separate lists were to be submitted.
    • Possibilities were to be kept open for negotiations on a new constitution once the war was finally won.
  • The Reactions:
    • The League wanted all Muslim members to be League nominees, because it feared that since the aims of other minorities—depressed classes, Sikhs, Christians, etc.—were the same as those of the Congress, this arrangement would reduce the League to a one-third minority
    • While, the Congress objected to the plan as “an attempt to reduce the Congress to the status of a purely caste Hindu party and insisted on its right to include members of all communities among its nominees”
  • Criticism of the Plan
    • The Wavell Plan, in essence, proposed the complete Indianisation of the Executive Council, but instead of asking all the parties to nominate members to the Executive Council from all the communities, seats were reserved for members on the basis of religion and caste, with the caste Hindus and Muslims being represented on it on the basis of parity.
    • While the plan proposed immediate changes to the composition of the Executive Council it did not contain any guarantee of Indian independence, nor did it contain any mention of a future constituent assembly or any proposals for the division of power between the various parties of India.

 

The Simla Conference

  • The Simla Conference of 1945 was a meeting between the Viceroy of India Lord Wavell and the major political leaders of British India at the Viceregal Lodge in Simla.
  • Lord Wavell invited a conference of 21 Indian Political leaders at the Summer Capital British India to discuss the provision of Wavell Plan.
  • Eventually permitted by the home authorities to set the ball of negotiations rolling, the Viceroy, Wavell, ordered on 14 June 1945 the release of all the Congress Working Committee members, and invited them along with others, notably the League leaders, to join in a Conference in Simla (24 June – 14 July 1945) for setting up a new Executive Council at the Centre (As according to Wavell plan).
  • While attending the conference, the Congress naturally refused to be treated as a “Caste Hindu” body, and, asserting its secular nationalist character staked the right to select the representatives of any community, including Muslims (of whom Abul Kalam Azad and Abdul Ghaffar Khan presented themselves in Simla in the capacities of the leaders and distinguished members respectively, of the Congress delegation), as the Congress nominees to the council.
    • The Muslim league objected to the Congress Stand, and claimed an absolute jurisdiction for choosing all the Muslim members of the council.
  • Further, the league demanded a communal veto by asking for a two-third majority, in the proposed council, instead of a simple one.
  • In his anxiety for encouraging the League’s posture, and brushing aside the Congress offer to join the council by keeping to open for the League to step in later, the Viceroy Wavell, abruptly decided to abandon the British proposals and dissolve the Simla Conference.
    • Thus, his actions not only implied an official recognition of League’s monopoly, but also the power to negate any future negotiation that did not suit its own convenience.
  • Thus, the Simla Conference failed in its objective and set the trend for the immediate topics that would dominate discourse until Indian independence.

Thus, it turned out so that, the Wavell Plan that was proposed to resolve the political deadlock that existed during that time; it rather due to disagreements among the main stakeholders, got dissolved at the Simla conference.