- The Swaraj Party, established as the Congress-Khilafat Swaraj Party, was a political party formed in India on 1 January 1923 after the Gaya annual conference in December 1922 of the National Congress, that sought greater self-government and political freedom for the Indian people from the British Raj
- The suspension of non-cooperation movement in 1922 was met with an impressive measure of logical inconsistencies among pioneers of the Congress Party
- While some wanted to continue non-cooperation, others wanted to end the legislature boycott and contest elections
- The former were called no-changers, and later were called pro-changers
- In 1922, in the Gaya session of the Congress, C R Das (who was presiding over the session) moved a proposal to enter the legislatures but it was defeated
- Das and other leaders broke away from the Congress and formed the Congress-Khilafat Swarajaya Party with Das as the president and Nehru as one of the secretaries
Objectives of Swaraj party
- The Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party or the Swaraj Party aimed for:
- Speedy attainment of dominion status
- Obtaining the right to frame a constitution adopting such machinery and system as are most suited to the conditions of the country and genius of the peoples
- Establishing control over the bureaucracy
- Obtaining full provincial autonomy
- Attaining Swarajya (self-rule)
- Getting people the right to control the existing machinery and system of government
- Organising industrial and agricultural labour
- Controlling the local and municipal bodies
- Having an agency for propaganda outside the country
- Establishing a federation of Asian countries to promote trade and commerce
- Engaging in the constructive programmes of the Congress
- What gave a peculiar distinction to the politics of the Swarajists was their avowed intention of wrecking the reforms from within
- The Swarajists’ methods of obstruction to all government sponsored laws were calculated to destroy the prestige of the councils which had throttled the national self-assertion and respect
- The methods of the Swarajists on the destructive side emphasised rejection of the votable parts of the budgets and rejection of proposals emanating from the bureaucracy
- On the constructive side, they sought to move resolutions calculated to promote a healthy national life and displacement of bureaucracy
Works and Achievements of Swaraj Party
- The Swarajists emerged as the single largest party in the Central Assembly, Bombay and Bengal Councils while their number in the U.P. Council was not insignificant in 1923.
- The victory of the Swarajists at the polls strengthened their position in the congress as against the No Changers
- In the absence of mass political activities in this period, the Swarajists played a significant role in keeping the spirit of Anti-British protest alive.
- They made it almost impossible for the British rulers to get the approval of the legislatures for their policies and proposals
- For example, in 1928, the government introduced a bill in the legislative assembly which would give it the power to expel from the country those non-Indians who supported India’s struggle for freedom. The bill was defeated. When the government introduced this bill again, Vithalbhai Patel who was the president of the assembly refused to allow it
- The Swarajists exposed the weaknesses of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms
- They gave fiery speeches in the Assembly on self-rule and civil liberties
- The year 1924-25 registered many victories for the Swarajists in the Legislative Assembly.
- Here, they succeeded in throwing out the Budget forcing the Government to rely on its power of certification
- Further, they resorted to adjournment motions and asking inconvenient questions to expose the misdeeds of the alien government
Decline of Swaraj Party
- The enthusiasm of 1924 began to wane and the years 1925-27 saw demoralisation and eventual decline of the Swarajists.
- Inside the legislatures, the Swarajists failed to pursue the policy of ‘constant, continuous uniform obstruction’
- The death of C R Das in 1925 further weakened the party
- The announcement of Simon Commission in the closing months of 1927 and Lord Birkenhead’s challenge to Indians to produce a constitution acceptable to all sections of society opened new political vistas in the country
- The Calcutta Congress of 1928 resolved that in case the British Government did not accept the Nehru Report by 31 December 1929, the Congress would declare complete independence as its goal
- Thus, the Council Entry programme in the changed political situation occupied a back seat and lost its relevance
- Other Reasons for Decline
- Rising Communal Politics
- The protracted Hindu-Muslim tension, presence of reactionary elements of both the communities within the party, which ostensibly professed secularism, really created a difficult situation.
- The Hindus felt that their interests were not safe in the hands of the Congress.
- The activities of the Hindu Mahasabha also weakened the Swarajist position.
- The Muslim alienation from the Congress became so marked that its erstwhile Muslim members fought elections as Muslims, not as Swarajists
- Lure of Office
- The lure of office proved to be another reason for the decline of the Swarajists.
- They began their career with a bang by entering councils with the declared objective of stiff resistance to the bureaucracy.
- However, The spirit of resistance soon gave way to cooperation
- Internal Divisions
- The Swaraj Party was a house divided against itself.
- Mutual bickering and distrust eroded its credibility.
- Denial of tickets to some Swarajists led them to declare their candidature as independents.
- There were internal divisions among the Swarajists. They were divided into the responsivists and the non-responsivists.
- The responsivists (M M Malaviya, Lala Lajpat Rai, N C Kelkar) wanted to cooperate with the government and hold offices, whereas the non-responsivists (Motilal Nehru) withdrew from legislatures in 1926
- Rising Communal Politics
Despite of its decline, Swaraj party succeeded to a great extent in achieving its goals at that challenging time. The activities of Swarajists enlivened an otherwise dull political atmosphere. Their tactics of obstruction embarrassed the government while the parliamentary duels of the period constitute a brilliant page in the annals of parliamentary politics.