The Provincial Elections of 1936-37 was a leading event which highlighted the clashing powers of both Indian National Congress
and the Muslim League. Though the terms of the Government of India Act
was not acceptable to both the parties yet both chose to contest the election which would help them to assess the view of the common mass and the popular acceptance of the parties. As such the parties depended on the outcome of the election to read the reaction of the common man towards the prevailing political upheaval.
Provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935
The provincial elections came as a result of the provision made in the Government of India Act of 1935
which stated that an electorate of nearly 36 million as compared to 7 million in 1920, representing 30 percent of the adult population, would elect 1585 representatives for the provincial legislature. This created excitement among all the Indian political parties who considered it to be the first constitutionally responsible
effort made by the British government towards India making India constitutionally more responsible .The Act envisaged that the party which will win the majority of seats in the legislature will form the ministry that will function on collective responsibility.
The Outcome of the Provincial Election in 1936-1937
The Provincial Elections which came as an outcome of the Government of India Act of 1935 was contested by both the parties with an expectation to have a chance for creating one`s own government with their own representatives. In spite of their personal contentions over the provisions of Government of India Act, 1935 these parties decided to prepare the agenda for elections and contest it with utmost sincerity. The election manifesto of both the parties showed a lot of differences .While the manifesto of Muslim League was vague and could hardly impress its community with any particular promise except the concern showed towards the Muslim community for their religious rights which it claims to protect, further asks for the repeal of all the repressive laws, reduction of cost of administration, social, economic as well as political upliftment of the Muslim communities.
The election manifesto of the Congress, on the other hand, had been quite clear. As drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru
it was more specific in which it rejected `the new constitution to its entirety`. It further presented the growing mass support of the people and the role played by them in participating in the freedom struggle.
The election showed the popular strength of Indian National Congress
all over the country. Out of 1161 seats it won 716 seats and secured a clear majority in almost six provinces out of eleven provinces in British India. It emerged as one of the largest party winning the majority of three large states of India. Congress fared best in the state of Uttar Pradesh
where it secured 133 out of 288 seats, in Bihar
95 out of 152, in Bombay (now Mumbai
) 88 out of 175 ,in Central Province 71 out of 112, in Madras (now Chennai
) and Orissa
it gained 150 out of 215 seats and 36 out of 60 seats respectively. The success of Congress in North West Frontier Province shattered the Muslim League. The League also fared badly in Muslim majority provinces like Bengal. Out of 117 seats it won 38, in Punjab 2 out of 84 and in Sindh 3 out of 33.
Thus the election results exhibited the popularity of the Congress where the Muslim League could stand in no competition. However, even after winning popularity none of the parties could claim the Muslim representation as in case of Congress the election results could only show its popularity but not popular representation.