BJP and Quit India – Part I: Congress’s Spokes in Gandhiji’s Wheels

Every year around the Quit India Anniversary a Journalist tweets *Can you say who opposed Quit India Movement* and the answer he waits for in glee is BJP. It is another matter that neither BJP nor its earlier avatar BJS was in existence then. RSS was too small to even talk about. The only reasonably big Hindu organisation that opposed Quit India was the Hindu Mahasabha. Yes. You can outrage against them if you feel the need to.

But before that also see the list of others who opposed. The normally known list is

1. Communists: Makes sense as USSR was actively involved in the War and so Indian Communists were also keen. In fact this prompted the then British Government in India to remove the ban on them.

2. Rajaji: He opposed the Quit India tooth and nail. In fact he actively campaigned against it. He also at the same time campaigned for a settlement with the Muslim League and for Pakistan. This led to his exit from the Congress for the first time. Later he rejoined and was the Governor of Bengal, Governor General, Minister without Portfolio at Centre and CM of Tamilnadu in that order. He again left Congress and started the Swatantra party.

But the general consensus is that the Congress was a single block that followed Gandhi into whatever he did but for the odd Bose and Rajaji. I will extract from a book published by the Publications Division of Indian Government authored by Shri J B Kripalani without any comments. Draw your own conclusions. If you are keen to know who Acharya Kripalani is, you can read it here at the official site of Congress.

 A resolution based on Gandhiji’s draft was unanimously passed by the Working Committee* However, on the next day, the Maulana said that this resolution must be materially altered. It was pointed out to him that it was unanimously passed and he had not objected to it then. His reply was that, unless it was changed, he would resign. Seeing the attitude of the Maulana, Jawaharlal and Pant changed their minds. Others reluctantly consented to cancel the resolution passed on the previous day. They felt that the resignation by the Maulana at that time would complicate matters. It would be exploited by our internal opponents and the foreign government.

A new draft was prepared and accepted. It was kept before the AJ.C.C. which met from April 29 to May 2, 1942 and was passed. In the altered resolution the operative part of Gandhi’s draft asking the British to withdraw was omitted. (1)

At this session, Rajaji’s resolution that the Congress should come to an understanding with the Muslim League by accepting in principle the division of India was rejected by an overwhelming majority. (2)

Gandhiji however continued to keep his ideas before the public through the columns of Harijan. There was no change in the situation of utter helplessness created by the Government, The members of the Working Committee thought that they had to give some lead to the country if the Japanese invasion was not to be welcomed by large sections of the population. A meeting of the Working Committee was therefore called at Wardha. It met from July 7 to 14, 1942. At this meeting Gandhiji explained his idea of the peaceful withdrawal of the British Government and the reasons therefor. After a good deal of discussion it was found that only a bare majority of the members of the Working Committee agreed with Gandhiji’s idea. Maulana Azad, Jawaharlal, Pant, Syed Mahmud and Asaf Ali did not agree for good reasons. They thought that the British Government would not consent to withdraw and any satyagraha movement would be misunderstood by the other Allies, particularly China, America and Russia. British propaganda would misrepresent the Congress as being friendly to the Japanese. They would also misrepresent that the Congress was out to disorganise India’s forced war effort. Gandhiji gave due weight to these arguments, and pertinently asked what the Congress programme would then be to meet the situation. The British Government was not ready to negotiate with the Congress and the internal conditions were deteriorating. They could render no help to the distressed people. The dissenting members also could suggest nothing for the defence of India against the impending Japanese attack. Gandhiji came to their help. He said that he could understand the hesitation of some important members of the Committee to commit their respectable organisation to the hazardous plan of action proposed by him. In that case he said that he would go it alone. The Congress could, however, pass a resolution to the effect that such Congressmen and others, who agreed with Gandhiji’s plan of action, should help him by joining his satyagraha movement.

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  1. I record the episode for historical reasons. I must also record that when I related this episode to Gandhiji, he said, “You should have allowed the Maulana to resign.”
  2. It was never made clear by Rajaji whether he wanted the two parts to constitute separate sovereign states. He did want some connection but its nature was never made clear. It was perhaps this vagueness that made talk disparagingly of him when he and Gandhiji met in 1944,

The extract is from the book GANDHI: HIS LIFE AND THOUGHT authored by Acharya Kripalani and published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, GoI (Published in Aug 1970)

BJP and Quit India – Part II – Click here.

BJP and Quit India – Part III – To be uploaded shortly

BJP and Quit India – Part – IV – To be loaded shortly

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