Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald announced the Communal Award on 16th August 1932. It brought a dramatic turn in the constitutional history of India.
Major Provisions Were
Muslims, Europeans, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo- Indians, depressed classes, women, and even the Marathas were to get separate electorates. Such an arrangement for the depressed classes was to be made for a period of 20 years.
In the provincial legislatures, the seats were to be distributed on a communal basis.
The existing seats of the provincial legislatures were to be doubled.
The Muslims, wherever they were in minority, were to be granted a weightage.
Except in the Northwest Frontier Province, 3% of seats were to be reserved for women in all provinces.
The depressed classes were to be declared/accorded the status of minority.
The depressed classes were to get a ‘double vote’, one to be used through separate electorates and the other to be used in the general electorates.
Allocation of seats was to be made for labourers, landlords, traders, and industrialists.
In the province of Bombay, 7 seats were to be allocated for the Marathas.
Reaction of Congress: Congress was opposed to separate electorates. However, did not favour changing the award without the consent of minorities and so it neither accepted nor rejected the award.
He saw this as an attack on unity of India and a sinister motive to divide Hindu society as he considered the untouchables to be an integral part of Hindu society.
Provided no answer to the socially degenerated state of Depressed classes.
It created a permanent blockade in path of integration of untouchables into society and they would remain untouchable in perpetuity if a separate electorate was enforced.
He instead demanded joint and a wider electorate with the universal franchise and larger reserved seats for depressed classes.
Gandhi went fast unto death in Yerwada Jail (Pune) in September 1932 to show his protest against the award. (In the prison he translated Indian prayers into English, this book is called ‘Songs of Prison’.)
Depressed class leaders such as M.C. Rajah supported the Joint electorate. However, B.R. Ambedkar viewed a separate electorate as the only way for the true political representation of the Depressed sections.
Finally, B.R. Ambedkar, M.C. Rajah and Madan Mohan Malviya came together to hammer out a compromise that became part of the Poona Pact.
A pact between B. S. Moonje (President of Hindu Mahasabha) and M. C Rajah (Leader of Dalits).
According to it, there was an agreement between Rajah & Moonje that. (Dalits will get special representation but not a separate electorate in 1935 constitutional reforms(This was before Poona Pact).