Election of 1937

  • Demise of Civil Disobedience Movement in 1934 led to a re-emergence of dissension within Congress. Though the 1935 act was unanimously rejected, soon the debate emerged on the issue of future strategy. Soon the divide within the congress centred on two issues: Council entry and office acceptance.
  • Argument by Nehru, Bose, Congress socialists and communists: Opposed office acceptance as it would negate Congress’s stand of rejecting the 1935 act. They considered it as assuming responsibility without power.
  • Argument by leftists: They were in favour of council entry, to create obstructions in the working of the act.
  • Leftists and socialists formed Congress Socialist Party in May 1934 within Congress.
  • Arguments by proponents of office acceptance: Argued that the administrative field should not be left open to pro-government reactionary forces.
  • A split was again avoided due to the importance of a united anti-imperialist struggle.
  • Lucknow session of 1936 & Faizpur session of 1937: Majority of delegates under the leadership of Rajendra Prasad and Vallabhbhai Patel viewed council entry to boost the morale of Congress. Decision was reached that Congress would participate in the election, with a resolution stating not to cooperate with the act but to combat it.
  • Election manifesto of Congress included:  Restoring of civil liberties, release of political prisoners, radical transformation of agrarian system etc.
  • Elections were held in February 1937 in eleven provinces. The result was in favour of Congress. They won 716 out of 1161 seats and had a majority in most provinces except in Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Sindh & NWFP. It formed ministries in Bombay, Madras, Central Provinces, Orissa, United Provinces, Bihar, and later in NWFP and Assam. Prestige of Congress as an alternative to the colonial state rose even higher.

Evaluation of Working of Congress Ministries


  • For civil liberties, Ministries eased curbs and repealed emergency powers.  Lifted curbs on newspapers & organisations such as Hindustan Seva Dal.
  • Number of Laws were passed for agrarian reforms such as land reforms, land tenures, debt relief etc.
  • Congress ministries tried to promote workers’ interests like improved working conditions, securing minimum wages and advocating for compulsory arbitration.
  • Measures were taken for welfare of Harijans: Scholarships for education, temple entry etc.
  • Focus was out on primary, secondary and tertiary education and health and sanitation.
  • Extra parliamentary activities such as mass literacy campaigns, grievance committees were set up.
  • Khadi was promoted through subsidies & prison laws were reformed


  • Use of CID against communists and liberals. Arrest of socialist leaders such as Yusuf Maherally.
  • Congress had to neutralise reactionary elements- landlords. Therefore, solid agrarian reforms could not be brought.
  • Congress was being drawn closer to industrialists which reflected anti-labour attitude, leading to Bombay Trade Disputes Act 1938.
  • Resorted to colonial law, Section 144 to deal with leftists. Saw militant trade unions as law-and-order problems.
  • Congress was still in a dilemma about whether to support Praja Mandal Movement for greater democracy or not.
  • Though having political colour, Pirpur Committee report of 1938 stated, Congress denied proper representation of Muslims and other minority communities.


Formation of Congress ministries brought great enthusiasm among masses. Though Congress rule could not bring radical change in the imperial structure, the 28-months rule of Congress Ministries proved that for social transformation self-government is important. The administrative work demonstrated the capability of Indians to rule.

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