In October 1906, the Simla Deputation, led by the Agha Khan, met Lord Minto and demanded distinct electorates for Muslims, as well as representation in excess of their numerical strength, in recognition of “the worth of the contribution” Muslims were making “to the defense of the empire.” The Muslim League, which was founded in December 1906 by Nawab Salimullah of Dacca, Nawabs Mohsin-ul-Mulk, and Waqar-ul-Mulk, was rapidly taken over by the same group.
The Muslim League’s goal was to instill imperial devotion in Muslims and keep them away from the Congress. Gopal Krishna Gokhale also traveled to England to meet with John Morley, the Secretary of State for India, to press Congress for a self-governing system comparable to that of the other British colonies.
Main Aim of Morley-Minto Reforms
- Lord Minto, the viceroy, and John Morley, the Secretary of State for India, agreed that some reforms were needed to appease both the moderates and the Muslims. They devised a set of reforms known as the Morley-Minto (or Minto-Morley) Reforms, which were enacted as the Indian Councils Act of 1909.
- In India, the election concept was recognized for nonofficial council membership. Indians were allowed to vote in legislative council elections, but only on the basis of their class and community.
- Separate electorates for Muslims were formed for the first time for elections to the central council, which was a disastrous decision for India.
- The Imperial Legislative Council and the Provincial Legislative Councils both have more elected members. Non-official majority was adopted in provincial councils, but because some of these non-officials were nominated rather than elected, the total non-elected majority persisted.
- According to Sumit Sarkar, 37 of the 69 members of the Imperial Legislative Council were to be officials, while 5 of the 32 non-officials were to be nominated. Eight seats were set aside for Muslims under distinct electorates (only Muslims could vote for Muslim candidates), while four seats were set aside for British capitalists, two for landlords, and thirteen seats were set aside for the general electorate.
- The elected members were to be chosen in a roundabout way. Local governments were supposed to elect an electoral college, which would then elect members of provincial legislatures, who would then elect members of the national legislature.
- Aside from having separate electorates, the Muslims were given representation that was more than their numbers. In addition, the income threshold for Muslim voters was remained lower than for Hindus.
- Legislative powers were expanded, both at the national level and in the provinces, and legislators may now pass resolutions (which might be accepted or rejected), ask questions and supplementaries, and vote on individual budget items, though the budget as a whole could not be voted on.
- The viceroy’s executive council was to have one Indian member (Satyendra Sinha was the first Indian to be appointed in 1909).
- The 1909 changes provided no solution to the Indian political crisis. Lord Morley made it obvious that colonial self-rule (as advocated by the Congress) was unsuitable for India, and that parliamentary or responsible government should be introduced instead.
- The unpleasant tool of separate electorates was used to divide the nationalist ranks by misleading the Moderates and to limit the building of solidarity among Indians through the ‘constitutional’ changes.
- The government hoped to unite moderates and Muslims in opposition to the rising trend of nationalism. When officials and Muslim leaders spoke of different electorates, they typically referred to the entire community, but in reality, they were referring to appeasing a small segment of the Muslim elite.
- Furthermore, the election system was too deceptive, giving the sense of “legislative infiltration through a series of sieves.” Furthermore, when parliamentary forms were adopted, no responsibility was accepted, which sometimes resulted in rash and reckless criticism of the administration. Only a few members, like as Gokhale, used the opportunity to argue in the councils to advocate for universal primary education, to criticize repressive policies, and to draw attention to the problems of indentured labor and Indian workers in South Africa.
- The changes of 1909 provided a shadow rather than substance to the people of the country. The people had asked for self-government, but instead received “benevolent dictatorship.”