• Governors, for most part, acted as constitutional heads and there was
the ‘substance of independence’ in the provincial field.
• The representative character of the legislature and the executive’s
responsibility to it worked out smoothly, in practice.
Congress Ministries, 1937–39
General Elections of 1937
• The federal part of the Act of 1935 could not come into force
because of the hostile attitude of all the political parties and the
reluctance of the Indian rulers. Only the other part of the Act which
relates to the Provinces came into force in 1937. Consequently,
elections were held for the Provincial Legislatures in February, 1937.
• Although the Congress was vehemently opposed to many provisions
of the Act, it decided to fight the elections not to work it, but to wreck
it from within. In other words, the object of the Congress was to
make the working of Provincial autonomy impossible by refusing to
cooperate with the Government. The Muslim League and the Liberals
also agreed to fight the elections in order to judge the merits of the
• The elections yielded significant results. The Congress obtained
clear majorities in Madras, Bihar, UP, Bombay, Central Provinces
and Orissa, the provinces which claimed two-thirds of the Indian
population. In Assam, the Congress emerged as the single largest
party by capturing 35 out of 108 seats. In NWFP also, it gained 19 out
of 50 seats.
• The Muslim League fared relatively badly at the polls. It could
secure only 51 of the total of 482 seats reserved for the Muslims in
provincial assemblies. Nationalist Muslims contested 58 seats on
Congress tickets and captured 26. The League could not show its
strength even in Muslim majority provinces of Punjab, Bengal and
NWFP. But it rather made notable gains in Hindu majority provinces
of UP, Central Provinces, Bombay and others.
• In the Punjab, the Unionist Party, which was a coalition of all the
communities, emerged as the strongest party. In Bengal, the Praja