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Defeat Behind the Success of 1945/46 Elections

The election of 1945/46 in India was a significant event that influenced the future of the
Muslims in India. The Muslim League stood in the elections in 1937 but it failed to get
votes from the Muslim majority provinces. The Muslims then suffered for 2.5 years under
Congress rule. In 1945/46 elections Muslim League won the vote of Muslim majority
provinces. There are several ways to analyze this elections result in order to understand the
obvious and the underlying outcomes of it. Normally the approach towards this election is
of positivity towards the success of Muslim League. However there are many crucial
setbacks that are rarely discussed. This research paper will highlight those failures of the
elections of 1945/46 in India and explain why their success had long-term setbacks that
overshadowed the short-term benefits of the victory of Muslim League.1
Table 1: shows seats won by political parties in the Indian Legislative Assemblies .2

1 Cited in: Fazlur Rahman, The Significance of 1945-1946 Elections in the Creation of Pakistan, 168.
2,_1946#cite_note-8, Wikipedia, last modified on
22 March 2016, at 19:09, Accessed: 02-05-2016 08:17.

A lot has been written and said about the 1945/46 elections. As per many
online journals and articles this is the election that created Pakistan 3.
One political leader that rose above all in making this election successful
for the league was Jinnah. He was the political strategist for this affair; his
efforts show that he realized how important these elections were and
what it would mean if they won it: Establish complete unity, face elections with
grim determination. Issue life-death. Every vote for League means rescue of hundred
million Musalmans, Islam, Pakistan.4 Thats exactly what happened, after winning the
elections Jinnah used this victory to justify that the league represented the Muslims of India
and that they wouldnt agree on any constitution, which didnt mention the creation of a
separate homeland for muslims.
Many resources suggest that this triumph was a representation of the new and improved
united political leadership of Muslims, in my opinion it couldnt be far from that
interpretation. Jinnah worked tirelessly for the victory that may have seemed beneficial at
that time however its negative effects still shape the major problems currently present in
3Paracha,Nadeem.The election that created Pakistan. Dawn news, May 11, 2014.
4 Hamdani, Muslim League 100 years old: 1945-1946 Elections, Accessed: 04-05-2016

While it may be easier to look through the situation in a different light now, at that time, this
victory was able to convince the British and the Congress that Muslims now stood united
before them with their sole voice was Muslim League. Patel, the lodestar of the Congress,
reluctantly acknowledged, The League has scored better than expected all our efforts and
resources have been wasted and all hopes given were false and the conculations and
expectations were wrong. And because the elections were fought on party lines and not
on personal, tribal or caste consideration, the results represented a clear verdict in
Pakistans favor. 5

5 Ibid.

1) Different Motives:
Everyone that contested in the elections within the Muslim community for separate elections
had different motives. Not only did various political parties have different intentions but
people within the Muslim League also had different reasons for standing in the elections. A
look inside the Muslim league would show 2 main types of people: those who were
members since 1937 elections and those who joined after that. The people who were in the
league since 1937 knew the atrocities that Muslims went through during congress rule 6 and
as per the leagues objectives they wanted to protect the rights of the muslims and wanted to
create Pakistan in order to have a safe separate state where muslims could practice their
religion and live peacefully. The Muslim minority was instilled with so much fear and
insecurity that they swallowed the bitter pill of partition suffering the worst kind of
atrocities and hardships.7
The other part of the Muslim League that joined before the 1945/46 elections mainly
consisted of the local ethnic political leaders that won in the 1937 elections in their
respective provinces as well as several landlords. These people didnt form an alliance with
the League in order to create a safe nation for muslims but because the Congress had already
given out the laws of the new independent India regarding feudalism8, and so to save their
land they decided to side with the League which was aiming for a new nation, a nation
where they wont have their land taken away from them and so acting within their narrow
self interest of keeping in hand their respective assets the newly found support for the
league sprung up. Created a position of political dualism within the province in which the
Muslim elite could retain its loyalty9
This difference in motives is one of the reasons I think the success of Muslim League in the
elections was a defeat in disguise. In that moment this alliance was a way to get votes via
political mobilizing however this image of a united muslim leadership body was misleading
since this alliance was expected to last only till the common agenda was achieved i.e. the
creation of Pakistan; what happens after the creation was where theyd part ways and thats
exactly what happened. After independence there was no binding force amongst the 2 parts
of Muslim league described above; there was now an extremely evident internal divide in
the country. The issue of feudalism is still present in Pakistan since the existence of the
6 Congress was extremely successful in 1937 elections and ruled over 8/11 provinces from 1937-1939.
7 Mahmood, Tahir. Pakistan was made for all the right reasons and religious extremism was not one of
them!. Express Tribune, March 30, 2013.
8 Feudalism would be eradicated as soon as India would achieve independence (decided by congress)
9 I. A.Talbot, The 1946 Punjab Elections (Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1980), p.65-91,, Accessed: 06-05-2016

country because of this alliance. This short-cut to get votes lead to long-term problems still
present in modern-day Pakistan where political leaders still act under self interest making
the intentions of the political system unsound and definitely not for the people.

2) Ethnic Divide:
To an outsider the results of this election may have looked like an exceptional recovery of
the league since 1937 elections where every Muslim majority province voted for a different
party. The success of the election may have looked like Muslim league was now the
centrally binding force of Muslims of India, however, unfortunately this was not the case.
While the victory of the Muslim League made it look like it was the united front of the
millions of Muslims in India, the reality was quite far from it. Referring to the Leagues
cent-per-cent success, the Quaid-i-Azam remarked that the League had made rapid strides
during the past five or six years, so much so that Britain, America and other powers realized
that it was the only authoritative body of the 100 million Muslims of India.10
While the results of the elections fooled many regarding the increase in the unity amongst
the Muslim leadership the issues of ethnic divide were pretty much present. The reason
Muslim League was able to phenomenally increase its support in muslim majority provinces
was because the local political leadership of these provinces were now representing Muslim
League and not contesting under their own respective political parties.
This was a misfortunate turn of events that led to the success of the League in the elections.
The reason being that there was no sense of national integrity or beyond border association.
The provinces and the people were still as divided as they were in 1937. This event was an
illusion of unity, strength and stability; neither of which the league actually withheld. The
loyalty of the voters to the Muslim League was non-existent; they were only loyal to their
individual local ethnic political leaders. It was a mirage of power of Muslim League that
helped put up a false front of it being the most prominent representative of Muslims in
India; so there wasnt any genuine improvement in the Muslim political system however
there had been quite a few critical adjustments. This underlying problem of ethnic bias was
deep-rooted into the minds of the Muslims of India and a few adjustments werent enough to
bring an end to it. The lack of recognition of this problem in the initial stages of its existence
has made way for it to outlast all these years and remain a serious problem even today in

10 Jamaluddin Ahmad, Creation of Pakistan (Lahore: United Publishers, 1976), 236


3) Springboard to Pakistan:
After the league asked for a separate homeland in the Lahore Resolution (1940), Congress
and British were both skeptical about this idea and were interested in keeping India
undivided. They used the disastrous result of Muslim League in 1937 to put off the idea:
within three weeks of the passage of the Lahore Resolution Ghandi wrote in the Harijan
(April 13, 1940), I refuse ... to believe that the eight crore Muslims will say that they have
nothing in common with their Hindu and other brethren. Their mind can only be known by a
referendum. It is purely a matter of self-determination. I know of no other conclusive
method of ascertaining the mind of the eight crore of Muslims. 11 Before taking part in the
1946 elections, Quaid-i-Azam announced on 10 October 1945, Our demand of Pakistan is
quite clear. Those parts of India, where Muslims are in majority should be amalgamated to
form a free and sovereign state. If the Muslims voted against Pakistan, I shall accept my
Due to the exceptional victory of the Muslim League in 1945/46 elections, Jinnah was able
to argue convincingly to others that the Muslim League is the sole representation of the
Muslims of India and that it was above any other political party that claims to represent
Muslims in India. This gave Jinnah more confidence and a platform to base the demand of
Pakistan on. He announced that the only solution to the constitutional problem of India was
the partition of India.13
While this victory paved the way for a separate new state for muslims in my opinion it was
all very rushed and if more time was given for the ethnic gap to bridge then the separation
would have been more beneficial and we would have a more prosperous country right now.
In my opinion making Pakistan after 2 years was a big mistake, and what laid the foundation
to create Pakistan was the success of this election, which was in itself a false representation
of the actual popularity of Muslim League. Thereby giving Jinnah false confidence that not
only could they ask for a separate nation but due to their political stability they could also
manage it. And this is why the success of the election was a failure in disguise because it
gave false hope that we, muslims stood united in 1946 when in actuality this wasnt the case
at all and this is why disintegration of Muslim League was one of the immediate early
problems after partition. If we had not won the elections a more realistic picture of the
future would be in front of the Muslim League and they could work on the initial problems
associated with the Muslim community, in the mean time letting the British or Congress be
in the central government with them (after some negotiations). This would give them
enough time to work on their ethnic issues as well as wait for feudalism to get eradicated (as
was decided by congress in the post British laws). These two issues are still predominant in
the Muslim society and if they were taken care off before independence, Pakistan would
have a stronger political structure.

11 Hamdani, Muslim League 100 years old: 1945-1946 Elections, Accessed: 04-05-2016
12 Fazlur Rahman, The Significance of 1945-1946 Elections in the Creation of Pakistan, 168.
13 See Ibid. p. 168

This election is a key to understanding the issues of Pakistan today. It tells you why
understanding history is so important. The analysis of the remarkable victory is essential
in order to fully grasp the concept of the major ethnic divide amongst Muslims. The
observation of the setbacks of the success springs up an important question was Pakistan
made for the right reasons? No, sadly it was not. The results of this election had been
overwhelmingly been termed as a success. However many fail to observe the various folded
concepts described above that explain how different people were working towards this
victory for different reasons which gave birth to the long-lasting problems eminent in
Pakistan. Discussion presented in the research, vividly shows that the negative effects of this
success were visible immediately after independence.