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Minto-Morley Reforms (1909)

By 1909, there was seen a great deal of political consciousness amongst the Indians. Similarly, political parties like Indian National Congress and All Indian Muslim League had emerged. By then, the British were much influenced and affected by these political parties. As previous reforms and acts did not meet the political aspirations of all the Indians, the British realized that in order to introduce new reforms to impoverish the grievances of the Indians they needed to cater to these two political parties. Besides this, there were also other factors which led to the formation of Minto-Morley Reforms. In this context, the instance is the victory of Japan in the Russo-Japan War of 1904-5 can be cited as an example. This was a ray of hope for Indians that India could also become a great power.

On the other hand, the Liberal Party came to power in Britain in 1906, and that changed the political atmosphere. The Liberal Party did not want to pursue the autocratic policies of the Conservative Party. Such political changes in Britain and as well as in India, which altered the public opinion in both countries. Following are the salient features of Minto-Morley Reforms.

Salient Features of Minto-Morley Reforms:

The number of members of legislative council of Governor General and the Governors of various provinces was increased.
The powers of Members of Legislative were increased. They could now criticize the actions of the executive, ask questions and even supplementary questions, and express their views by moving resolutions. Matters of public interest were also discussed in the Legislative Council.
The Indians were included in the councils, where ultimate decisions were made, of the India Secretory and Viceroy. Before these reforms they were excluded from such councils. In fact, a type of consultative body was formed.
For the first time, the demand for a separate electorate was accepted. A constitutional recognition of Separate Electorate was a great achievement for the Muslims. Muslims could now have their own representative members at the Legislative Councils. They were to be elected by Muslims alone.
The Indians were not satisfied with these reforms. Although strict qualifications of property and education were imposed on franchise. Consequently, the number of voters was restricted. Moreover, a system of election was indirect. The members of local bodies were elected by the people who, in turn, were to elect members of electoral colleges. The members of electoral colleges were to elect members of Provincial Legislature who, in turn, were to elect members of Imperial Legislature.
In order to win the support of maximum factions of the society, the Government wanted to give special representation to the loyalist classes. In this context, a special representation was given to landlords, chambers of commerce and other influential.
The official majority in the Imperial Council was maintained. While the non-official majorities in the Provincial Council were nullified, as they included nominated members. Though, parliamentary reforms were introduced, there was no provision of responsibility.
Further, S.P. Sinha, an Indian, was included in the Viceroy’s Executive Council. However, this act was bitterly criticized by the Muslims, for they had previously demanded that two Indian members including one Muslim should be included in the Council. The Government promised to appoint Muslim the next time. After Sinha’s resignation, Sayed Ali Imam was appointed as a Member of the Executive Council.

The Minto-Morley Reforms drew a gloomy picture. Though, this act appeased some of the Indians, the majority was not satisfied with it. The result was widespread criticism of the Government. As a matter of fact, the Indian National Congress was divided into two factions i.e. the “moderate,” which was led by G.K. Gokhale and the “extremist,” which was led by B.G. Tilak. The moderate faction welcomed the Reforms. In the Imperial Legislative Council, Gokhale said, “My Lord, I sincerely believed that you and Lord Morley have saved the country from anarchy and chaos”. On other hand, the extremist faction rejected the act of 1909. They were not in the favor of the Reforms. It was because of its contradiction to Lord Morley’s dispatch dated November 27, 1908. On the contrary, the All India Muslim League welcomed the council act of 1909. The League passed a resolution, which offered cooperation with the government for the success of the Reforms, in the Delhi session on 1910.

In spite of all its demerits and flaws, the Reforms contributed and offered space for political development. The inclusion of the Indians in Councils was a great experience for the Indians. They became part of Legislative Councils. They could move resolutions, discuss Bills elaborately, and approved Bills. In this context, the instances are; 24 resolutions were accepted out of 168 in the Imperial Legislative Council, and 30 non-official amendments were presented in the Indian Factories Bill and 7 were approved. Further, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as a private member, also presented a Bill, Waqf-alal-Aulad, which was passed by the Council. In the constitutional evolution of India, the Act of 1909 was a decided step and opened the door for real politics.

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