C. R. formula

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The Sind Observer reports Gandhi's acceptance to the C. R. Formula

C. Rajagopalachari's formula (or C. R. formula or Rajaji formula) was a proposal formulated by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari to solve the political deadlock between the All India Muslim League and Indian National Congress on independence of India from the British. The League's position was that the Muslims and Hindus of British India were of two separate nations and hence the Muslims had the right to their own nation when India obtained independence. The Congress, which included both Hindu and Muslim members, was opposed to the idea of partitioning India. With the advent of Second World War British administration required both parties to agree so that Indian help could be sought for the war efforts.

C. Rajagopalachari, a Congress leader from Madras, devised a proposal for the Congress to offer the League the Muslim Pakistan based on plebiscite of all the people in the regions where Muslims made a majority. Although the formula was opposed even within the Congress party, Gandhi used it as his proposal in his talks with Jinnah in 1944. However, Jinnah rejected the proposal and the talks failed.

Congress and League[edit]

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C. Rajagopalachari

The All India Muslim League was formed in 1906 to "protect the interests of Muslim" in British India and to "represent their needs and aspirations to the Government".[1] The Indian National Congress, formed in 1885 (holding membership from both Muslims and Hindus[1]), had placed its demand for self-governance in India.[2] In 1916, the League and the Congress entered into a pact in which the League agreed to support the Congress' efforts for home rule in exchange for the Congress' support for a two electorate system[3] which would create constituencies where only Muslims could contest and vote.[4] In the elections of 1937, Congress emerged as the largest party in seven of the 11 provinces with clear majority in five (Madras Presidency, Uttar Pradesh, Central Province, Bihar and Orissa).[5] On the whole, Congress won 716 of the 1161 seats it contested. The Muslim League secured 4.8% of the total Muslim votes (winning 25% of the seats allotted for Muslims[6]) and did not acquire majority in any of the four Muslim predominant provinces (Punjab, Sind Province, North West Frontier Province and Bengal Presidency).[5] The Muslim League had hoped that its candidates will win the votes over the Congress in constituencies granted as separate Muslim electorates which did not turn true.[6] Since Congress had full majority in Hindu majority provinces, it refused to share power in the governments with the League in those provinces.[7] The eventual disagreement led to a political tussle between the League and the Congress[8] climaxing with Lahore Resolution of the League in March 1940 calling for an independent Muslim nation carved out of British India.[9]

Second World War and India[edit]

In September 1939, Lord Linlithgow, the then Viceroy of India, declared that India was at war with Germany.[10] The Congress party resigned its provincial seats in protest, stating that the viceroy's decision had pushed India into a war not of India's making and without consulting its people or representatives.[11] Nevertheless, many of the Congress leaders including Nehru had expressed moral support to the cause of Allies against the Nazis.[12] Congress demanded that if Britain was fighting to protect democracy through the war, it should also establish full democracy in India.[13] However, both the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India (Leo Amery) openly disliked Indian National Congress and its leaders including Gandhi and Nehru.[12] Moreover, since the British Indian army was dominated by Muslims and Sikhs, the government in London was keen to get both these parties to be on its side in the war rather than appeasing the Congress.[10][full citation needed] While Jinnah's Muslim League wanted a Muslim Pakistan, Sikhs feared that if India were divided Punjab would come under Pakistan and hence put the Sikhs under Muslim rule.[14] Eventually the British administration concluded that no progress towards Indian statehood could be made unless Congress and the League reached an agreement.[11]

With Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the US was dragged into the war. Later the Japanese invasion of South East Asia in 1941 drew the war much closer to India. Congress maintained that it would support the war efforts of Britain provided India was given its freedom.[15] While the Congress demanded for a unified India and the issue of Muslim nation to be sorted after its independence, League preferred separate dominions be created before British withdrawal.[16] Jinnah claimed that he wanted "Pakistan and that commodity is available not in the Congress market but in the British market".[16] Although the ruling Conservatives had taken a harsh stance on the Congress, the Labour Party and its leaders were sympathetic to its efforts.[17] The progression of war saw an increase in support in Britain for efforts to solve the crisis between the Raj, Congress and League. It was realised that the deadlock meant, the vast resources of India was blocked from being utilised in the war.[18] In addition, America had been sympathetic with India's cause which if not satisfied by the British administration would have further weakened the Allies.[19] With division in opinion within the British government, Sir Stafford Cripps was sent to India in March 1942.[20] Since Cripps was a well known Congress sympathiser, who had earlier advised the Congress leaders to "stand firm as a rock" on their demands of freedom, he was seen as the best choice for negotiations.[21] Cripps' mission however failed as the Congress declared that he was assuming two different stances in private and public with regard to self-governance in India.[22] Cripps' failure to reach an agreement propelled Congress with Gandhi's leadership to a civil disobedience movement called Quit India movement.[23] In response to the movement, Gandhi and all senior leaders of the Congress Party were arrested in August 1942.[24]

C. Rajagopalachari's role[edit]

C. Rajagopalachari during a rally in 1939

Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (or Rajaji as he was commonly referred) was a prominent Congress leader from Madras.[25][full citation needed] He was a well known follower of Gandhi and was sometimes referred to as Gandhi's conscience keeper.[26] Nevertheless, he envisaged that if Muslims in India wanted a partition Congress should not oppose to the demand.[27] Thus he was the earliest Congress leader to acknowledge that partitioning India was inevitable. He considered that in a likely scenario of Japanese invasion of India, Indians would need the support from the British and hence required the Congress and the League to agree on the constitution of India with urgency.[10] In April 1942, parts of the Madras Presidency were bombed by Japanese war planes operating from the aircraft carrier Ryūjō. Arthur Hope, the Governor of Madras advised the people to leave Madras and also moved the secretariat inland.[28] Rajaji considered this as an act of the British administration forsaking the people of Madras and brought resolutions in Madras Legislature Party of the All India Congress Committee that the Congress should concede with the demand of Pakistan if the League insisted on it.[29] With severe opposition to the resolutions from the Congress leadership he resigned from the Congress as per Gandhi's advice.[30] Thus he did not participate in the Quit India movement and was not arrested with the other Congress leaders.[27] Hence he was able to device a proposal to negotiate with the League.[31] This proposal, which was called CR formula by the popular press[32] was to recognise the demand for Pakistan in principle and to act as a basis of talks between the League and the Congress.[33]

The proposal[edit]

Mohandas Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari during the Gandhi-Jinnah talks at Birla House, Bombay

The CR formula entailed[34][full citation needed][35]

i. The League was to endorse the Indian demand for independence and to co-operate with the Congress in formation of Provisional Interim Government for a transitional period.
ii. At the end of the War, a commission would be appointed to demarcate the districts having a Muslim population in absolute majority and in those areas plebiscite to be conducted on all inhabitants (including the non-Muslims) on basis of adult suffrage.
iii. All parties would be allowed to express their stance on the partition and their views before the plebiscite.
iv. In the event of separation, a mutual agreement would be entered into for safeguarding essential matters such as defence, communication and commerce and for other essential services.
v. The transfer of population, if any would be absolutely on a voluntary basis.
vi. The terms of the binding will be applicable only in case of full transfer of power by Britain to Government of India.

Gandhi-Jinnah talks of 1944[edit]

As the Allies by the turn of tides saw more victories the attitude of British administration towards Congress softened.[36] Moreover, America had been pressing on meeting India's demand for self-governance though being an ally of Britain in the war.[37] Although other Congress leaders were still in prison Gandhi was released on 5 May 1944.[38][full citation needed] After his release Gandhi proposed talks with Jinnah on his two-nation theory and negotiating on issue of partition.[39] The CR formula acted as the basis for the negotiations.[40] Gandhi and Jinnah met in September 1944 to ease the deadlock.[31] Gandhi placed the CR formula as his proposal to Jinnah.[35] Nevertheless, Gandhi-Jinnah talks failed after two weeks of negotiations.[33]

Periyar's reaction[edit]

Periyar E. V. Ramasamy supported Rajagopalachari's actions and considered his C. R. Formula to be one of the steps towards the formation of Dravida Nadu. In a meeting held at Salem on 23 June 1947, Periyar said:

... I am not dependent on my Dravidian comrades alone, for the separation of Tamil Nadu. Many may not like what I am going to say. But I will say what is in my heart. We going to soon get the cooperation of my friend and comrade, Acharya (Rajagopalachari), for the separation of Dravida Nadu. Not only him, but all Brahmins ... are going to support our demand for separation. Some of our comrades may wonder, if one can believe in Rajagopalachari's words; some may say that his affairs are always doubtful. But till today he has kept all the words he had given to me ... When comrade Acharya and myself met, he told forcefully ...'Whether we get swarajya or not, the troubles given by North Indians must be got rid off'[41]

Causes of failure of the proposal[edit]

Gandhi and Jinnah in Bombay, September 1944

The formulation although conceived the principle of Pakistan, it aimed to show that the provinces that Jinnah claimed as Pakistan also contained in itself large numbers of non-Muslims.[32] Jinnah had placed the claim for British Indian Provinces then regarded as Muslim majority regions (in the north-west; Sind, Baluchistan, the North-West Frontier Province and the Punjab, and in the north-east, Assam and Bengal).[42] Thus if a plebiscite was placed, Jinnah ran a risk partitioning Punjab and Bengal.[32] Moreover, Jinnah considered that the League represented all Muslims and the adult franchise demanded by the formula was redundant.[35] Furthermore, the decision of Muslims to secede from India, according to the CR formula, would be taken not just by Muslims alone but by a plebiscite of the entire population even in the Muslim majority districts. This, according to Ayesha Jalal (a Pakistani-American sociologist and historian), might well have diluted the enthusiasm of the people of these provinces about going their own separate way. Hence Jinnah rejected the initiative, telling his Council that it was intended to 'torpedo' the Lahore resolution; it was 'grossest travesty', a 'ridiculous proposal', 'offering a shadow and a husk – a maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten Pakistan, and thus trying to pass off having met out Pakistan scheme and Muslim demand'.[16] While the formula kept most of the essential services together, Jinnah wanted a full partition and any relations would be dealt as a treaty alone.[42] Although a failure the CR formula was seen as Congress' betrayal of the Sikhs by Akali Dal leaders like Master Tara Singh.[43] Since the formula meant vivisection of Punjab, if agreed the Sikh community would be divided into two. Since Sikhs did not make a majority in any single district although being a very significant number in Punjab would have to be scattered between Muslim and Hindu nations.[32] The proposal had been detested by other leaders such as V. D. Sarvarkar[44] and Syama Prasad Mookerjee of the Hindu Mahasabha and Srinivas Sastri of National Liberal Federation.[33] However, Wavell the then viceroy of India, who had earlier insisted on the geographic unity of India[36] stated that the talks based on the CR formula failed because Gandhi himself did "not really believe" in the proposal nor Jinnah was ready to "answer awkward questions" which would reveal that he had "not thought out the implications of Pakistan".[42]


  1. ^ a b Singh, S p. 29
  2. ^ Mishra VB, pp. 73 -75
  3. ^ Hardy, pp. 187–188
  4. ^ Dudley-Jenkins, p. 160
  5. ^ a b Shakoor, pp. 16 – 17
  6. ^ a b Kulke, p. 314
  7. ^ Kulke, pp. 314 -315
  8. ^ Shakoor, pp. 186- 189
  9. ^ Shakoor, pp. 171 – 174
  10. ^ a b c Wolpert, p.
  11. ^ a b Hardy, p. 230
  12. ^ a b Kux, p. 6
  13. ^ Chopra, p. 272
  14. ^ Tan, p. 101
  15. ^ Mishra, p. 31
  16. ^ a b c Jalal, p. 121
  17. ^ Mishra, p. 34
  18. ^ Mishra, pp. 34–36
  19. ^ Kux, p. s 6–11
  20. ^ Mishra, p. 40
  21. ^ Mishra, p. 41
  22. ^ Felix Marrow The Truth About the Cripps Mission
  23. ^ Chopra, pp. 276–277
  24. ^ Chopra, p. 277
  25. ^ Agrawal, pp. 101–102
  26. ^ Srinivasan, 2009
  27. ^ a b Zakaria, p. 88
  28. ^ Jackson, p. 296
  29. ^ Ramanathan, p. 311
  30. ^ Sinha, pp. 61–62
  31. ^ a b Chhabra, p. 167
  32. ^ a b c d Tan, p. 108
  33. ^ a b c Sen, p. 311
  34. ^ Jayapalan, p. 58
  35. ^ a b c Chhabra, p. 168
  36. ^ a b Zakaria, p. 91
  37. ^ Kux, pp. 6–34
  38. ^ Sakaria, p. 92
  39. ^ Zakaria, p. 93
  40. ^ Chhabra, pp. 167–168
  41. ^ More, pp 161–162
  42. ^ a b c Wavell's letter to Amery
  43. ^ Tan, pp. 108–109
  44. ^ Gandhi Jinnah Talks (1944)