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The Lucknow Pact was an agreement that reached between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League at the joint session of both the parties held in Lucknow in December 1916. Through the pact, the two parties agreed to allow overrepresentation to religious minorities in the provincial legislatures. The Muslim League leaders agreed to join the Congress movement demanding Indian autonomy. Scholars cite this as an example of a consociational practice in Indian politics. Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi also participated in this event.
The British had announced under immense pressure from Indians, in order to satisfy the Indians, that they will be considering a series of proposals that would lead to at least half of the members of the Executive Council being elected and the Legislative Council having a majority of elected members needed. Both the Congress and the Muslim League supported these. Both had realized that for further concessions to be gained, greater cooperation was required.
Agreements by the Congress
The Congress agreed to separate electorates for Muslims in electing representatives to the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils. Although the Muslims were given this right in the Indian Council Act of 1909, the Indian National Congress opposed it. The Congress also agreed to the idea of one-third seats for the Muslims in the Councils despite the fact that the Muslim population represented less than a third. Apart from that, the Congress agreed that no act affecting a community should be passed unless three-quarters of that community's members on the council supported it. After the signing of this pact the rivalry between moderates and extremists was reduced to some extent. There was a significant change in their relation.
Demands presented to the British
Both the parties presented some common demands to the British. They demanded:
- The number of elected seats on the councils should be increased.
- Laws/Motions which were passed by large majorities in the councils should be accepted as bindings by the British Government.
- Minorities in the provinces should be protected.
- All provinces should be granted autonomy.
- Separating the executive from the judiciary
- At least half of the members of the Executive Council being elected, the Legislative council having a majority of elected members
The Lucknow Pact was seen as a beacon of hope for Hindu–Muslim unity. It was the first time that the Hindus and Muslims had made a joint demand for political reform to the British. It led to a growing belief in British India that Home Rule (self-government) was a real possibility. The pact also marked the high-water mark of Hindu-Muslim unity. It established cordial relations between the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress. Before the pact, both parties were viewed as rivals who opposed each other and worked in their own interests. However, the pact brought a change in that view.
The Lucknow Pact also helped in establishing cordial relations between the two prominent groups within the Indian National Congress – the extremist faction, known colloquially as the garam dal or "hot faction," led by the Lal Bal Pal trio of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, and the moderate faction, known as the naram dal, led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale.