'The Congress Asked for Bread and it has Got a Stone'
Nehru's view of the 1937 election results and the establishment of Congress governments in the provinces was understandably emotional: 'There was a sense of immense relief as of the lifting of a weight which had been oppressing the people,' he wrote. 'There was a release of long-suppressed mass energy which was evident everywhere.'1
The exhilaration was real enough for most poor Indians, many of whom rushed eagerly into the 'sacred precincts' of the provincial secretariats to see for themselves what they believed they had inherited. 'They went into the Assembly Chamber, where the sessions used to be held; they even peeped into the Ministers' rooms,' Nehru recalled. 'It was difficult to stop them for they no longer felt as outsiders; they had a sense of ownership in all this, although it was all very complicated for them and difficult to understand.' 22
To the surprise of many on both sides, Congress and the British, the new system worked. As Philip Mason, then a young deputy commissioner, put it, 'There was enough Congress idealism, there was enough British goodwill.' 3 The goodwill from officials was not all British, of course: by 1937, 540 of the 1,300 members of the ICS were Indians and within two years they would reach the promised parity. From then on, in fact, they would be in an increasing majority. 4 Congress premiers found that governors and civil servants, both British and Indian, were ready to guide and advise them in a courteous and friendly manner, and most of them soon formed harmonious working partnerships. One of the closest, and most unexpected, was between G.D. Pant and the redoubtable Sir Harry Haig, who was now governor of the UP. There were hiccups from time to time, of course, but for over two years these were generally settled quickly and amicably.
With one notable exception, the officials made no attempts to block Congress policies, though in the way of civil servants everywhere, they sometimes