The 1935 Act, Theory and Practice
Unlike the Montford reforms of 1921 or anything that was done after World War II, the Government of India Act of 1935 was enacted from strength. It could be said that after both world wars Britain was too enfeebled to take an uncompromising stand. But in the thirties she had recovered from World War I, was emerging from the Great Depression, and had just defeated the strongest frontal attack on the Indian government's authority since the Mutiny. There was no compelling force dictating concession or constitutional advance. What was done was done through conviction and might be said to represent a minimum rather than a maximum. That was why there was an air of solidity about the Act, and why its major features proved to be so fruitful in the future. It was generally realized that there could be no going back on it.
The Act was the constructive half of the dual policy of suppression of Congress defiance and advance toward self-government. It was meticulously drawn up and represented, in effect, a draft constitution for an Indian Dominion. It was made easy to fill in gaps later; old features which were left, such as the office of secretary of state, could be lopped off without difficulty, and provision was made for a measure of change within the constitution. The London connection began to assume the appearance of a legal umbilical cord which could be snipped at the right moment.
This result was achieved by a large extension of the existing features of the Montford constitution and by the introduction of certain vital new principles. The existing features which were extended were representation, dyarchy, ministerial responsibility, provincial autonomy, communal representation, and safeguards. A word may be said about each. Representation, first introduced under a pseudonym in 1892, received a large extension, both in the number and character of the representatives and in the voters who elected them. The central and provincial assemblies