Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s "Political Testament" (1915)

Introduction: G.K. Gokhale (1866-1915) was a leader of the Indian National Congress who had been deeply involved in the preparation of the Morley-Minto Reform. Shortly before his death he was asked by the Governor of Bombay, Lord Willingdon, for a note on his suggestions for post-war constitutional reforms. This text was later on called his „Political Testament“.  Gokhale’s suggestions were not aimed at a distant future but  referred only to the scheme of „provincial autonomy“ which the British intended to grant as a next step of constitutional reform. Gokhale did not yet envisage „responsible government“ which was then introduced by the Montagu-Chelmsform Reform. He specifically referred to the German Reichstag as a model for the impending Indian reform.

The grant of Provincial Autonomy foreshadowed in the Delhi Dispatch would be a fitting concession to make to the people of India at the close of the War. This will involve the twofold operation of freeing the Provincial Governments on one side from the greater part of control which is at present exercised over them by the Government of India and the Secretary of State in connection with the internal administration of the country and substituting on the other, in place of the control so removed, the control of the representatives of tax-payers through provincial legislative councils. I indicate below in brief outline the form of administration that should be set up in different provinces to carry out this idea.

            Each province should have:

  1. A Governor appointed from England at the head of the administration
  2. A Cabinet or Executive Council of six members, three of whom should be Englishmen and three Indians with the following portfolios
    1. Home (including law and justice)
    2. Finance
    3. Agriculture, irrigation, and public works
    4. Education
    5. Local self-government (including sanitation and medical relief)
    6. Industries and commerce.
  3. A Legislative Council of between  75 and 100 members of whom not less than four-fifth should be elected by by different constituencies and interests.

The relations between the Executive Government and the Legislative Council so constituted should be roughly similar to those between the Imperial Government and the Reichstag in Germany. The Council will have to pass all provincial legislation and its assent will be necessary to additions to or changes in provincial taxation. The Budget too will have to come to it for discussions, and its resolutions in connection with it will have to be given effect to unless vetoed by the Governor........the members of the Executive Government shall not depend, individually or collectively, on the support of a majority of the Councils for holding their offices.
The Government of India
The provinces being thus rendered practically autonomous, the constitution of the Executive Council or Cabinet of the Viceroy will have to be correspondingly altered. At present there are four members in that Council with portfolios which concern the internal administration of the country – namely, home, agriculture, education and industries and commerce. As all internal administration will now be made over to the provincial governments and the Government of India will only retain in its hands nominal control to be exercised on very rare occasions, one member to be called member for the interior should suffice in place of these four. It will, however, be necessary to create certain other portfolios and I would have the Council consist of the following six members (at least two of them shall always be Indians) : a)Interior, b) finance, c) law, d) defence, e) communications (railways, post and telegraph) and f) foreign.

The Legislative Council of the Viceroy should be styled the Legislative Assembly of India. It members should be raised to about 100 to begin with and its powers enlarged, but the principle of an official majority ( for which it will perhaps suffice to substitute a nominated majority) should for the present be maintained until sufficient experience has been gathered of the working of autonomous arrangements for provinces. This will give the Government of India a reserve power in connection with provincial administration to be exercised in emergencies................
In fiscal matters the Government of India so constituted should be freed from the control of the Secretary of State, whose control in other matters too should be largely reduced, his Council being abolished and his position steadily approximated to that of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Commissions in the army and navy must be given to Indians, with proper facilities for military and naval instruction.........

(A.B. Keith, Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy 1750-1921 (London, 1922), Vol. II, p. 111 f.)


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