• The Swaraj Party, established as the Congress-Khilafat Swarajaya Party, was a political party formed in India in December 1922 that sought greater self-government and political freedoms for the Indian people from the British Raj. 


  • After Gandhi’s arrest (March 1922), there was disintegration, disorganisation and demoralisation among nationalist ranks. A debate started among Congressmen on what to do during the transition period, i.e., the passive phase of the movement. 
  • One section led by C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru and Ajmal Khan wanted an end to the boycott of legislative councils so that the nationalists could enter them to expose the basic weaknesses of these assemblies and use these councils as an arena of political struggle to arouse popular enthusiasm. 
  • They wanted to ‘end or mend’ these councils, i.e., if the Government did not respond to the nationalists’ demands, then they would obstruct the working of these councils.
  • Those advocating entry into legislative councils came to be known as the Pro-changers or Swarajists, while the other school of thought led by Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari and M.A. Ansari came to be known as the ‘No-changers’. 
  • The ‘No-changers’ opposed council entry, advocated concentration on constructive work, and continuation of boycott and non- cooperation and quiet preparation for resumption of the suspended civil disobedience programme. 
  • The differences over the question of council entry between the two schools of thought resulted in the defeat of the Swarajists’ proposal of ‘ending or mending’ the councils at the Gaya session of the Congress (December 1922). 
  • C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru resigned from the presidentship and secretaryship respectively of the Congress and announced the formation of Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party, or Swarajya Party with C.R. Das as the president and Motilal Nehru as one of the secretaries.

Swarajists Arguments: 

  • The Swarajists argued that entering the councils would not negate the non-cooperation programme; in fact, it would be like carrying on the movement through other means—opening a new front. 
  • In a time of political vacuum, council work would serve to enthuse the masses and keep up their morale Entry of nationalists would deter the Government from stuffing the councils with undesirable elements who may be used to provide legitimacy to government measures.
  • Their only intention was to use the councils as an arena of political struggle; they had no intention to use the councils as organs for gradual transformation of colonial rule.

No-Changers’ Arguments: 

  • The No-Changers argued that parliamentary work would lead to neglect of constructive work, loss of revolutionary zeal and to political corruption. Constructive work would prepare everyone for the next phase of civil disobedience. 
  • But at the same time both sides wanted to avoid a 1907- type split and kept in touch with Gandhi who was in jail. Both sides’ also realised the significance of putting up a united front to get a mass movement to force the Government to introduce reforms, and both sides accepted the necessity of Gandhi’s leadership of a united nationalist front. Keeping these factors in mind, a compromise was reached at a meeting in Delhi in September 1923. 
  • The Swarajists were allowed to contest elections as a group within the Congress. The Swarajists accepted the Congress programme with only one difference—that they would join legislative councils. The elections to the newly constituted Central Legislative Assembly and to provincial assemblies were to be held in November 1923. 

The Swarajist Manifesto for Elections (Released in October 1923): 

  1. The guiding motive of the British in governing India is to secure selfish interests of their own country; 
  2. The so-called reforms are only a blind to further the said interests under the pretence of granting a responsible government, the real objective being to continue exploitation of the unlimited resources of the country by keeping Indians permanently in a subservient position to Britain; 
  3. The Swarajists would present the nationalist demand of self-government in councils; 
  4. If this demand was rejected, they would adopt a policy of uniform, continuous and consistent obstruction within the councils to make governance through councils impossible; 
  5. Councils would thus be wrecked from within by creating deadlocks on every measure.

Programme of Swarajists: 

  1. Attainment of dominion status 
  2. Right to frame a constitution 
  3. Control over bureaucracy 
  4. Establishment of principle that bureaucracy derived its power from people
  5. Right of people to control machinery and system of Govt. 
  6. Full provincial autonomy 
  7. Attainment of swarajya 
  8. Organisation of labour– Industrial and Agricultural 
  9. Establishment of control over local and municipal body 
  10. Agency for propaganda outside India 
  11. Federation of Asiatic countries for promotion of trade and commerce
  12. Constructive programme of Congress

Gandhi’s Attitude: 

  • Gandhi was initially opposed to the Swarajist proposal of council entry. But after his release from prison on health grounds in February 1924, he gradually moved towards reconciliation with the Swarajists because: 
  1. He felt that public opposition to the programme of council entry would be counter-productive; 
  2. In the November 1923 elections, the Swarajists had managed to win 42 out of 141 elected seats and a clear majority in the provincial assembly of Central Provinces and, in legislatures, had joined hands with the Liberals and the independents like Jinnah and Malaviya; the courageous and uncompromising manner in which the Swarajists functioned convinced him that they would not become just another limb of colonial administration; 
  3. There was a government crackdown on revolutionary terrorists and the Swarajists towards the end of 1924; this angered Gandhi and he expressed his solidarity with the Swarajists by surrendering to their wishes. 

Decline of the Swarajist: 

  • The strength of Swarajists as a politically viable force was the unity it forged in the legislatures and its development into a coalition. But the ground for ideological consensus o which the unity rested was weak and swallow which threatened disintegration as it was coalition of leaders of diverse and varied political outlook. The policy of obstruction or the policy of constitutionall advance was not powerful enough to hold these leaders together. Two important expressions of the rift and defection were emergence of the Nationalist Party under Malviya, N C Kelker etc and the Independent Party under Jinnah. 
  • By 1924, the Swarajist position had weakened because of widespread communal riots, split among Swarajists themselves on communal and Responsivist-Non-responsivist lines, and the death of C.R. Das in 1925 weakened it further. 
  • The Responsivists among Swarajists—Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malaviya and N.C. Kelkar— advocated cooperation with the Government and holding of office wherever possible to protect the so-called Hindu interests. 
  • They accused the Non-responsivists like Motilal Nehru of being anti-Hindu and a beef-eater. Thus, the main leadership of the Swarajya Party reiterated faith in mass civil disobedience and withdrew from legislatures in March 1926, while another section of Swarajists went into the 1926 elections as a party in disarray, and did not fare well. 
  • The Policy of obstruction and wrecking reforms from within had serious limitations. It could work up to a point and became severe constraint. 
  • Coming of Simon Commission given rise to an new political situation– parties joining hands as a result of anti-simon agitation. Constitutional programme lost its relevance.
  • In 1930, the Swarajists finally walked out as a result of the Lahore Congress resolution on purna swaraj and merged with Congress and the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930- 34).

Their Achievements: 

  1. With coalition partners, they outvoted the Government several times, even on matters relating to budgetary grants, and passed adjournment motions. 
  2. They agitated through powerful speeches on self- government, civil liberties and industrialisation. 
  3. Vithalbhai Patel was elected speaker of Central Legislative Assembly in 1925. 
  4. A noteworthy achievement was the defeat of the Public Safety Bill in 1928 which was aimed at empowering the Government to deport undesirable and subversive foreigners (because the Government was alarmed by the spread of socialist and communist ideas and believed that a crucial role was being played by the British and other foreign activists being sent by the Commenter). 
  5. By their activities, they filled the political vacuum at a time when the national movement was recouping its strength. 
  6. They exposed the hollowness of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms or Montford scheme.
  7. They demonstrated that the councils could be used creatively. 

Their Drawbacks: 

  1. The Swarajists lacked a policy to coordinate their militancy inside legislatures with the mass struggle outside. They relied totally on newspaper reporting to communicate with the public. 
  2. An obstructionist strategy had its limitations. 
  3. Both ‘Swarajist Programme’ and ‘Swarajist at Work’ showed marked contradictions and inadequacy of efforts. They stood for class collaborations i.e. unity of Zamindar and peasant, capitalists and workers which rested o irrational ground. They could not harmonise their constitutional politics inside legislature and mass politics outside it. 
  4. They could not carry on with their coalition partners very far because of conflicting ideas, which further limited their effectiveness. 
  5. In later phase, the tendency towards responsive cooperation appeared at work in stead of non cooperation.They failed to resist the perks and privileges of power and office. Motilal Nehru sat on Skeen Committee, Vithalbhai Patel became the president of assembly and A. Ramaswamy Iyenger accepted membership of Public Accounts Committee. 
  6. They failed to support the peasants’ cause in Bengal and lost support among Muslim members who were pro- peasant. 

Constructive work of No-changer:

  • The no-changers carried on laborious, quiet, undemonstrative, grass-roots constructive work:
    • The promotion of khadi and spinning,
    • national education
    • Hindu-Muslim unity,
    • the struggle against untouchability and
    • the boycott of foreign cloth and liquor, and for flood relief.
  • This work was symbolized by hundreds of ashrams that came up all over the country where political cadres got practical training in khadi work and work among the lower castes and tribal people (especially in Kheda and Bardoli areas of Gujarat), and popularised charkha and khadi.
  • Benefits of Constructive work:
    • It brought some much-needed relief to the poor, it promoted the process of the nation-in-the-making; and
    • it made the urban-based and upper caste cadres familiar with the conditions of villages and lower castes.
    • It provided Congress political workers or cadres Continuous and effective work in the passive phases of the national movement, helped build their bonds with those sections of the masses who were hitherto untouched by politics, and developed their organizing capacity and self-reliance.
    • It filled the rural masses with a new hope and increased Congress influence among them.
    • Without the uplift of the lower castes and Adivasis there could be no united struggle against colonialism.
    • The boycott of foreign cloth was a stroke of genius which demonstrated to rulers and the world the Indian people’s determination to be free.
    • National schools and colleges trained young men in an alternative, non-colonial ideological framework.
      • A large number of young men and women who dropped out in 1920-21 went back to the officially recognized educational institutions but many often became whole time cadres of the movement.99
    • As a whole, constructive work was a major channel for the recruitment of the soldiers of freedom and their political training — as also for the choosing and testing of their ‘officers’ and leaders.
    • Constructive workers were to act as the steel frame of the nationalist movement in its active Satyagraha phase.
      • Khadi bhandar workers, students and teachers of national schools and colleges, and Gandhian ashrams’ inmates served as the backbone of the civil disobedience movements both as organizers and as active Satyagrahis.

A Critique of Constructive Work:

  • National education benefited the urban lower middle classes and the rich peasants only. Enthusiasm for national education surfaced in the excitement of the movement only.
    • In passivity, the lure of degrees and jobs took the students to official schools and colleges.
  • Popularisation of khadi was an uphill task since it was costlier than the imported cloth.
  • While campaigning about the social aspect of untouchability, no emphasis was laid on the economic grievances of the landless and agricultural labourers comprising mostly the untouchables.

Gandhi was released from Jail in 1924 and remained aloof from direct politics and concentrated his energies on constructive work. Government considered him to be spent force, politically.

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