House of Commons – Debate 18 July 1946
The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps) :
I now come to the third element outside the two major parties, the depressed classes. The difficulty that arises here is that there are two claimants to represent this large body of Indians, the one identified with the name of Dr. Ambedkar, who has fought so strenuously for the rights of the depressed classes, and the other, which works in close association with the Congress. Dr. Ambedkar’s organisation is somewhat more local in its character, being mainly centred in Bombay and the Central Provinces; the Congress affiliated organisation is spread widely over the whole country. We naturally considered with great care as to what could be done to obtain representation for both organisations in accordance with their popular support in the country.
The House will remember no doubt, that the electoral basis for the depressed class representatives was settled by what is known as the Poona Pact, agreed to under pressure by Dr. Ambedkar, which lays down a most complicated system of election in which there are primary elections by depressed class electors alone, in which four candidates are chosen, from which subsequently, in a second election, one is chosen by the general electorate. Whether this is a good or bad system it is one to which the parties agreed and which is in operation, and, as a result of it, at the last provincial elections Congress made practically a clean sweep of the whole of the depressed class constituencies. That is the fact and as it was almost universally agreed that the members of the provincial legislative assemblies formed the only possible electorate for the Constituent Assembly, it was not possible, even had we desired to do so, to arrange for Dr. Ambedkar’s organisation to have any special right of election to the Constituent Assembly. It had failed in the elections, and we could not artificially restore its position. The depressed classes will, of course, have their full representation through the Congress affiliated organisation. We interviewed the leaders of that organisation and were convinced of their very genuine and strong desire to support the case of the depressed classes.
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