Interim Government of India

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Interim Government of India
Transition between Imperiala andDemocratic structureb

Flag Coat of arms
God Save the King

The British Indian Empire in 1945.
Capital New Delhi
Government Empire
 • 1946–1947 George VI
 • 1946–1947 (first) Lord Wavell
 • 1947 (last) Lord Mountbatten
Secretary of State
 • 1946–1947 (first) Lord Pethick-Lawrence
 • 1947 (last) Earl of Listowel
Legislature Executive Council
Historical era Decolonisation of Asia
 • Established 2 September 1946
 • Indian Independence Act 15 August 1947
 • Partition of India 15 August 1947
 • 1947 4,226,734 km²(1,631,951 sq mi)
Currency British Indian rupee
Today part of
a. Composed of:
(i) Presidencies and provinces directly governed by theBritish Crown through the Governor-General of India;
(ii) Princely states governed by local Indian rulers under the suzerainty of the British Crown (exercised through the
Governor-General of India).[1]
b. through Executive Council.
c. Full title was “Viceroy and Governor-General of India”.

The interim government of India, formed on 2 September 1946[2] from the newly elected Constituent Assembly of India, had the task of assisting the transition of India and Pakistan from British rule to independence. It remained in place until 15 August 1947, the date of the independence of the two new nations of India and Pakistan.[3][4][5]


After the end of the Second World War, the British authorities in India released all political prisoners who had participated in the Quit India movement. The Indian National Congress, the largest Indian political party, which had long fought for national independence, agreed to participate in elections for a constituent assembly, as did the Muslim League. The newly elected government of Clement Attlee dispatched the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India to formulate proposals for the formation of a government that would lead to an independent India.[5]

The elections for the Constituent Assembly were not direct elections, as the members were elected from each of the provincial legislative assemblies. In the event, the Indian National Congress won a majority of the seats, some 69 per cent, including almost every seat in areas with a majority Hindu electorate. The Congress had clear majorities in eight of the eleven provinces of British India.[6] The Muslim League won the seats allocated to the Muslim electorate.

Viceroy’s Executive Council[edit]

The Viceroy’s Executive Council became the executive branch of the interim government. Originally headed by the Viceroy of India, it was transformed into a council of ministers, with the powers of a prime ministerbestowed on the vice-president of the Council, a position held by the Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru. After independence all members would be Indians, apart from the Viceroy, in August to become the Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, who would hold only a ceremonial position, and the Commander-in-Chief, India,[5] Sir Claude Auchinleck, replaced after independence by General Sir Rob Lockhart.

The senior Congress leader Vallabhbhai Patel held the second-most powerful position in the Council, heading the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Information and Broadcasting.[7] The Sikh leader Baldev Singh was responsible for the Department of Defence and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari was named to head the Department of Education and arts.[7] Asaf Ali, a Muslim Congress leader, headed the Department of Railways and Transport. Scheduled Caste leader Jagjivan Ram headed the Department of Labour, while Rajendra Prasad headed the Department of Food and Agriculture and John Mathai headed the Department of Industries and Supplies.[7]

Upon the Muslim League joining the interim government, the second highest-ranking League politician, Liaquat Ali Khan, became the head of the Department of Finance. Abdur Rab Nishtar headed the Departments of Posts and Air and Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar headed the Department of Commerce.[7] The League nominated a Scheduled Caste Hindu politician, Jogendra Nath Mandal, to lead the Department of Law.[7]

Cabinet of the Interim Government of India[edit]

Office Name Party
Viceroy and Governor-General of India
President of the Executive Council
The Viscount Wavell (15 October 1946 – 20 February 1947) British Raj
The Viscount Mountbatten of Burma (21 February 1947 -)
Commander-in-Chief Sir Claude Auchinleck
Vice President of the Executive Council
External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations
Jawaharlal Nehru Indian National Congress
Agriculture and Food Rajendra Prasad Indian National Congress
Commerce Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar All-India Muslim League
Defence Baldev Singh Indian National Congress
Finance Liaquat Ali Khan All-India Muslim League
Education C. Rajagopalachari Indian National Congress
Health Ghazanfar Ali Khan All-India Muslim League
Home Affairs
Information and Broadcasting
Vallabhbhai Patel Indian National Congress
Labour Jagjivan Ram Indian National Congress
Law Jogendra Nath Mandal All-India Muslim League
Railways and Communications
Post and Air
Abdur Rab Nishtar All-India Muslim League
Works, Mines and Power C.H. Bhabha Indian National Congress
The above is the reconstituted cabinet of 15 October 1946, when Muslim League called off its boycott of participation in the interim government.[8]


A reproduction of a historical telegram from the Constituent Assembly, which included a message of goodwill from the US government to the assembly.

Although until August 1947 British India remained under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, the interim government proceeded to establish diplomatic relations with other countries, including the United States.[4] Meanwhile, the Constituent Assembly, from which the Interim Government was drawn, struggled with the challenging task of drafting a constitution for independent India.

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