Ashok Mitra writes in The Telegraph Calcutta:
The Cabinet Mission did not concede Mohammad Ali Jinnah his Pakistan. But what he got was enough; he was sure of controlling Group B and reasonably confident about Group C. He accepted the plan; his sole reservation was regarding the composition of the interim government where he demanded parity of representation with the Congress. The Congress leadership, on the other hand, hemmed and hawed. Yes, formally the integrity of India was preserved.
There was to be a Union government over which the Congress would presumably be able to establish command. But it would be in exclusive charge in only three spheres: foreign affairs, defence and communications, with powers to raise finances to the extent the compliance of responsibility in these spheres called for. The grandeur of the imperium was sadly missing. Apprehension overtook the Congress ‘High Command’: the chances were that Groups B and C would always be dominated by the Muslim League which was bound to create problems, one after another, for the Union.
The prospects need not have been that bleak. The speculation was that Group C, comprising Bengal and Assam, consisted of almost the same number of non-Muslims as Muslims. That apart, given the class character of the League leadership and the nature of issues that were of central concern to the Muslim masses in both Bengal and Assam, the Muslim League could only hope to have a tenuous hold on Group C. Had the Congress not spurned in 1937 the invitation from A.K. Fazlul Huq to join the Krishak Praja Party and form a coalition government in Bengal, the League might have never gained a foothold in that province.
But the Congress leaders had reached their decision. Over a period of 15-odd months they engaged in interminable sessions with British minister and the viceroy over the interpretation of this or that clause in the Cabinet Mission Plan. A great quantity of the discussions centred around the proviso which allowed a province to opt out of the group to which it originally belonged after a time span of 10 years. The Congress insisted on the option being made available from the very beginning; they were anxious, to rescue the North-West Frontier Province — then under Congress rule largely because of the charisma of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan — from the clutches of Jinnah.
While the ping-pong game of talks and yet more talks was going on, a press interview by Jawaharlal Nehru put the fat in the fire: the Congress, he hinted, might use its clout in the constituent assembly to ignore the directive of the Cabinet Mission in the matter. The Muslim League was furious, Jinnah went back to his demand for Pakistan. The Direct Action resolution and the Great Calcutta Killings, followed by even more frightening mayhem, vitiated the air. Patience wore thin on all sides. An exhausted Wavell was replaced as viceroy by get-down-to-business Mountbatten. Nehru and Patel agreed that, notwithstanding Mahatma Gandhi, they would be satisfied with a truncated India if that would deliver them from Jinnah. They thereby reneged from their earlier pledge to stand by Frontier Gandhi and his khudai-khidmadgars. What was, at the moment, of immensely greater importance to them was the establishment of a free India with a firm central authority and no nuisance of groups challenging that authority.
The Congress leaders got their imperium — even though reduced in scale — and Mohammed Ali Jinnah got his Pakistan, which coupled Groups B and C with some modifications. But Group C did not stay with Pakistan. It emerged as Bangladesh within a quarter of a century. History has, seemingly, a habit of now and then revising itself
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