Desai began a secret talk with the second most important leader of the Muslim League, Liaquat Ali Khan. Desai was working without the knowledge of Gandhi, Patel, Nehru, and other Congress leaders, Khan hide this from Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
In this deal, Liaquat gave up the demand for a separate state for Muslims in exchange for an equal number of Muslims-to-Hindus in the council of ministers.
Contents of the Desai-Liaquat Pact
Desai and Khan held a number of discussions and both of them came up with the draft proposal for the formation of an interim government at the center.
It consists following:
- Congress and League will nominate an equal number of persons in the central legislature.
- 20% of the seats will be reserved for minorities.
- The Government would work in the structure of the existing Government of India Act, 1935.
Some steps were also suggested for the implementation of these recommendations. Firstly, if the Viceroy grants to the proposals for an interim government in the Centre in accordance with the agreement between the Congress and the Muslim League, then he might invite Jinnah and Desai either together or individually. After they come to an understanding, they would declare that they were prepared to join the Government. The next step would be the withdrawal of section 93 in the provinces and form provisional governments on the lines of a coalition.
Questions raised by the British Government
Desai met Sir Evan Jenkins, private secretary to the Viceroy on 13th January and on 20th January a meeting was held between Desai and Viceroy. The terms of what later came to be known as the Desai-Liaquat Pact were conveyed to the Viceroy in this meeting.
The Viceroy sent these proposals to the Secretary of State for India with the idea that now they could move forward in the political and constitutional spheres.
But the British Government raised some important questions:
- What was the guarantee that the interim government would support the war?
- Would the Congress support Desai?
- What about the minorities, the non-Congress Hindus, and the non-Muslim Leaguers?
- Was not the pact pointed at denying the Governor-General of his power to select the members of the Council?
The aftermath of the Desai-Liaquat Pact
This agreement was not able to reach to the Congress and the Muslim League and this pact failed. It also brought a huge impact on the political career of Desai.
It was executed secretly. While Desai hid it from Gandhiji and other Congress leaders, Liaquat kept it a secret from Muslim League.
This news was leaked by the news. Both the party came to know about it and there was huge disagreement among the leaders.
Liaquat Ali rejected the entire pact and mocked it as a story. It had a huge impact on the political career of Desai. Desai was condemned by all prominent leaders and was refused the tickets for Constitutional Assembly Elections on health grounds.
Bhulabhai Desai was also held accountable for losing the war budget and was also denied any support from the party which ruined his political carrier which came as a fallout of the Desai-Liaquat Pact.