- A change of government took place in Britain in May 1940 and Winston Churchill became the prime minister (1940–45).
- The fall of France temporarily softened the attitude of Congress in India. Britain was in immediate danger of Nazi occupation.
- As the war was taking a menacing turn from the allied point of view congress offered to cooperate in the war if transfer of authority in India is done to an interim government.
- The government’s response was a statement of the viceroy known as the August offer.
On 8 August 1940, early in the Battle of Britain, the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, made the so-called August Offer.
- A fresh proposal promising the expansion of the Executive Council to include more Indians,
- Dominion status as the objective for India.
- The establishment of an Advisory War Council, to give the Indians a majority of 8 out of 12 for the first time, but the whites remained in charge of defence, finance and home.
Giving full weight to Minority Opinion,
- No future constitution to be adopted without the consent of minorities.
- The minorities were assured that the government would not transfer power “to any system of government whose authority is directly denied by large and powerful elements in Indian national life.”and
The recognition of Indians’ right to frame their own constitution (after the end of the war).
- decide their constitution according to their social, economic and political conceptions
- subject to fulfilment of the obligation of the Government regarding defense, minority rights, treaties with states & all India services
In return, it was hoped that all parties and communities in India would cooperate in Britain’s war effort.
The declaration marked an important advance over the existing state of things, as it recognised at least the natural and inherent right of the people of the country to determine the form of their future constitution, and explicitly promised dominion status.
India’s Reaction to August offer
- The Congress rejected the August Offer.
- The Congress Working Committee meeting at Wardha on 21st August 1940 rejected this offer, and asserted its demand for complete freedom from the imperial power.
- Gandhi viewed it as having widened the gulf between Nationalist India and the British ruler.
- It was also rejected by Muslim League. The Muslim League asserted that it would not be satisfied by anything short of partition of India.
- Nehru said, “Dominion status concept is dead as a door nail”.