Political Reform

Following the creation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, and leading up to the Partition of India in 1947, the British government introduced a series of political reforms that granted India increasing degrees of political representation.

One significant reform was the Indian Councils Act 1909, otherwise known as the Morley-Minto reforms, which increased Indian political representation. Following this reform Indians could be admitted to the viceroy’s executive council, the Secretary of State’s council and the executive councils of Bombay (Mumbai), Bengal and Madras (Chennai). The Act also introduced an elected element into councils that were responsible for legislation, which granted separate voting blocks for different religious communities.

Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Earl of Minto (1845-1914), governor general of Canada and viceroy of India



Viceroy is a title given to someone who rules a country as a representative of their sovereign king or queen

A second significant reform was the Government of India Act 1919, which introduced the principle of dyarchy to the provinces. Dyarchy divided the executive branch of each provincial government into two parts. The first was to be made up of councillors appointed by the British and the second was composed of Indian ministers chosen by the elected governors of the respective provincial government. In practice, this meant provincial governments had more power over running affairs related to education, health and justice, whilst the British maintained overall power in India. 

 This system of dyarchy was abolished by the Government of India Act 1935, an Act which was drafted primarily by the British. This allowed for the highest levels of provincial government to be taken up by Indian representatives, however, the British Governors of the eleven Indian provinces continued to dominate over central government and were still able to veto important legislation. This was the last piece of major legislation before independence was granted and the separate states of India and Pakistan were created.