After Gandhi’s arrest (March 1922), there was disintegration, disorganisation and demoralisation among nationalist ranks. A debate started among Congressmen on what to do during the transition period, i.e., the passive phase of the movement. One section led by C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru and Ajmal Khan wanted an end to the boycott of legislative councils so that the nationalists could enter them to expose the basic weaknesses of these assemblies and use these councils as an arena of political struggle to arouse popular enthusiasm. They wanted, in other words, to ‘end or mend’ these councils, i.e., if the government did not respond to the nationalists’ demands, then they would obstruct the working of these councils.
The Swarajists had their reasons for advocating the entry into the councils.
- Entering the councils would not negate the non- cooperation programme; in fact, it would be like carrying on the movement through other means—opening a new front.
- In a time of political vacuum, council work would serve to enthuse the masses and keep up their morale. Entry of nationalists would deter the government from stuffing the councils with undesirable elements who may be used to provide legitimacy to government measures.
- The councils could be used as an arena of political struggle; there was no intention to use the councils as organs for gradual transformation of colonial rule.