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Interim Government of India

Interim Government of India
Transition between Imperiala and Democratic structureb


Flag Star of India
God Save the King
The British Indian Empire in 1945.
Capital New Delhi
Government Empire
 -  1946–1947 George VI
 -  1946–1947 (first) Lord Wavell
 -  1947 (last) Lord Mountbatten
Secretary of State
 -  1946–1947 (first) Lord Pethick-Lawrence
 -  1947 (last) Earl of Listowel
Legislature Executive Council
Historical era Decolonisation of Asia
 -  Established 2 September 1946
 -  Indian Independence Act 15 August 1947
 -  Partition of India 15 August 1947
 -  1947 4,226,734 km² (1,631,951 sq mi)
Currency British Indian rupee
Today part of
a. Composed of:
(i) Presidencies and provinces directly governed by the British Crown through the Governor-General of India;
(ii) Princely states governed by local Indian rulers under the suzerainty of the British Crown (exercised through the
Governor-General of India).[1]
b. through Executive Council.
c. Full title was "Viceroy and Governor-General of India".

The interim government of India, formed on 2 September 1946 from the newly elected Constituent Assembly of India, had the task of assisting the transition of India and Pakistan from British rule to independence. It remained in place until 15 August 1947, the date of the independence of the two new nations of India and Pakistan.[2][3][4]


  • Formation 1
  • Viceroy's Executive Council 2
  • Members of the Interim Government 3
    • Changes 15 October 1946 3.1
    • Changes 21 February 1947 3.2
  • Activities 4
  • References 5


After the end of the Second World War, the British authorities in India released all political prisoners who had participated in the Quit India movement. The Indian National Congress, the largest Indian political party, which had long fought for national independence, agreed to participate in elections for a constituent assembly, as did the Muslim League. The newly elected government of Clement Attlee dispatched the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India to formulate proposals for the formation of a government that would lead to an independent India.[4]

The elections for the Constituent Assembly were not direct elections, as the members were elected from each of the provincial legislative assemblies. In the event, the Indian National Congress won a majority of the seats, some 69 per cent, including almost every seat in areas with a majority Hindu electorate. The Congress had clear majorities in eight of the eleven provinces of British India.[5] The Muslim League won the seats allocated to the Muslim electorate.

Viceroy's Executive Council

The Viceroy's Executive Council became the executive branch of the interim government. Originally headed by the Viceroy of India, it was transformed into a council of ministers, with the powers of a prime minister bestowed on the vice-president of the Council, a position held by the Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru. After independence all members would be Indians, apart from the Viceroy, in August to become the Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, who would hold only a ceremonial position, and the Commander-in-Chief, India,[4] Sir Claude Auchinleck, replaced after independence by General Sir Rob Lockhart.

The senior Congress leader Vallabhbhai Patel held the second-most powerful position in the Council, heading the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Information and Broadcasting.[6] The Sikh leader Baldev Singh was responsible for the Department of Defence and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari was named to head the Department of Education and arts.[6] Asaf Ali, a Muslim Congress leader, headed the Department of Railways and Transport. Scheduled Caste leader Jagjivan Ram headed the Department of Labour, while Rajendra Prasad headed the Department of Food and Agriculture and John Mathai headed the Department of Industries and Supplies.[6]

Upon the Muslim League joining the interim government, the second highest-ranking League politician, Liaquat Ali Khan, became the head of the Department of Finance. Abdur Rab Nishtar headed the Departments of Posts and Air and Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar headed the Department of Commerce.[6] The League nominated a Scheduled Caste Hindu politician, Jogendra Nath Mandal, to lead the Department of Law.[6]

Members of the Interim Government

Members of the interim government outside the Council Room in the Viceroy's House, New Delhi, shortly before their swearing-in ceremony. From left to right: Sarat Chandra Bose, Jagjivan Ram, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Asaf Ali, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Syed Ali Zaheer.
Office Name Party Notes
Viceroy and Governor-General of India
President of the Executive Council
The Viscount Wavell British Empire
Commander-in-Chief Sir Claude Auchinleck British Empire
Vice President of the Executive Council
External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations
Jawaharlal Nehru Indian National Congress
Home Affairs
Information and Broadcasting
Vallabhbhai Patel Indian National Congress
Agriculture and Food Rajendra Prasad Indian National Congress
Arts, Education and Health Shafaat Ahmed Khan Indian National Congress
Commerce C.H. Bhabha Indian National Congress
Defence Baldev Singh Indian National Congress
Finance John Mathai Indian National Congress
Industries and Supplies C. Rajagopalachari Indian National Congress
Labour Jagjivan Ram Indian National Congress
Law Syed Ali Zaheer Indian National Congress
Railways and Communications
Post and Air
Asaf Ali Indian National Congress
Works, Mines and Power Sarat Chandra Bose Indian National Congress

Changes 15 October 1946

Office Name Party Notes
Commerce Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar All-India Muslim League
Education C. Rajagopalachari Indian National Congress
Finance Liaquat Ali Khan All-India Muslim League
Health Ghazanfar Ali Khan All-India Muslim League
Law Jogendra Nath Mandal All-India Muslim League
Posts and Air Abdur Rab Nishtar All-India Muslim League
Works, Mines and Power C.H. Bhabha Indian National Congress

Changes 21 February 1947

Office Name Party Notes
Viceroy and Governor-General of India
President of the Executive Council
The Viscount Mountbatten of Burma British Empire

The above is the reconstituted cabinet of 15 October 1946, when five Muslim League members (Liaquat, Chundrigar, Ghazanfar, Nishtar and Mandal) joined in the place of Congressmen Sarat Chandra Bose, Shafaat Ahmed Khan and Syed Ali Zaheer.[8]


Although until August 1947 British India remained under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, the interim government proceeded to establish diplomatic relations with other countries, including the United States.[3] Meanwhile, the Constituent Assembly, from which the Interim Government was drawn, struggled with the challenging task of drafting a constitution for independent India.


  1. ^ Interpretation Act 1889 (52 & 53 Vict. c. 63), s. 18.
  2. ^ Vidya Dhar Mahajan (1971). Constitutional history of India, including the nationalist movement. S. Chand. pp. 200–10. 
  3. ^ a b "Office of the Historian - Countries - India".  
  4. ^ a b c Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Modern India, 1707 A. D. to 2000 A. D. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. pp. 300–400.  
  5. ^ (Judd 2004, p. 172)
  6. ^ a b c d e John F. Riddick (2006). The History of British India: A Chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 100–150.  
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ V. Krishna Ananth. India Since Independence: Making Sense of Indian Politics. Pearson Education India. 2010. pp 28–30.
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