The Poona Pact was an agreement between M K Gandhi and B R Ambedkar signed in the Yerwada Central Jail, Poona on September 24th, 1932 on behalf of the depressed class for the reservation of the electoral seats in the Legislature of the British Government.
It was signed by Ambedkar on behalf of the depressed classes and by Madan Mohan Malviya on behalf of Hindus and Gandhi as a means to end the fast that Gandhi was undertaking in jail as a protest against the decision made by British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald to give separate electorates to depressed classes for the election of members of provincial legislative assemblies in British India. They finally agreed upon 148 electoral seats. Nearly twice as many seats were reserved for Depressed Classes under the Poona Pact than what had been offered by MacDonald’s Separate Electorate.
Provisions of Poona Pact
- Seats would be reserved for the ‘Depressed classes’ in the Provincial Councils.
- The number of seats reserved for the provinces depended on the strength of the provinces:
Madras: 30; Punjab: 8; Bombay and Sindh: 15; Central Provinces: 20; Bihar and Orissa: 18; Bengal: 30; United Provinces: 20; and Assam: 7. Total reserved: 148.
- In the Central Legislature, 19% of the seats would be reserved for the Depressed Classes.
- The members of the depressed classes who were eligible to vote would form an electoral college. This College would elect four candidates among the depressed classes based on a single vote.
- Then, these four candidates would stand for election with the general candidates for election to the assembly. This time, the general electorate would vote. Thus, in effect, the depressed classes got a ‘double vote’ since they formed part of the general electorate also.
- This principle of ‘Joint electorate and reserved seats’ was to be followed in the Central Assembly too.
- The Poona Pact was agreed that this system would continue for ten years unless it was ended by mutual consent sooner.
- It also agreed to allocate a certain portion of money from the educational grant for the education of the depressed classes in all the provinces.
- Nobody would be separated because they belonged to the depressed classes in the matter of election to the local bodies or appointment to government service.