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Praja Party


Praja Party a council party that made its debut in the beginning of July I929 as a loose parliamentary group. Evolving with the maiden name of the Bengal Praja Party (Bengal Tenant Party) it transformed itself by the end of the year into a public platform with the name of the Nikhil Banga Praja Samiti (All Bengal Tenant Association) and was renamed the krishak praja party (Peasant-Tenant Party) in April 1936 mainly for the purpose of fighting the first provincial elections under the Government of India Act, 1935 thus turning it more or less into an electioneering machinery. It went into oblivion almost immediately after the I937 elections, notwithstanding its electoral success.

The Bengal Praja Party was formed by a coterie of eighteen (of the total of thirty) Muslim members of the Bengal Legislative Council following a snap election held in June I929 with ak fazlul huq as its leader, and Abdur Raheem, a Delhi-born Urdu-speaking Calcutta merchant (not to be confused with Sir abdur rahim) as the deputy leader. Other office bearers of the Council Praja Party were tamizuddin khan (Secretary), Khan Bahadur (later knighted) mohammad azizul huque and Shah Abdul Hamid (Joint Secretaries), and Fazlullah and Mohammad Hussain (Party whips). The Bengal (Council) Praja Party committed itself to adhere to the majority decision in all matters in the Council. Among other things it declared to champion the cause of tenants and working class people and support the dyarchy and appointment of ministers if their selection was as per the choice of the party.

The nikhil banga praja samiti, forming the second phase of the Praja Party, sought a broader political base extended actually to the rural hinterland with the slogan of 'land to the tillers'. The Nikhil Banga Praja Samiti was a mixed bag accomodating Muslim leaders of differing political strands, many of whom were Calcutta-based, on its top heavy Executive Committee. Its President Sir Abdur Rahim was flanked by five Vice-Presidents in the persons of AK Fazlul Huq, abdullah al-mamun suhrawardi, Khan Bahadur Abdul Momin, Abdul Karim and Mujibur Rahman. The Secretary of the Samiti, mohammad akram khan, was similarly flanked by two joint secretaries - shamsuddin ahmed and Tamizuddin Khan. Though formed late in 1929, the Samiti did not start functioning as an affiliating body till I932, and when it did, a few mofussil tenant bodies, like the Tippera Krishak Samiti, refused to come under its umbrella.

The Samiti's activity was confined to holding annual conferences and adopting pious resolutions airing grievances of the peasantry and demanding their redress. A split occured in the Samiti in 1934 when Abdur Rahim became the President of the Indian Legislative Assembly. Fazlul Huq - faction took control of the Samiti installing him to the Samiti Presidency in breach of a solemn pledge made earlier. With the approach of the Provincial elections under the 1935 Act, the Samiti adopted the new nomenclature of the Krishak Praja Party to win over the rural voters.

The Praja Party, to use the term as its generic name covering all its phases, had, doubtless added a new style and a new dimension to Bengal politics by activating the rural hinterland. Egalitarianism or a social revolution was not on its cards; the social composition of its leadership would not, rather could not, have wanted it. Its leadership, comprising a coterie of elitist Muslims belonging to lesser landowners and higher grades of peasants aspiring after social and political leadership, wanted to dislodge the incumbent Muslim leadership of the province, represented by the higher echelon of Muslim landlords and wealthy Urdu-speaking merchants of Calcutta. It found in the Bengal Tenancy (Amendment) Act, 1928 a handy issue to attack the landlords and to win over the peasantry. The Krishak Praja Party made full use of the issue of the abolition of the permanent settlement without compensation to landlords. [BR Khan]