Krishak Praja Party

Krishak Praja Party a political party with considerable influence for a short period of time in the late 1930s and early 40s. Founded in 1936 the Krishak Praja Party was a spin-off of the ‘Nikhil Banga Praja Samiti’ (All Bengal Tenants’ Association). Fueled by the operation of the India Act of 1919, political groups and associations were formed and reformed among the Muslim elite in quick succession. Accommodating Muslim leaders of different political persuasions, the nikhil banga praja samiti was formed in 1929 with Sir abdur rahim as its president and with five vice presidents, of whom ak fazlul huq was the first. The effects of the depression of the 1930s led to the formation of Praja Samitis in most east Bengal districts. Fazlul Huq chose to devote his life to praja politics and came out of the elitist Nikhil Banga Praja Samiti.

The immediate occasion of such a move was the wrangling over the Samiti’s presidency fallen vacant in 1934 due to the resignation of Sir Abdur Rahim who was then appointed president of the Indian Legislative Assembly. On the question of electing a new president, the Samiti members got divided into two broad groups on regional lines -East Bengal group and West Bengal group. Fazlul Huq from the East Bengal group and Khan Bahadur A.Momin from the West Bengal group aspired the presidency. Ultimately, both groups agreed to settle the dispute through the arbitration of the out-going president. His choice went in favour of the Khan Bahadur. Against this backdrop, Huq, along with his large East Bengal following, left the Samiti and established the Krishak Praja Party (KPP) at Dhaka in July 1936.

As the leader of the rural society, Fazlul Huq could well anticipate the prospects of an agrarian programme and its appeal to the masses in the forthcoming elections. The KPP programme included abolition of the zamindari system, making peasants the absolute proprietors of land, reduction of rent rate, freeing the indebted peasantry from the bondage of the mahajan class, giving interest free loans to peasants, creating irrigation facilities by digging canals all over the country, making the river navigation free by eliminating engulfing water hyacinth, introduction of free primary education, etc.

Huq’s oratory was as attractive as his political programme to the peasantry. His approach was non-communal and hence he commanded support from the scheduled caste Hindu peasantry as well. The KPP election manifesto was finally reduced to one election slogan Dal-Bhat (pulse and rice) for all. In the elections of 1937 the KPP had two major rivals- the indian national congress and the muslim league. The peasant voters responded to Huq by supporting him in a big way. Though established only a year ago, his party secured the third position among contesting political parties in terms of number of seats won in the elections. The Congress got 52 seats, Muslim League 39, KPP 36, and various splinter groups and independent candidates won the rest of the total 250 seats. Of the 36 members elected with KPP tickets, 33 were from East Bengal. The KPP thus emerged essentially as an East Bengal peasant party.

Ironically, the decline of the KPP began immediately after its spectacular electoral victory. Fazlul Huq, the KPP leader, formed a coalition ministry with the support and participation of the Muslim League and some other smaller groups and independent members. As the Chief Minister, Fazlul Huq seemed to have concentrated his attention more on power politics than on proping up his party. Of the eleven ministers in his cabinet, only two, including Huq himself, were from the KPP and the rest were from the Muslim League and other factions.

Disgruntled KPP members led by shamsuddin ahmed, the secretary of the party, openly defied Huq and sat as a separate group in the Assembly. The rebel group convened a general meeting of the party at Gaibandha on 11 September 1937 and adopted a resolution expelling Huq and members loyal to him from the party. In retaliation, Huq also expelled the rebels in turn. In holding on to power in the face of virulent Congress opposition, Fazlul Huq joined the Muslim League at its Lucknow Session on 15 October 1937. Under the pressure of the League, syed nausher ali, the KPP member in the cabinet besides Huq, was forced to resign on 22 June 1938. Huq thus remained the lone KPP member on the cabinet. His participation in the Muslim League virtually made him also inactive and ineffectual for the party.

From November 1937 onwards, the Muslim League leadership began to organise the party from the grass-root level. The ascendancy of the League was so rapid that by 1943, when the Huq Ministry fell, the KPP had become practically non-existent. The diminished party contested the elections of 1946 but got only four seats, whereas the Muslim League got 114 seats. After the partition, AK Fazlul Huq came to Dhaka and revived his party under a new name, krishak sramik party that survived until 1958. [Sirajul Islam]