Indian Legislators.—I [In the days of Lord Curzon Mr. Arnold
Ward spent a year and a half travelling in India as a newspaper correspondent. He at in the House of' Commons from 1910 to 1918 as Unionist Member for Watford. Last winter he returned to India in the capacity of Special Correspondent of a London paper. He visited Mr. Gandhi at Ahmedabad, and spent some weeks in Calcutta and Bombay, but the main part of his visit was devoted to a thorough study of the work of the Legislative Assembly at Delhi, where he met many of the political leaders. Mr. Ward writes in no way as an authority on India, but as a student of Indian affairs, and a political observer of some experience.—D. Spectator.] THE Legislative Assembly of India meets in a chamber of wonderful beauty, designed by a great architect, Sir Herbert Baker. It is built of white stone nearly in the shape of a half-moon, and the lower walls are - panelled in Indian teak, a wood which admirably harmonizes with the Indian complexion. Of
.* This is sometimes recognized, indeed, by Luther (cf. Jena Edition xvii. 1).
the Strangers' Gallery at Westminster it must be conceded that to fill it only increases its unloveliness ; but the spacious galleries at Delhi, when they are thronged on an important occasion, make a warm, coloured scene of glorious beauty. Those who have witnessed the play- scene in The Show Boat (and who has not ?) may multiply that scene many times to gain an idea of this effect. On the floor the seats and desks of the members are grouped in the Continental style in a semi-circle round the chair, of the President, Mr. V. J. Patel.
To the left of the President sit in order the three parties of the Opposition—the Congress Party, the Nationalist Party, and the Independent Party. Together they number about seventy-two of the 104 elected members, and with the votes of a few free-lances they have a small majority over the remaining elected and the nominated members taken together. The nominated rsembers are forty-one in number, of whom about two-thirds are officials. The elected members who form no part of the Opposition are the European group, a small group which is styled the Central Muslim Party, and a few others who cannot be classified.
The Congress Party numbers about forty members, who have behind them the support of a great party organization, covering the whole of India. Their object is to alter the legal basis of the Government of India and substitute self-government for autocracy. With this end in view, they have for six years in two Assemblies, repeatedly, with the help of their allies, carried resolutions embodying "the National Demand." Rejecting, as they do, many of the principles on which the Government policy is based, they generally oppose and obstruct Government measures. At the same time they achieve much useful work by asking questions, by moving resolutions on matters of general public interest, and by promoting non-official bills. Their work on Select Com- mittees, which sit in private, is much commended by those who have worked with them.
Most of the members of this party wear the white homespun and the Gandhi cap. They are well drilled and well organized and their attendance in the House is praiseworthy. They contain in their ranks many excellent public speakers, and there is diffused among them, generally speaking, a high level of knowledge and education. A few members speak in a. rather cross and fretful tone, but such men are to be found in every Assembly. On the whole I found much less bitterness than I had been led to expect. Speeches generally conform to a high standard of courtesy and decorum. Sometimes the speakers quote snatches of Urdu verse, folksongs, .and proverbs in their mother-tongue. On days when obstruction has been ordered it is interesting to watch ittle groups rise incessantly to catch the President's eye :— " No voice exempt, no voice but well could join Melodious part, such concord is in heaven."
The leader of this powerful party, the Pandit Motilal Nehru, by common consent future Prime Minister of India, is in his sixty-ninth year. Before the War an eminent lawyer at Allahabad, he lived in Western style, entertained liberally both Indian and British friends, and had a curious fondness for smart attire. It is said that the future champion of " khaddar " was clad from head to foot in suitings supplied by Savile Row, and in lingerie which, for fear of the Indian dhobi, was consigned weekly to the blanchisseuses of the Seine.
Not till after the War did he take seriously. to politics, and then his eloquence and force of character carried him at once into the front rank. In the non-co-operation time he went to prison, after which he made a bonfire of his English wardrobe and forsook his western ways. In the. Assembly he represents a constituency which is named "The Cities of the United Provinces." They are seven in number, and they are the most famous cities of Hindustan. In appearance he is every inch a leader ; you cannot fail to be impressed by the stately figure clad in a long, close-fitting tunic of white homespun, and by the fine massive Roman head.
His Report is written in a crisp, terse English of which the pre-War Indians were never masters. His speeches are most impressive, and his great qualities of character and intelleet in every way fit him for his high position.
There is a small trace of pique in his temperament, for which you must allow ; but this nuance in no way mars a character essentially manly and robust. I have no doubt whatever of his attachment to the British connexion ; but he is hard pressed by the Independence faction, and it may be that this great Indian is destined to suffer the same fate as Mr. John Redmond suffered at the hands of Sinn Fein.
On the Pandit's left sits the Independence leader, Mr. Srinivasa Iyengar, who represents the City of Madras. He has a consummate legal brain, and there is nothing he loves more than showing it off, not in a conceited way, but as a feu de joie. His speeches have real dignity, in spite of an almost Irish impudence, and an insouciant Birrell-like vein of humour, which make , him a very attractive figure. I did not seek an interview with him, because I did not wish to have a breeze with him about his oath of allegiance, but I enjoyed his speeches as much as those of any member of the House.
- Beyond him the Swarajist front bench falls off sadly, for it is tenanted only by Mr. Jamnadas Mehta, an orator from Bombay who lacks the dignity of his colleagues, and by Maulvi Mohamed Shafee, the bearded leader of the Moslems of Behar. But beyond these again we come to the most interesting party in the House.
The Nationalist Party consists of only eighteen members, but among them are many of the most prominent and distinguished men in Indian public life. • The party is almost a picked team, like a troop of officers without any rank and file. The reason for this is that the Congress Party is one of those organizations which limit the independence of their members in Parliament and seek to dictate their policy and actions from outside.
The Nationalist Party has no organization in the country ; it consists of the more independent Nationalists who have gained election without pledging themselves to the Congress ticket, and who desire to act together free from outside control. Strangely enough, the leader of the party is an exception to this rule, and is himself an ex-President of the Congress and a prominent Congress leader ; but among his followers are men who are threatened by Congress opposition at the next election. This is a domestic mystery which I cannot attempt to explain.
The leader of the party, the Pandit Madan Mohun Malaviya, is a very eminent man, who, if we take every- thing into account, is a figure about equal in importance to the Pandit Motilal Nehru. With Mr. Gandhi, they make up the triumvirate of Hindu leaders with whom Britain has to deal. He is the same age as his brother Pandit, and he follows the same profession, but his connexion with public life has been much longer, for he entered the Imperial Legislative Council as long ago as 1910. He is an orthodox high-caste Brahmin, he is Vice-Chancellor. of Benares Hindu University, and the influence which he wields and the love and respect which he enjoys among the Hindus are very great indeed. An Indian member on the Government side of the House, speaking in debate in February last, said that if any one man might be regarded as the leader of the Hindu community, that man was the Pandit Malaviya. It is a Wonderful thing to contemplate, that one man should be the leader of 200,000,000; and he may with some truth be said to be the leader of them all, for in the Hooghly at Calcutta in December he washed the untouchables with his own hands.
It is a nice point whether he or the Pandit Motilal Nehru speaks the finer English. Both have acquired a great mastery over the English tongue, but while the Nehru sentences are crisper and more robust, the Malaviya ,vocabulary is wider, the syntax more flexible, the diction more choice. He says hard things about the Government, and often impugns the sincerity of British statesmen, but his bitterness and Pandit Motilal Nehru's fall far short of the bitterness of the Adams brothers, or of the bitterness of Parnell and Healy, to quote two cases of Nationalist leaders against the British, over whose country the national flag now flies. No one responds more readily to generous treatment ; no leader was ever freer from thought of self.
Age sits lightly on the slender, erect, handsome figure, clad in white achkan and long white dupatta, and there is no faltering in the courage with which, in his sixty-ninth year, he enters on the great struggle of his life.
"His skin was dark as bronze ; his face Irradiate, but yet severe.
His eyes had much of love and grace, But glowed so bright, they filled with fear."
The Pandit is not dark as bronze ; he has the normal hue of Upper India. But I have quoted those lines of the young Bengali poetess because the rest of the stanza conveys some idea of the nobility of his countenance (To be continued.)