SIKANDAR-BALDEV SIṄGH PACT is the name popularly given to the rapprochement arrived at in 1942 between the Akālīs and the Muslim dominated Unionist Party, then ruling the pre-partition province of the Punjab, as a result of which the Akālī nominee, Baldev Siṅgh, joined the Unionist Cabinet under Sir Sikandar Hayāt Khān. The Unionist government had taken office in 1937 following elections held under the Government of India Act 1935, introducing provincial autonomy with a wholly Indian ministry responsible to the legislative assembly. At the pools the Unionist Party had emerged successful with a large majority, and its leader, Sir Sikandar, had formed the government winning the support of some Hindu and Sikh members, especially those representing landed interests. The Sikhs who had 31 seats in the 175-member legislative assembly were divided into two main groups, one representing the Khālsā National Party and the other Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal. The former joined hands with the Unionists, its leader Sir Sundar Siṅgh Majīṭhīā joining the Cabinet, and the latter with the Indian National Congress who, with the support of 17 Independents, formed the Opposition. Outside the Assembly, the Akālīs were the severest critics and opponents of the Unionist Government. As World War II broke out in 1939, moves were initiated to bring about a reconciliation between the Akālīs and the government. Parleys began between the pro-British Premier of the Punjab, who had a confortable majority in the Assembly, and the Akālīs, leading to Sir Sikandar Hayāt Khān writing a letter to Sardār Baldev Siṅgh, an Akālī or Panthic member of the Legislative Assembly, conceding some of the demands the Akālī leaders had been raising. Explaining the terms of the Pact at a press conference held at Lahore on 15 June 1942, Sir Sikandar made the following points : (1) Facilities for jhaṭkā meat --one of the persistent Sikh demands--- would be made available in government institutions where separate kitchens for Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs existed. (2) With regard to legislation relating to religious matters, members belonging to a community will take decisions at all stages of legislation affecting that community and such decisions shall have his support. (3) About the Sikh demand for adopting Punjabi, in Gurmukhī script, as the second language in the Punjab, he said that it was not possible immediately, but he had no objection to giving effect to the proposal. (4) As to the recruitment of Sikhs to government services, he clarified that the proportion for the various communities had already been fixed and that the Sikhs had been allotted a 20% share in the services. (5) Regarding Sikhs' representation at the Centre, the Punjab Premier assured Sardar Baldev Siṅgh that if and when an expansion or change in the present Executive Council at the Centre was contemplated, the Sikh claim would have his sympathy and support. He also gave the assurance that he would support the Sikh claim for a due share in the Central services.
As a consequence of the Pact, Baldev Siṅgh joined Sir Sikandar's Cabinet, replacing Sardār Dasaundhā Siṅgh who had become a minister as a representative of the Khālsā National Party after the death in 1941 of Sir Sundar Siṅgh Majīṭhīā. It was clarified that Baldev Siṅgh had made the pact in his "personal capacity", with the "moral support" of the Akālī Dal. Whereas he sat with the Government, the Akālī group in the legislature continued to sit with the Opposition. The Akālī Dal was left free to pursue its own political programme. It, in fact, proclaimed publically its disapproval of the Pact at a conference held at Gujrāṅwālā on 18 July 1942.
K. C. Gulāṭī