The First Round Table Conference, 1930-32

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The First Round Table Conference took place in London from November 12, 1930, to January 19, 1931. The conference marked a significant step in the journey towards Indian independence. On the recommendation of Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy of India, and, to the then British Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald, and after the Simon Commission report, the conference was held. In this article, we will delve into the background of the conference, highlight the key individuals involved, and provide a detailed overview of the three sessions.

What was the Background of the First Round Table Conference?

The First Round Table Conference took place in response to growing demands for political reforms. And also because of greater participation from the Indian population in the decision-making process. 

The years following the First World War witnessed a huge demand for self-rule or “Swaraj” in India. To address these rising issues, the British Government initiated the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms also known as the Government of India Act of 1919, which introduced limited self-governance in some provinces. However, these reforms were a failure.

By the late 1920s, the British government realized that it needed a more inclusive and representative approach to addressing India’s political and constitutional issues. The existing system of governance was unable to maintain its administrative credibility, hence leading to widespread discontentment amongst the Indians. As a result, the British government decided to conduct the First Round Table Conference. The Conference was inaugurated by His Majesty George V.

Also Read: Indian National Movement: Timeline for UPSC, PDF

Who were the Leaders Present at the First Round Table Conference?

The First Round Table Conference was attended by a diverse group of individuals representing various stakeholders in the Indian political scenario. Some of the key participants included:

RepresentationLeaders Present at the First Round Table Conference
British Government Representatives Lord Irwin
Indian National Congress Mahatma Gandhi
Sarojini Naidu
Sardar Vallabhai Patel
Muslim League Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Princely States Nizam of Hyderabad 
Maharaja of Jodhpur
Other Political and Social Groups
Leaders Present at the First Round Table Conference

Here are details regarding the leaders present at the First Round Table Conference:

  • British Government Representatives: Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India at the time, played a crucial role in initiating and addressing the conference.
  • Muslim League Delegation: The All India Muslim League, an organisation advocating for Muslim minority rights, sent a delegation headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who later became the founder of Pakistan.
  • Princely States Delegation: The conference also had representatives from various princely states, including the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Maharaja of Jodhpur, etc.
  • Other Political and Social Groups: Several other political and social groups, including representatives from the depressed classes, labour unions, and women’s organizations, were also present at the conference.

During the First Round Table Conference

What were The Three Sessions of the First Round Table Conference?

The First Round Table Conference consisted of three separate sessions, each with its agenda. Let’s take a closer look at each session:

The First Session (November 12, 1930 – December 19, 1930): Constitutional Reforms

The first session mainly revolved around discussions on Constitutional Reforms and Representation. The Indian National Congress boycotted this session due to the imprisonment of Mahatma Gandhi, thus leading to limited progress on key issues.

Also Read: Salt Satyagraha Movement: Definition, Causes, Effects

The Second Session (January 7, 1931 – January 19, 1931): Communal Representation

The second session witnessed the participation of the Indian National Congress delegation, which re-entered the conference following the signing of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. This session focused on Communal Representation, safeguards for Minority communities, and the Protection of their Rights.

The Third Session (November 17, 1931 – December 24, 1931): Representation of the Princely States 

Though technically not a part of the First Round Table Conference, the third session was an extension of the discussions initially held at the conference. Additionally, it addressed concerns raised by the Princely States regarding their future relationship with British India.

Deliberations during the First Round Table Conference

What were the Key Issues Discussed During the First Round Table Conference?

The First Round Table Conference primarily focused on resolving the issues related to: 

  • The Representation of Minorities
  • The Federal Structure
  • Provinces of Sindh and NWFP(North-West Frontier Province)
  • Demand for Dominion Status or Complete Independence
  • The Defence Services
  • Discussions revolved around issues like Communal Representation, Provisional Constitution, etc.
  • Provision of Separate Electorates for the Untouchables, which was demanded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Also Read: What was the Mountbatten Plan?

What was the Significance of the First Round Table Conference?

The First Round Table Conference holds great significance and immense historical significance in the Indian freedom struggle for several reasons:

  • Platform for Public Discussion: The Conference provided an unprecedented platform for diverse voices to be heard and opinions to be expressed. Moreover, this reflected the growing demand for representative governance in India.
  • Recognition of Diverse Interests: The conference recognized the importance of accommodating the interests of various communities and groups within Indian society. Furthermore, this recognition laid the foundation for future debates on minority rights and their representation in the political scenario.
  • International Attention: The conference attracted international attention and put the Indian Independence Movement in the global spotlight. This increased awareness and support for India’s struggle for self-determination.

Also Read: India’s Journey to Independence from 1857 to 1947

What were the Outcomes of the First Round Table Conference?

In addition, the Outcomes of the First Round Table Conference were as follows:

  • The First Round Table Conference lasted for a total of 71 days, spread across three sessions, and ended on 19th January 1931.
  • The conference had a total of 74 delegates from India, thus representing a wide range of political and social interests. 
  1. There were, in total, 58 political leaders and attendees from British India.
  2. 16 delegates were from the native princely states.
  3. Moreover, a total of 16 delegates attended from British Political Parties.
  • The conference attendees included representatives from major political parties such as the Indian National Congress, Muslim League, and Hindu Mahasabha.
  • Despite its inclusive approach, the conference failed to achieve a conclusive solution to the political issues at hand and the Congress party continued its Civil Disobedience.

The First Round Table Conference laid the foundation for further discussions and negotiations, hence ultimately leading to the formation of the Government of India Act 1935, which marked a significant step towards self-governance. 

Later, the Second Round Table Conference and the Third Round Table Conference also played a significant role in India’s Independence.

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Who participated in the First Round Table Conference?

The conference included representatives from various Indian political parties, including the Indian National Congress, the All India Muslim League, and other minority groups. Prominent leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were among the attendees. However, it is important to note that not all major political parties participated due to disagreements or boycotts.

Did the First Round Table Conference lead to any concrete outcomes?

Although the conference did not result in immediate agreements or formal decisions. The discussions during the conference led to the formulation of the Government of India Act 1935, which granted certain provisions for provincial autonomy. 

What were the challenges faced during the First Round Table Conference?

The conference faced several challenges, including disagreements among the Indian political leaders themselves, conflicting demands from different groups, and the rigid stance of the British government on certain issues. 

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