After the resignation of the Congress Ministries, the annual session of the Congress was held at Ramgarh (Bihar) in March 1940, where the Congress offered to cooperate with the British Government if a provisional National Government was set up at the centre.
In response, the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow offered a set of proposals to the Congress for securing its cooperation during the war, which are popularly known as the “August Offer”. The August Offer turned down the Congress demand for setting up the provisional Nationa Government but made alternate proposals envisaging that-
Dominion status would be given to Indians but in the unspecified future.
After the War, a representative Indian body would be set up to frame the new constitution.
The Governor General’s Council and the Advisory War Council would be set up immediately.
The minorities were assured that the British would not hand over the reins of the government to any authority which would not recognize the privileges of all groups and communities in India’s national life.
Linlithgow’s August Offer was little more than a repetition of his October 17, 1939 statement. But, it atleast recognized the natural right of the Indians to frame their own constitution; it also promised Dominion status. Yet, it was well short of ‘complete independence’ which was the ultimate goal of the Indian National Congress since 1929.
Congress rejected the “August Offer”. Gandhi described this offer as a means of widening the gulf between the Congress and the Muslim League. Jawaharlal Nehru said that the whole idea of Dominion status, on which the offer was based, was “as dead as a doornail”. The Muslim league took the stand that it would not be satisfied with anything short of the partition of India.