The McDonald Award refers to the deceleration of communal electorate on 16th, August, 1932 by the British Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald. It was an expression of British policy of divide and rule. According to this communal Award Muslims, Europeans, Sikhs, Hindus and Harijans were to elect their representatives through separate communal electorates.
It was intended at breaking the nationalist sentiments. The Muslims, Sikhs and Christians were already recognized as minorities. The Award put the depressed classes among the Hindus in a separate category and entitled them for separate electorate.
It infuriated the Congress and the people. Gandhiji seeing it an attack on Indian Unity and nationalism by creating perpetual division went on indefinite fast. Consequently, leaders of cast groups and depressed classes got together and hammered out the Poona Pact in September 1932.
The Pact abandoned separate electorates for the depressed classes and demanded joint electorates. The seats reserved for the depressed classes were increased from 71 to 147 in provincial legislatures and 18 percent of the total in the Central legislature. The Poona Pact was accepted by the Government as an amendment to the Communal Award.
Thus, government’s attempt to separate the people was belied. The Award, intended to break nationalist movement, actually helped it to forge ahead by unity of masses and leaders.