The Poona Pact 1932 was an agreement between B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi on the political representation of the Depressed Classes (a loose term that referred to Dalits/Untouchables/Scheduled Castes). A little more than a month earlier, Ramsay Macdonald, the British Prime Minister, announced the Communal Award that gave Depressed Classes separate electorates for central and provincial legislatures. Gandhi viewed this as a danger to the Hindu community that would de-link untouchables from Hindus. Ambedkar and other leaders of the Depressed Classes welcomed the award.
On 20th September 1932, while in prison, Gandhi announced a fast unto death till the time separate electorates were removed from the Award. The British had have given the assurance that it would make changes to the Award if these changes were the result of an agreement between the communities concerned. Indian political leaders realised that the best chance to get Gandhi to terminate his fast was to facilitate an agreement between Gandhi and Ambedkar. Initially, Ambedkar was not fazed by Gandhi’s fast. But later, he came around and agreed to negotiate. In the end, Gandhi and Ambedkar came to an agreement – the Poona Pact 1932 – that discarded separate electorates.
The Poona Pact is a very short document written a quasi-legal style. It contained nine points, seven of which laid out the manner and quantum of representation of the Depressed Classes at the central and provincial legislatures. Separate electorates for Depressed Classes did not feature in the document, instead, the Pact put forward a system of the joint electorates with reserved seats. It reserved 148 seats from the general electorate for Depressed Classes,78 more than what the Award had proposed.