Indian National Congress

Indian National Congress Solid ground for an establishment with an all-India nature was already established in the late 1870s. The final shape of such an organization was given by a retired civil servant A.O Hume.
He was a retired civil servant in the British Government who took the initiative to form an All India Organization. The first session of the Indian National Congress was held at “Gokul Dham Tejpal Sanskrit college” in Bombay- in 1885. It was attended by 72 delegates and presided over by W.C Banerjee.

  • The past of the Indian National Movement can be studied in three essential phases:
    • The Phase of Moderate Nationalism (1885-1905) was when Congress continued to be loyal to the British crown.
    • The Years 1906-1916 witnessed the Swadeshi Movement, the rise of Militant Nationalism, and the Home Rule Movement.
    • The repressive measures of the British gave rise to extremists within Congress like Bipin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Lala Lajpat Rai (Lal, Bal, Pal), along with Aurobindo Ghosh.
    • The Period from 1917-1947 is known as the Gandhian Era.

Aims and Objectives of the Indian National Congress:

  • Found a democratic, nationalist movement.
  • Politicise and politically educate people.
  • Set up the headquarters for a movement.
  • Promote friendly relations among nationalist political workers from different parts of the country.
  • Expand and propagate an anti-colonial nationalist ideology.
  • Formulate and present popular demands before the government with an aim to combine the people over a common economic & political program.
  • Expand and consolidate a feeling of national unity among people irrespective of their caste or province, or religion.
  • Carefully promote and nurture Indian nationhood.

Point to Remember on Indian National Congress

1887Syed Badruddin Tyabji was the first Muslim President of a session held at Madras.
1888George Yule was the first English President of INC at the Allahabad session.
1890Kadambini Ganguly was the First Woman (an Undergraduate of Calcutta University) to address congress. However, Sarojini Naidu was the first Indian woman president of congress in 1925 at Kanpur Session.
1917Annie Besant was the first woman president of Congress at the Calcutta session.
1924The only Session presided over by Mahatma Gandhi was the Belgaum Session of INC.

Indian National Congress (INC): 1885

Indian National Conference Session in 1883 and 1885 was organized by Surendranath Banerjee and Anand Mohan Bose. The First Session of INC was presided over by Womesh Chandra Bannerjea.
Congress met each December. The first meeting was scheduled to be held in Poona, but due to a cholera outbreak there, it was shifted to Bombay.
M.K. Gandhi presided over the Belgaum Session of INC in 1924.
The 1st woman president of INC was Mrs. Annie Besant.
The 1st Indian woman president of the INC was Mrs. Sarojini Naidu.
The 1st Englishman to become the president of INC was George Yule.
The 1st Muslim president of the INC was Badruddin Tayabji.
The president of INC at the time of India’s independence was Acharya JB Kriplani.

Session Indian National Congress

YearVenuePresidentSession Details
1885BombayW.C.Banerjee1st session was attended by 72 delegates;
objectives of the congress were outlined
1886CalcuttaDadabhai NaorojiAttended by 436 delegates;
witnessed the unification of the National Congress and National Conference.
1887MadrasSyed Badruddin Tyyabji (First Muslim President)Attended by 607 delegates;
a request was made to the Muslims to combine with other national leaders.
1888AllahabadGeorge Yule (First English President)Attended by 1248 delegates.
1889BombayWilliam Wedderburn 
1890CalcuttaPherozeshah MehtaHe was a leading lawyer in the Bombay Presidency and was knighted by the British government for his service.
1891NagpurP. Ananda Charlu 
1892AllahabadW.C. Bonnerjee 
1893LahoreDadabhai Naoroji 
1894MadrasAlfred Webb 
1895PoonaS. N. Banerjee 
1896CalcuttaRahimtulla SayaniOne of the founding members of INC, he was the second Muslim to become its president.
He was a follower of Aga Khan.
1897AmravatiC. Sankaran NairTo date, he is the only Keralite to have held the position.
A lawyer, jurist, and activist by profession, he had slammed the highhandedness of the foreign administration and called for self-governance.
1898MadrasA.M. Bose 
1899LucknowRomesh Chandra DuttDemand for permanent fixation of land revenue.
1900LahoreN.G. ChandavarkarHe was then one of the leading Hindu reformers in western India.
He was also on the bench of the Bombay High Court and was knighted in 1910.
1901CalcuttaDinshaw E. WachaHe was one of the founding members of INC.
1902AhmedabadSurendranath Banerjea 
1903MadrasLal Mohan GhoseHe was a leading Bengali barrister.
1904BombayHenry CottonHe was a long-serving Indian civil servant and was sympathetic to the sentiments of Indian nationalists.
1905BanarasG. K. GokhaleExpressed resentment against the partition of Bengal.
Expressed resentment against the Bengal partition boycott of foreign goods
Promotion of swadeshi goods and Indian industries- Public meetings and processions
Corps of Volunteers or ‘Samitis’Swadesh Bandhab Samiti
of Ashwini Kumar Dutta
Use of Traditional Popular Festivals and Melas-Ganpati festival, traditional folk theatre
Nationalist song– Amar Sonar Bangla, Sudesha Geetham- Subramania Bharati
Painting– Abanindranath Tagore
Scientific research– Jadish Chandra Bose
National Education in vernacular medium. Bengal National College, National Council of Education.
1906Calcutta Dadabhai NaorojiThe word ‘Swaraj’ was mentioned for the 1st time.
1907SuratRash Behari GhoshSplit the congress into two: the Moderates & the Extremists.
 1908 MadrasRash Behari GhoshThe Constitution of congress was drawn.
1909LahoreM. M. MalviyaExpressed disapproval over the creation of separate electorates on the basis of religion (of the Indian Councils Act, 1909).
1910AllahabadWilliam Wedderburn 
1911CalcuttaBishan Narayan Dhar 
1912BankipurR.N. MudholkarHe was a staunch advocate of female education, widow remarriage, and the abolition of untouchability.
1913KarachiSyed MohammedBorn into one of the wealthiest families in south India, he was also the first Muslim sheriff of Madras.
1914MadrasBhupendranath Basu 
1915BombayS.P. SinhaLord Satyendra Prasanna Sinha, the first Baron of Raipur, was the president of the Bombay conference in 1915.
He was later knighted and became the first Indian to be a member of the British House of Lords. Sinha’s ennoblement also helped to move a bill that eventually became the Government of India Act of 1919.
1916LucknowA. C. Majumdar (Reunion of the Congress)– The historic Lucknow Pact between the INC and Muslim League was signed during this session.
– It was also the session where the Congress’ moderate and extremist groups reunited.
– Reunification of the two factions in INC i.e., moderates and extremists.
– Death of Gokhale and Pherozshah Mehta
– The Lucknow pact between Muslim League and INC
– INC accepted the Muslim league’s demand for a separate electorate
1917CalcuttaAnnie Besant (First Woman President)Besant was a sociologist, theosophist, social reformer, and advocate of Indian self-rule.
  1918Bombay (sp. session)Syed Hasan ImamThe session was convened to deliberate the contentious Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms Scheme. He was also a leader of the Khilafat Movement.
1918DelhiMadan Mohan Malaviya 
1919AmritsarMotilal Nehru– Strongly criticized the Jallianwala massacre and boosted the Khilafat Movement.
– New constitution of INC framed
– Condemned the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
– Approved the Khilafat movement
1920Calcutta (sp. session)Lala Lajpat Rai– A new constitution for the congress was framed.
– NCM moved and adopted
1920NagpurC. Vijayaraghavachariar– He was close to AO Hume and played a key role in the formation of the Swaraj Constitution. He was also part of the Propaganda Committee of Congress.
– Jinnah left the INC
– Reconstitution of congress committees on linguistic grounds.
1921AhmedabadC. R. Das (in jail), Hakim Ajmal Khan (acting president)He is the only person to have been appointed president of the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League, and the All India Khilafat Committee.
1922 GayaC. R. Das– CR Das & other leaders broke away from INC and formed the Swaraj party. C R Das presided over the session when he was in Jail.
1923Delhi (sp. session)Abdul Kalam Azad (youngest President)Commonly regarded as Maulana Azad, the leader was conferred Bharat Ratna posthumously. He was a revolutionary poet, journalist, activist, and freedom fighter. He is credited for the formation of the University Grants Commission and the Indian Institutes of Technology. He oversaw the formation of a national education system that offered free education till primary school.
1924BelgaonM. K. GandhiOnly session where Gandhi ji presided
1925KanpurSarojini NaiduFirst Indian women president of INC
1926GauhatiS. Srinivasa IyengarAn eminent lawyer, he served as the Advocate-General of the Madras Presidency from 1916-1920.
1927MadrasM.A. Ansari– The Independence Resolution embraced; resolved to boycott the Simon Commission.
– Resolution against using Indian troops in Mesopotamia, Iran, and China
– Resolution passed to boycott Simon Commission
Adopted resolution for Purna Swaraj
1928CalcuttaMotilal NehruThe 1st All India Youth Congress came into being.
1929LahoreJ.L. NehruPassed the Purna Swaraj Resolution; authorized the working committee to launch the Civil Disobedience Programme.
26th Jan observed as Independence Day
1931KarachiVallabhbhai Patel– Approved Gandhi-Irwin pact,
– Resolution on Fundamental Rights (FRs), and National Economic Programme (NEP) passed.
– Endorsed Gandhi Irwin pact
– Gandhi nominated to represent INC in the 2nd RTC
1932DelhiAmrit Ranchhorddas Seth 
1933CalcuttaNellie Sengupta 
1934BombayRajendra PrasadINC constitution amended
1936LucknowJ.L NehruThe president wished Congress to adopt socialism as its goal.
1937FaizpurJ.L. NehruThe session was held in the village for the first time.
1938HaripuraSubhash Chandra BoseThe National Planning Committee was set up under the Chairmanship of J.L. Nehru.
1939TripuriSubhash Chandra BoseRajendra Prasad took over as the President after S.C. Bose resigned.
– Bose was re-elected as president but had to resign when Gandhi supporters (in favor of P. Sitarammaiah) protested,
– Rajendra Prasad was made president of the session
All India Forward Bloc a faction within the Congress in Bengal was formed by Bose in 1939.
1940RamgarhMaulana Abul Kalam AzadThe decision to launch Civil Disobedience Movement
1946MeerutAcharya J.B. KripalaniLast session before the independence
1948JaipurPattabhi SitaramayyaHe was a staunch advocate of provinces divided into linguistic lines.
Indian National Congress Sessions 1885-1947

The era of Moderates and Approach

  • Moderates were staunch believers in liberalism and constitutional agitation within the law.
  • Moderates believed the British were not aware of the real situation of Indians. They resorted to Petition, Resolutions, and Meetings.
  • British Committee of INC was formed in 1899 in London. Dadabhai Naoroji spent his life campaigning abroad for India’s cause.
  • Two-pronged approach:
    • Create a strong public opinion to arouse consciousness and national spirit and then educate and unite people.
    • To persuade the British government and the public to introduce reforms in India on the lines laid by nationalists.

Important Moderate leaders were: Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozshah Mehta, D. E Wacha, W. C Banerjee S. N Banerjee. They believed political connections with Britain were in India’s interests and that time was not ripe for a direct challenge to the British Raj.

Demands by ModeratesLimitations
– Additional members in Imperial Legislative Councils and Provincial Legislative Council increased.
– The election element was introduced after some members were indirectly elected.
– The budget could be discussed; Questions could be asked.
– Additional members in Imperial Legislative Councils and Provincial Legislative Councils increased.
– The election element was introduced after some members were indirectly elected.
– The budget could be discussed; Questions could be asked.
– Non-official had no voice with Official Majority in the council.
– The budget could not be voted upon, and amendments could not be made
– No supplementary, No answers to be asked.
Council met only 13 days a year.

Safety Valve Theory

Modern historians believe: If Hume used congress as the “Safety Valve” to contain growing discontent for British rule amongst Indians, Indian Leaders used A. O. Hume as Lightning.

  • This theory suggested that INC was deliberately founded by the British to allow the Indians to release discontent. And thus, Hume convinced Lord Dufferin to not obstruct the formation of INC.
  • Extremist leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai believed in this theory. But modern Indian historians dispute this idea.
  • If Indians themselves initiated INC, the British government would have killed the idea in its tracks.
  • Thus, it was beneficial that a British civil servant started this organization.
  • It is said early moderates used Hume as a “lightning conductor” i.e., as a catalyst to bring together nationalist forces.

Contributions of moderates and Nationalists

Economic Critique of Imperialism:Early nationalists led by Dadabhai Naoroji, RC Dutt, and others carefully analyzed the political economy and put forward the “drain of wealth theory” to explain the exploitation of India.
They opposed the transformation of a self-sufficient Indian economy into a colonial economy.
They wanted to create an opinion that the British were the major cause of Indian poverty.
They demanded an independent economy and involvement of Indian capital, abolition of salt tax, reduced land revenues, reduced military expenditure, and encouragement to the modern industry through tariff protection and direct government aid.
                  Constitutional Reforms and Propaganda in LegislatureLegislative councils in India had no real power till 1920.
The Imperial Legislative council constituted by the India Councils Act 1861 was an impotent body designed to disguise official measures as having been passed by a representative body.
From 1885-1892 the nationalist demands for constitutional reforms were centered around the:
1. Expansion of councils and greater Indian participation,
2. Reform of the councils- greater say and financial powers
The constitutional reforms through the India Councils Act 1892 were criticized heavily by the nationalists. The nationalists now demanded:
1. Majority of Indians in the Council,
2. Control of the budget,

They gave the slogan of “no taxation without representation” just like the one given during the American war of Independence against the British.
The British had intended the councils to be a place where nationalists could be brought and allowed to complain directly. But the councils were turned by the moderates into forums to raise national grievances.
The early nationalists however failed to widen the democratic base by not including the masses and not demanding the right to vote for all.
Campaign for General Administrative Reforms Such as:Indianization of government services
Call to separate judicial and administrative functions
Criticism of oppressive and tyrannical bureaucracy and judiciary
Criticism of aggressive foreign policy
Call to increase welfare expenditure
Demand for better treatment for Indian labor abroad in other colonies.
Protection of Civil RightsThrough constant campaigning, the right to speech, thought, and association and free press became an integral part of the freedom struggle.
Due to this consciousness, when Tilak was arrested for his speeches, there was a huge outrage in 1897.

Role of the Masses Moderates

  • The moderate phase had a narrow social base and the passive role of the masses.
  • Early nationalists lacked political faith in the masses.
  • Masses were generally ignorant and conservative.
  • Moderates felt that the masses had to be welded into a nation.
  • Lack of support meant an open stand could not be taken regularly.

Government’s Response

  • It was hostile to the INC from the beginning. The official attitude stiffened after 1887 when INC became overly critical of colonial rule.
  • The government now openly condemned INC calling them “seditious brahmins”, “disloyal babus” etc.
  • The government later adopted a “divide and rule” policy where reactionary elements like Sir Syed Ahmed khan and Raja Shiv Prasad of Benares were encouraged to form the “United Indian Patriotic Association” to counter congress propaganda.

Evaluation of INC

National awakening + Political ideas were popularized + Strong base created + Most progressive forces of the time + Political work based on ground realities + India to be ruled by Indian’s idea propagated +Failed to widen their democratic base and scope of demands.


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