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Political Associations in India before the Indian National Congress

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 25, Nov 2022
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Political Associations in India before the Indian National Congress

The political associations in the early half of the nineteenth century were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements, local or regional in character, and through long petitions to the British Parliament demanded.

                                 • Administrative reforms,
                                 • Association of Indians with the administration, and
                                 • Spread of education.

The political associations of the second half of the nineteenth century came to be increasingly dominated by the educated middle class—the lawyers, journalists, doctors, teachers, etc. and they had a wider perspective and a larger agenda.

Political Associations in Bengal:

The Bangabliusha Praknsika Sabka was formed in 1836 by associates of Raja Rammohan Roy.

 The Zamindari Association, more popularly known as the ‘Landholders’ Society’, was founded to safeguard the interests of the landlords. Although limited in its objectives,

the Landholders’ Society marked

       ✓ the beginning of an organised political activity and
      ✓ use of methods of constitutional agitation tor the redressal of grievances.

The Bengal British India Society was founded in 1843 with the object of “the collection and use of information relating to the actual condition of the people of British India.|

In 1851, both the Landholders’ Society and the Bengal British India Society merged into the British Indian Associa-tion.

Associations Before Indian National Congress – Different Political Parties:

The following list is about the different Political Organizations Before the establishment of the Indian National Congress


Landholder’s Society (1838/Calcutta):

Dwarkanath Tagore Established the Zamindari Association along with Prasanna Kumar Tagore, Radhakanta Deb, Ramkamal Sen and Bhabani Charan Mitra which was later known as Landholder’s Society.

It was first organization of Bengal which had a distinct political objective.


British India Society (1839/London):

William Adams Established the British India Society (1839/London) Party.

This society was founded in England initially.

The first executive committee consisted of 15 members out of which 11 were Indians.

George Thompson was the president & GF Remfry and Ramgopal Ghosh were the Vice President and Peary Chand Mitra was the Secretary of that Executive Committee.

Bengal British India Society (1843/Calcutta):
George Thomson Established this Political Party.

British India Association (1851/Calcutta): Devendranath Tagore & Radhakant Deb.

Madras Native Association (1852/Madras): Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty also founded” The Crescent”, which was the 1st Indian-owned newspaper in Madras.

Bombay Association (1852/Bombay): Naoroji Furdoonji
East India Association (1866/London): Dadabhai Naoroji.
London Indian Society (1865/London): Feroz Shah Mehta, Badruddin Tyyabji, W. C. Banerji and Manmohan Ghosh ( Under the Guidance of Dadabhai Naoroji
National Indian Association: (1867/London): Mary Carpenter
Poona Sarvajanik Sabha (1867/Poona): G. Ranade, G.V. Joshi and Chiplankar
Indian Society (1872/London): Anand Mohan Bose
India League (1875/ Calcutta): Sisir Kumar Ghosh Sisir Kumar Ghosh also founded the famous ” Amrit Bazaar Patrika” in 1868.
Indian Association (1876/Calcutta): Anand Mohan Bose and Surendra Nath Banerji
National Conference (1883): Viraghavacharya, G. Subramaniya Aiyar and P. Anand
Madras Mahajan Sabha (1884/Madras): Charlu Indian National Union 1884 A.O. Hume

All India Congress:

Here, we briefly outline the two broad theories behind the establishment of the Indian National Congress (INC) ,

First Phase of Indian Nationalism (1885- 1915).

This phase was dominated by moderates. This phase was initially called as the ‘Early Nationalist’ phase, this phase was described as the ‘age of moderates’.

Establishment of Indian National Congress (INC):  
a) The INC was established in 1885, by A.O. Hume, a retired civil servant who was staying in Shimla post-retirement.

b) He invited many Indian leaders regarding the Indian cause, and he laid the foundation of the ‘Indian National Union’

c) But, after the suggestion of Dadabhai Naoroji, its name was changed to ‘Indian National Congress’. The word ‘Congress’ was taken from the American Constitution.

What was the real reason for the establishment of the Indian National Congress?
There are two broad theories behind this:

a) Mythical Theory: This suggested that it was the humanistic approach of A.O. Hume that was cited as one of the factors that led to the establishment of the INC. In fact, it was said that Hume was deeply moved by the political plight of the Indians, and he wanted to establish a political platform for Indians that could serve as the ‘voice for Indians’ so that the grievances could reach the British and the discontentment which was gradually growing between the British ruling system and the Indians could be minimized.

                                                               The biographer of A.O. Hume, William Wedderburn, who later on also became the President of the INC as well, deeply believed in the humanistic approach of A.O. Hume.

b) Realistic Theory:   The extremist elements in India like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, etc. laid down the theory known as ‘Safety- valve’ theory.

theory that Hume formed the Congress with the idea that it would prove to be a ‘safety valve’ for releasing the growing discontent of the Indians. To this end, he convinced Lord Dufferin not to obstruct the formation of the Congress.

Lala Lajpat Rai
wrote two books, ‘Unhappy India’, and ‘Punjabi’. In these two books, he explained and criticized the policy of the British regarding the establishment of the INC.

According to him, it was a conspiracy of Lord Dufferin, and A.O. Hume, that lead to the establishment of the INC. Even the Marxist historian’s ‘conspiracytheory’ was an offspring of the ‘safety valve’ notion.

In the second half of the 19th Century with the growing tide of nationalism, the aggression of Indians kept on increasing against the British policies, thus the British think-tanks derived a concept by which it was said that in between the British Government in India and the Indian public, there would be a buffer organization known as the Indian National Congress (INC).​

Thus the INC would work as a buffer organization, or in other words, it would work as a safety-valve.​

The safety-valve theory got a strong momentum in the political circles of India.

Organization for expression of Indian Demands: Modern Indian historians dispute the idea of ‘safety valve’. In their opinion the Indian National Congress represented the urge of the politically conscious Indians to set up a national body to express the political and economic demands of the Indians. Historian Bipan Chandra observes early Congress leaders used Hume as a catalyst to bring together.

Lightning conductor theory : However many historians like Bipin Chandra argues that Congress did not challenge the label of Safety Valve & yet used A.O. Hume as a lightning conductor to escape any direct resistance from British Rule.

But, on the basis of modern analysis, the INC was a result of many a regional consciousness uniting together under the context of commonality of interests. In fact, with the beginning of the 19th Century itself, there were many cultural organizations which were established by social reformers. And cultural organizations always lead to political and social awareness.

Major objectives of INC
A Pan India Organization: To found a democratic, nationalist movement through a pan India organization.

Politicize and politically educate people: Congress aimed to increase awareness about the colonial exploitative policies the political rights of Indians. To this end congress focused on demanding increasing representation in councils, Indianization of civil services etc.

Anti-colonialism: Develop and propagate an anti-colonial nationalist ideology; Promote friendly relations among nationalist political workers from different parts of the country.

Forward looking political and economic programme: Formulate and present popular demands before the government with a view to unifying the people over a common economic and political programme.

Promote Nationalism: Develop and consolidate a feeling of national unity among people irrespective of religion, caste or province.

Thus, the objectives of INC were not mere critique of British policies but forward-looking programme for improving conditions of Indians. Even though Moderates were not successful in their endeavour they laid the foundation of mass-based independence struggle with INC formation.The Indian National Congress was founded at Bombay in December 1885.

The early leadership – Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Badruddin Tyabji, W.C. Bonnerji, Surendranath Banerji, Romesh Chandra Dutt, S. Subramania Iyer, among others – was largely from Bombay and Calcutta.

A retired British official, A.O. Hume, also played a part in bringing Indians from the various regions together.

Formation of Indian National Congress was an effort in the direction of promoting the process of nation building.

In an effort to reach all regions, it was decided to rotate the Congress session among different parts of the country.

The President belonged to a region other than where the Congress session was being held.


First Session: held at Bombay in 1885. President: W.C. Bannerjee Formation of Indian National Congress.
Second Session: held at Calcutta in 1886. President:  Dadabhai Naoroji.
Third Session:
held at Madras in 1887. President: Syed Badruddin Tyabji, first muslim President.
Fourth Session:
held at Allahabad in 1888. President: George Yule, first English President.|

Calcutta. President: Rahimtullah Sayani.

National Song ‘Vande Mataram’ sung for the first time by Rabindranath Tagore.​.

Lucknow. President:  Romesh Chandra Dutt. Demand for permanent fixation of Land revenue.

1901: Calcutta. President:
  Dinshaw E.Wacha First time Gandhiji appeared on the Congress platform.

1905: Benaras. President:   Gopal Krishan Gokhale Formal proclamation of Swadeshi movement against government.

1906: Calcutta. President:  Dadabhai Naoroji
Adopted four resolutions on: Swaraj (Self Government), Boycott Movement, Swadeshi & National Education.

1907: Surat. President:  Rash Bihari Ghosh & Split in Congress- Moderates Extremist Adjournment of Session.

1910: Allahabad. President:   Sir William Wedderburn M.A Jinnah decried the separate electorate system introduced by act of 1909.

1911: Calcutta. President:  B.N. Dhar First time recital of Jan-Gan-Man in Congress session.

1915: Bombay. President:  Sir S.P. Sinha Constitution of the Congress was altered to admit the delegates from the extremist section.

1916: Lucknow. President:   A.C. Majumdar Unity between two factions-Moderates and Extremists of Congress Lucknow Pact signed between Congress and Muslim League to build political consensus.

1917: Calcutta. President:   Annie Besant, First Woman President of Congress.

1918 (Special session): Bombay. President:  Syed Hasan Imam The session was convened to deliberate the contentious Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms Scheme.

1919: Amritsar. President:  Motilal Nehru Congress extended support to Khilafat Movement.

1920 (Special Session): Calcutta. President:  Lala Lajpat Rai Mahatma Gandhi moved the Non-cooperation resolution.

1920: Nagpur. President: C. Vijayaraghavachariari Reconstitution of Working committees of Congress on Linguistic basis MA Jinnah left the Indian National Congress.

1922: Gaya. President: C.R. Das CR Das and other leaders broke away from INC Formation of Swaraj Party.

1924: Belgaum. President: M.K. Gandhi Only Session presided over by Mahatma Gandhi

1925: Kanpur. President: Sarojini Naidu, First Indian Woman President.

1927: Madras. President: Dr. M.A. Ansari Passed a resolution against the use of Indian troops in China, Iran and Mesopotamia.Passed a resolution against boycott of Simon Commission Adoption of resolution on Purna Swaraj.

1928: Calcutta. President: Motilal Nehru Formation of All India Youth Congress.

1929: Lahore. President: Jawahar Lal Nehru Passed the resolution on ‘Poorna Swaraj.’ Civil Disobedience movement for complete independence to be launched 26 January to be observed as ‘Independence Day’.

1931: Karachi. President: Vallabhbhai Patel Resolutions on Fundamental Rights and National Economic Programme Endorsement of Gandhi-Irwin pact Gandhi nominated to represent INC in the Second Round Table Conference to be held in London.

1934: Bombay. President: Rajendra Prasad Amendment in the Constitution of Congress.

1936: Lucknow. President: Jawahar Lal Nehru Push towards socialist ideas by Jawahar Lal Nehru.

1938: Haripura. President: Subhas Chandra Bose National Planning Committee set up under Jawahar Lal Nehru.

1939: Tripuri. President: Rajendra Prasad Subhas Chandra Bose was re-elected but had to resign Rajendra Prasad was appointed in his place Subhash Chandra Bose formed Forward Bloc.


1940: Ramgarh. President: Abul Kalam Azad Civil Disobedience movement to be launched at appropriate time and circumstances.

1941–45: This Period is marked by events i.e. Quit India movement, RIN Mutiny & INA trials. Phase of constitutional negotiations such as Cripps Mission, Wavell Plan and Cabinet Mission. On account of these events during this phase no congress session was held.

1946: Meerut. President: J.B Kripalani Last session before independence J.B Kriplani was the president of INC at independence.