www.inc.in – Indian National Congress, by name of Committee of Indian Congress, loosely based Indian political party. The National Indian Congress was formed up in 1885 and managed Great Britain’s Indian freedom war. This consequently affected several Indian policies after independence and even had a powerful presence in many states.
The pre-independence period:
The Indian National Congress first met in December 1885, but it goes back to the 1850s with the concept of an Indigenous independence struggle opposed to British rule. The Congress Party introduced relatively liberal reform initiatives in the first few decades, but many within the group were radicalized by the heightened suffering that followed British imperialism.
In the early 20th century, elements within the party started promoting a Swadeshi (“our own country”) policy, which called on the Indians to condemn British produced goods and promote Indian-made items. By 1917 the “extremist” Home Rule arm of the party, established by the previous year’s Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant, had begun to wield considerable influence by appealing to the numerous social classes in India.
Post-independence dominance of the Nehru clan:
Since 1951 until his death in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru dominated the Congress Party which won crucial victories in the 1951–52, 1957 and 1962 elections. In 1964, the opposition unified to appoint Lal Bahadur Shastri and, in 1966, Indira Gandhi (Nehru ‘s daughter) for party leader and thus prime minister roles.
In 1967, nevertheless, Indira Gandhi confronted an unprecedented rebellion within the government, and in 1969 she was ousted from the government by a faction named the “Syndicate.” However, her New Congress Party achieved a decisive win in the 1971 elections, and for a time it was unknown which party was the real legitimate claimant to the Indian National Congress mark.
The Congress Party’s success on the state level is a near reflection of its results at the national level. This dominated almost all state governments in the early years of democracy, and then started sharing power with other national parties (e.g., the BJP) or local parties (e.g., the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh).
In the early 21stcentury, though, Congress’s role in state affairs had diminished to the extent where it regulated only a handful of state governments. The party tended to do better in the north-eastern and northern counties, but weaker in most southern states.
Policy and Structure:
The Resistance to Congress is a coordinated political body. Delegates of state and district bodies attend a regular national conference choosing a president and the All India Congress Committee. Nonetheless, a considerable influence is exercised by the 20-member Congress Working Committee, the majority of whose members are appointed by the country’s president (held by the prime minister when the party is in power).
More about the Indian National Congress:
The Indian National Congress’ first session was conducted in Bombay in December 1885, with seventy-two members. More than just a political party, Congress was an assembly for policy-minded people interested in reform. Congress was not engaged in fighting for democracy or self-rule in its first twenty years, regarded as a ‘liberal period,’ but in greater democratic sovereignty within the empire. After the Bengal Party of 1905, Congress was more articulate and engaged in pressing for fundamental constitutional change and gradually expressed demands for full freedom from Britain.
The bulk of the founding members of Congress, including of course Allan Octavian Hume, had been taught or resided in Britain. Badruddin Tyabji, W. C. Bonnerjee, Surendranath Banerjea, Pherozeshah Mehta and the Manomohun and Lalmohan Ghose brothers all studied in London, and all came under Dadabhai Naoroji control.
Congress had a British committee located in London, functioning as a British lobby party, established in 1889. Dadabhai Naoroji attended meetings of this party while he was an MP in London, and was affiliated with their community of legislative power. The committee started publishing India in 1890, a free monthly publication summing up Indian news for the British press and policymakers. India was a published newspaper weekly, from 1898-1921. Henry Cotton (1906-19) and Henry Polak (1919-20) were among the reporters. It has also become a welcome and useful publication for the increasing number of Indian students in the UK.
Congress had a Parliamentary group in London, formed in 1889, which functioned as a Parliamentary lobby faction. Dadabhai Naoroji attended this party’s meetings when he was an MP in London, and became associated with their legislative influence group. In 1890, the committee started publishing India, a free monthly journal summarizing Indian news for the British press and politicians. India was a weekly publication, written from 1898-1921. Reporters included Henry Cotton (1906-19) and Henry Polak (1919-20). It is also a popular and supportive publication for the rising number of Indian students in the UK.
Policies of Indian National Congress during 1885–1905:
The Indian National Congress introduced multiple resolutions in its annual sessions between 1885 and 1905. The modest requests that Congress brought by the resolutions covered human rights, financial, political , and economic policies. A glance at the resolution adopted on these approaches will provide an understanding of the steps followed by the Congress programs.
- Civil Rights:
The leaders of Congress realized the value of freedom of speech and of the press, the right to hold processions, meetings and other similar rights.
The members of Congress encouraged the government to abolish all regulatory irregularities and introduce steps for public health. They ‘re placing emphasis on naming Indians to government services. Relevant plans are made for opening agricultural banks to help the peasantry. The members of Congress often speak out about the oppressive legislation passed by the government.
The modest proposal rendered on constitutional matters by the early leaders of Congress was: to increase the power of legislative councils; to include elected representatives of Indian people. It should be noted here that the British Government of India paid scant attention to the above demands of Congress.
In the economic sphere, Congress blamed the British ‘s misguided policies which resulted in rising Indian people’s property and economic repression. The Congress also brought forth several concrete proposals for developing the nation and its citizens economically. This involved the development of new manufacturing, civil sector indigenisation, etc. The Congress also requested that salt tax grow to the advantage of the poor segment of the population in particular.
Rise of Indian nationalism:
As the need to be reflected in government institutions, to have a voice, a vote in India’s law making and administration problems, the first spurts of nationalistic feeling that grew among Congress members were. Congressmen saw themselves as loyalists, but wanted to play an active role in running their own government, even as part of the Empire.
Dadabhai Naoroji personified the phenomenon, considered by many to be the eldest Indian statesman. Naoroji has gone as far as effectively contesting an election to the British House of Commons, becoming the first Indian member. That he was supported by young, up-and – coming Indian student activists including Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his campaign explains where the new Indian generation’s creativity lies.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was among the first Progressive Indians to accept swaraj as the nation’s destiny. Tilak deeply opposed the British education system, which ignored and defamed the culture, history , and values of India, defying and disgracing the culture of India. He resented the denial of freedom of expression for nationalists, and the absence of any voice or position for ordinary Indians in their nation’s affairs.
For these factors, he found swaraj to be the only possible solution: the abolition of all British issues, and the defense of the Indian economy from British oppression, and their skewed, oppressive policies. He was supported by rising public leaders such as Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai who held the same standpoint. Under them, the four main states of India – Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Punjab – formed the demands of the citizens and the nationalism of India.
The liberals, headed by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Pherozeshah Mehta, and Dadabhai Naoroji, remained strong in asking for national discussion and talks. Gokhale has been critical of Tilak for encouraging violence and disorder. The 1906 Congress had no representation of the public and thus Tilak and his followers were compelled to abandon the party.
With the detention of Tilak all prospects of an Indian offensive have been halted. The people lost credit to Congress. In 1906, Muslims founded the All India Muslim League and treated the Congress as totally unsuitable for Indian Muslims.
Ascendance to power:
The Congress first tasted legislative influence in the national elections of 1937 under the government of India Act 1935. It performed very well, reaching power in eight of the eleven provinces where elections took place. The internal organization, despite the variety of democratic views and philosophies, bloomed.
The emphasis will subtly shift from one-minded commitment to full liberty, to amusing anticipation and theorizing regarding the nation’s potential government as well. But when the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow proclaimed India a warring group during World War II without any consultation with the elected members of the citizens, Congress ministries resigned.
Upon Bose’s election to the presidency of Congress in 1938, the revolutionary adherents of Subhas Chandra Bose, believers in democracy and vigorous resistance will rise in the hierarchy.
The traditionalist point of view was reflected, according to one viewpoint, in congressmen such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, Purushottam Das Tandon, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Maulana Azad, who were also Gandhi’s allies and supporters, but not in a political context. Their organizational strength was undisputed and proved by leading the battles with the government when Bose resigned from the presidency of Congress after winning the 1939 election due to the lack of trust he enjoyed among the national leaders.
A year before, though, Bose had been elected in the 1938 election with Gandhi’s assistance. In 1939, disagreements emerged about whether Bose would have a second name. Jawaharlal Nehru, who had once preferred Bose to Gandhi, had earlier had a second name. The contradictions of Bose’s own focused on the position to be accorded to non-violent tactics toward insurrection. Throughout the Second World War, when he founded his Indian National Army in South East Asia, he invoked Gandhi’s name and praised him as The Nation’s Father.
It would be misleading to say that the so-called traditionalist leaders were simply searching for guidance to the ancient history of Indian, Asian or, in the case of Maulana Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Islamic civilisation. Together with educators like Zakir Husain and E. W. Aryanayakam, they agreed that education should be provided in a way that encourages learners to do stuff in their own hands and develop skills that will allow them to sustain themselves.
In certain places of Egypt, too, this form of schooling was introduced. (See Reginald Reynolds, Africans beware). Zakir Husain was influenced by several European educators and was able to dovetail this strategy with Gandhi’s encouragement of the one preferred by the Indian liberation movement’s Basic Education system. I agreed that the blueprint for a potential nation’s school structure, infrastructure and social justice would be structured to suit the unique local needs. Although most were receptive to the advantages of Western values and socialism’s socio-economic egalitarianism, they rejected the concept of either type.
The party is often divided into different bodies and divisions (e.g. youth and women’s groups), and produces a regular newspaper, the National Herald. Looking at the party’s decreasing prospects, its membership dropped from about 40 million in the mid-1990s to below 20 million in the early 21st century.
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