Establishment of Indian National Congress

The need for an all-India organisation of educated Indians had been felt since 1880, but the Ilbert Bill controversy deepened this desire. The establishment of Indian National Congress (INC) gave rise to one of the most prominent political associations of the 20th century.

The Civil Services (Mains) and Civil Services (Prelims) examination of the IAS Exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) accord great importance to the Indian freedom struggle, and the Indian national movement, as is reflected in many of the past questions’ papers.

Here, we briefly outline the two broad theories behind the establishment of the Indian National Congress (INC) and some of the organizations which existed prior to the INC.

This article is related to the modern history part of the UPSC Syllabus and will be useful for GS I paper in Mains examination.

The candidates who are preparing for various government exams can read more relevant information from the below links:

Formation of Indian National Congress – [December 28, 1885] Indian Nationalism – The Moderate Phase
Difference Between Moderates and Extremists 1st Session of the Indian National Congress (INC)
Lala Lajpat Rai Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Indian National Congress Sessions – List of Indian National Congress Presidents Surat Split 1907

Daily News

First Phase of Indian Nationalism (1885- 1915)

This phase was dominated by moderates. This phase was initially called as the ‘Early Nationalist’ phase, however, with the rise of extremism in the closing stages of the 19th Century, this phase was described as the ‘age of moderates’.

Establishment of Indian National Congress (INC)

  • The INC was established in 1885, by A.O. Hume, a retired civil servant who was staying in Shimla post-retirement.
  • He invited many Indian leaders regarding the Indian cause, and he laid the foundation of the ‘Indian National Union’.
  • But, after the suggestion of Dadabhai Naoroji, its name was changed to ‘Indian National Congress.’ The word ‘Congress’ was taken from the American Constitution.
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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. According to him, it was a conspiracy of Lord Dufferin, and A.O. Hume, that lead to the establishment of the INC. 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.

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 that were established by social reformers. And cultural organizations always lead to political and social awareness.

Thus, in this regard, we find that immediately after the socio-cultural movement in India (i.e. 19th-century renaissance), we find various political organizations being established like:

  • The Landholders Society, which was established by Dwarakanath Tagore. This was also known as Zamindar Sabha.
  • There were many other organizations like, East India Association, Bengal British East India Association, Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, and the Indian League, established by Sisir Kumar Ghosh.

Establishment of Indian National Congress (INC) – UPSC Notes-Download PDF Here

UPSC 2023

Frequently Asked Questions on Establishment of Indian National Congress


Q 1. When and who established the Indian National Congress?

Ans. A.O. Hume, a retired civil servant established the Indian National Congress in the year 1885. It was initially called the Indian Nation Union but was later renamed on the suggestion of Dadabhai Naoroji.

Q 2. Who was the President of the first session of INC?

Ans. Womesh Chandra Bonnerje was the President of the first session of INC. The first session was attended by 72 delegates from all the Indian provinces. There were 54 Hindus, 2 Muslims and the rest were Jain and Parsi members.

Other relevant links:

UPSC Exam Pattern UPSC Books
UPSC Calendar 2023 Best Indian History Books for Civil Services IAS Exam
10 Must-Have Books for IAS Aspirants IAS Officer – Salary, Benefits and Powers
Modern History Notes For UPSC Strategy for History Optional for UPSC
UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 1 Syllabus, Strategy & Structure History Questions of UPSC Mains GS 1


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