28 December 1885
The Indian National Congress was formed.
On 28 December 1885, the first session of the Indian National Congress (INC) was held at Bombay and continued till 31 December. It was started by a retired British civil servant Allan Octavian Hume along with Dadabhai Naoroji and Dinshaw Wacha.
- The INC was the first national movement of a political kind in India with the initial aim of getting more Indians involved in the governance of the country. Later on, its purpose upgraded to complete independence. And, post-independence, it emerged as a major political party in the country.
- For the first session, Hume obtained permission from the then Viceroy of India Lord Dufferin. It was initially supposed to be held in Poona but was moved to Bombay due to the outbreak of cholera in Poona.
- In 1883, Hume had written an open letter to Calcutta University graduates expressing his idea of having a body for educated Indians to demand more share in the government and also for a platform by which dialogue could be initiated and sustained between educated Indians and the British government.
- 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.
- The president of the first session was Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee.
- Prominent attendees of the maiden session were Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha, William Wedderburn, Pherozeshah Mehta, etc.
- In its early years, the INC was a moderate organisation and limited its means to constitutional methods and dialogue. Its demands were limited to including more Indians in the civil service and the armed forces. It never talked of independence.
- After a few years, the party became more radical in its demands and approach. By 1905, there was a clear rift in the party which was now divided between old moderates and the newer group, the extremists – who were so called because of their radical methodologies.
- The 1905 partition of Bengal saw the party transforming into a mass movement.
- The extremist faction was led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The party split openly in the Surat session in 1907.
- The congress truly became a mass party with the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi, who returned from South Africa in 1915. Gandhi introduced methods like satyagraha and civil disobedience to the independence struggle. Gandhi remained a spiritual leader for the party and his presence drew a lot of support from both the elite and the masses. More young leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, C Rajagopalachari, Subhash Chandra Bose, etc. made their presence felt.
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah was also a member of the party and although he joined the Muslim League in 1913, he continued to be a Congress member as well until 1920.
- Starting with home rule, by 1929, the demand for poorna swaraj was being made.
- The Congress was now a party that had huge mass support and was the chief political party in the Indian freedom struggle.
- After the Government of India Act 1935 was passed, provincial elections were held in 1936-37 and out of the 11 provinces, the Congress formed the government in 8 of them except Sindh, Punjab and Bengal.
- It must be noted that the INC was not the sole Indian political force, there were other parties like the Hindu Mahasabha, the Forward Bloc, etc.
- After independence, the first Prime Minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru was from the party. In the first general elections in 1952, the Congress had a thumping victory and Nehru became the first directly elected PM of India. He was in power till his death in 1964.
- Other Prime Ministers from the party are Gulzarilal Nanda (acting PM), Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. Even the non-Congress Prime Ministers like Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Deve Gowda and I K Gujral were formerly members of the Congress.
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