Chapter- 11 : Indian National Congress: Foundation and the Moderate Phase

Arora IAS Class Notes 

Foundation of the Indian National Congress:

  • Established in December 1885 at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Bombay.
  • Proposed by A.O. Hume, a retired English civil servant.
  • Initial groundwork laid through Indian National Conference sessions in 1883 and 1885, led by Surendranath Banerjea and Ananda Mohan Bose.
  • First session attended by 72 delegates, presided over by Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee.
  • Annual sessions held in December, rotating across different parts of India.

Prominent Leaders:

  • Presidents during the early phase included Dadabhai Naoroji, Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Surendranath Banerjea, and others.
  • Notable figures like Mahadev Govind Ranade, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale actively participated.
  • Kadambini Ganguly, the first woman graduate of Calcutta University, addressed the Congress session in 1890, highlighting the commitment to women’s participation.

Safety Valve Theory:

  • Theory suggesting A.O. Hume founded Congress as a “safety valve” to mitigate Indian discontent.
  • Extremist leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai supported this theory.
  • Marxist historians proposed a “conspiracy theory,” implying Congress was formed to suppress potential uprisings.
  • Modern historians dispute the “safety valve” notion, viewing Congress as an expression of Indian political consciousness.
  • Bipan Chandra suggests Hume acted as a catalyst to unite nationalist forces.

Aims and Objectives:

  • Found a democratic nationalist movement.
  • Politicize and educate people politically.
  • Establish headquarters for the nationalist movement.
  • Foster friendly relations among nationalist workers across India.
  • Develop and propagate an anti-colonial nationalist ideology.
  • Present popular demands to the government, unifying people over common economic and political programs.
  • Foster national unity regardless of religion, caste, or province.
  • Promote and nurture Indian nationhood carefully.


Era of Moderates (1885-1905)


  • Dadabhai Naoroji
  • Pherozeshah Mehta
  • E. Wacha
  • C. Bonnerjea
  • N. Banerjea


  • Constitutional Agitation (1885-1905):Moderates believed in peaceful protests within legal boundaries.
  • Creating Public Awareness (1885-1905):They aimed to educate and unite Indians on political issues.
  • Persuading British Government (1885-1905):They used petitions, meetings, and public pressure to influence British reforms.
  • “Prayer and Petition” (1885-1905):Moderates preferred polite requests for change.
  • British Committee of INC (1889):Established in London to advocate for India’s interests.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji’s Advocacy (1889-):Campaigned extensively for India’s cause abroad.
  • London Congress (1892 – Cancelled):Planned but ultimately postponed due to British elections.

Overall Strategy:

  • Moderates believed in gradual change through building relationships with Britain.
  • Their goal was to transform British rule into a more representative system.


Contributions of Moderate Nationalists

Economic Critique of British Imperialism (1885-1905)

  • Drain Theory:Led by Dadabhai Naoroji, Moderates exposed British exploitation through this theory.
  • Economic Transformation Critique:They opposed the shift from a self-sufficient Indian economy to a supplier of raw materials for Britain.
  • Demands:
    • End economic subservience to Britain.
    • Develop an independent Indian economy.
    • Reduce land revenue and salt tax.
    • Improve working conditions for plantation laborers.
    • Reduce military expenditure.
    • Encourage modern industry through tariffs and government aid.

Constitutional Reforms and Propaganda in Legislature (1861-1906)

  • Limited Power of Councils:Pre-1920 legislative councils had little real power.
  • Nationalist Demands (1885-1892):
    • Expansion of councils for greater Indian participation.
    • Increased power for councils, especially financial control.
  • Criticism of Indian Councils Act (1892):Moderates felt the reforms were inadequate.
  • Later Demands:
    • Majority of elected Indians in councils.
    • Power to vote on and amend the budget (“No taxation without representation”).
    • Self-government like Canada and Australia (by 1906).
  • Nationalist Achievements:
    • Used councils to expose government flaws and raise public issues.
    • Enhanced their political stature and built a national movement.
    • Generated anti-imperialist sentiment.
  • Shortcomings:
    • Failed to widen the movement’s base by including masses and women.
    • Didn’t demand universal voting rights.

Campaign for General Administrative Reforms (1885-1905)

  • Indianisation of Government Service:
    • Economic argument: Employing Indians would be cheaper.
    • Political argument: Salaries of British officials drained Indian resources.
    • Moral argument: Indians deserved positions of trust and responsibility.
  • Other Demands:
    • Separation of judiciary from executive functions.
    • Less oppressive bureaucracy and a more efficient judicial system.
    • Less aggressive foreign policy to reduce military spending.
    • Increased spending on welfare, education, irrigation, and agriculture.
    • Better treatment for Indian laborers abroad.

Protection of Civil Rights (1885-1905)

  • Focus on Free Speech, Press, and Assembly:Moderates spread democratic ideas.
  • Defense of Civil Rights:This became a key part of the freedom struggle.
  • Public Outrage:Examples include arrests of Tilak, journalists, and the Natu brothers.

Indian Councils Act, 1892

Main Provisions:

  • Increased council members:
    • Imperial Legislative Council: 10-16 non-official members (up from 6-10).
    • Provincial Legislative Councils: Increased numbers not specified.
  • Nominations:
    • Non-official members nominated by various bodies:
      • Bengal Chamber of Commerce
      • Provincial legislative councils
      • Universities
      • Municipalities
      • Zamindars (landowners)
    • Introduced the principle of representation.
  • Allowed discussions on budget and asking questions.


  • Official majority remained, limiting non-official influence.
  • Imperial Council met only 13 days/year on average (1892-1909).
  • Few Indian members participated (5 out of 24 in Imperial Council).
  • No voting or amendments on budget.
  • No discussions on supplementary requests or answers to questions.


Evaluation of Early Nationalists (Moderates)


  • Awakened national sentiment.
  • Created a pan-Indian identity with common interests.
  • Trained political workers and spread modern ideas.
  • Exposed the exploitative nature of British rule.
  • Established the idea of India being ruled for Indians’ benefit.
  • Built a foundation for future mass movements.


  • Narrow social base with limited mass participation.
  • Distrusted the masses due to perceived social divisions and lack of education.
  • Failed to broaden democratic demands.

Role of Masses:

  • Moderates viewed the masses as passive due to social divisions and conservatism.
  • Believed national unity had to precede political participation (a flaw).
  • Lack of mass support limited them to moderate tactics.

Government Attitude:

  • Hostile towards the Congress despite their loyalty.
  • Condemned nationalists as “seditious” and “disloyal.”
  • Employed “divide and rule” tactics:
    • Supported rival organizations (e.g., Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s United Indian Patriotic Association).
    • Tried to divide nationalists by religion and pit moderates against extremists.
  • Ultimately failed to halt the rise of nationalism.



Important Leader

  1. A.O. Hume: Civil Servant
  • Arrival and Career in India:
    • Joined Bengal Civil Service in 1849 (Etawah district).
    • Witnessed 1857 Rebellion and focused on improving lives (Etawah became a model of progress).
    • Rose through the ranks but criticized British policies (like his father, a radical MP).
    • Became secretary of Revenue, Agriculture, and Commerce (1871).
    • Dismissed from Secretariat in 1879 for criticizing Lord Lytton.
  • Beyond Civil Service:
    • Founded journal “Stray Feathers” for birdwatching records across India.
    • Left India in 1894 (London).
    • Supported Indian National Congress.
    • Developed interest in botany and established South London Botanical Institute.


  1. Mahadev Govind Ranade
  • Born: Jan 18, 1842, Niphad, Nashik (Maharashtra)
  • Education:
    • Elphinstone College, Bombay (Mumbai)
    • University of Bombay (BA 1862, LLB 1866)


  • Presidency Magistrate, Bombay Small Causes Court (1871)
  • Judge, Bombay High Court (1893)
  • History instructor, Elphinstone College

Contributions to Indian National Congress (INC):

  • Founding member (1885)
  • Advocated for political empowerment and unity


  • Influenced by Western culture and colonial state
  • Key aspects:
    • Criticized some Indian customs and traditions
    • Emphasized spiritualism within Hinduism
    • Supported Swadeshi movement (use of indigenous products)

Social Reforms

  • Founding member of Prarthana Samaj (religious reform movement)
  • Edited Induprakash (newspaper promoting social and religious reform)
  • Advocated for women’s education (wife Ramabai became a doctor)
  • Co-founded Widow Marriage Association (1861)
  • Founded Poona Sarvajanik Sabha (sociopolitical organization)
  • Championed social reforms against:
    • Child marriage
    • Widow remarriage restrictions
    • High wedding costs
    • Caste restrictions on travel

Other Contributions

  • Established schools
  • Authored books on Indian economics and Maratha history
  • “Father of Indian Economics”: advocated for industrialization and welfare programs
  • Influenced future leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale


  • Significant figure in social reform movement and Indian nationalism
  • Legacy includes:
    • Societal change advocacy
    • Economic development initiatives
    • Inspiration for future reformers


  1. Dadabhai Naoroji
  • Born: September 4, 1825, Bombay (Mumbai)
  • Education:
    • Elphinstone College (scholarship recipient)
    • First Indian professor at Elphinstone College

Career Highlights:

  • Co-founded Cama & Co. (First Indian company in London)
  • Professor of Gujarati at University College London
  • Dewan of Baroda (1874)

Contributions & Achievements

  • Founded East India Association in London (1867) to advocate for Indian rights.
  • Three-time president of the Indian National Congress (1886, 1893, 1906).
  • First Indian MP in British House of Commons (1902).
  • Pioneered concept of calculating India’s national income.
  • Championed social reforms:
    • Women’s education
    • Equality
    • Anti-caste system


  • Known as “The Grand Old Man of India”
  • Voiced Indian grievances on international platforms
  • Remembered for his contributions to Indian nationalism and social reform


  1. Badruddin Tyabji
  • Born: October 10, 1844, Bombay (Mumbai)
  • Family:
    • Son of Mullah Tyab Ali Bhai Mian (Sulaimani Bohra community)
    • Youngest of seven sons
    • Brother Camruddin was the first Indian solicitor in England


  • Newbury High Park College, London (1860)
  • University of London
  • Middle Temple

Career Highlights

  • First Indian Barrister in Bombay High Court (1867)
  • Bombay Municipal Corporation member (1873)
  • University of Bombay senate member (1875-1905)
  • Bombay Legislative Council member (1882-1886)
  • Co-founded Bombay Presidency Association (1885)
  • Bombay High Court Judge (1895) – First Muslim judge
  • Chief Justice of Bombay High Court (1902) – First Indian Chief Justice

Political Participation

  • Founding member of Indian National Congress
  • Third president of Indian National Congress (1887-1888)
  • Co-founded Indian Parliamentary Committee (1893)

Socio-Political Contributions

  • Advocated for social reforms:
    • Opposed purdah system (his daughters were first to be educated abroad)
    • Supported Age of Consent Bill (1891)
    • Fought against zenana system
  • Promoted Muslim participation in public life:
    • Established Islam Club and Islam Gymkhana
  • Known for his impartiality as a judge


  • Pioneered secular political consciousness among Muslims
  • Remembered for his legal and social reforms


  1. Sir Pherozeshah Mehta

Early Life and Education

  • Born: 1845 (middle-class trader family)
  • Education: Elphinstone College (1864 graduate)
  • Nicknames: “Lion of Bombay”, “Uncrowned King of Bombay”

Legal Career

  • Studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, London (called to Bar in 1868)
  • Established a successful legal practice in Bombay
  • Advocated for reform of Bombay Municipal Government
  • Drafted the Bombay Municipal Act of 1872 (“Father of Bombay Municipality”)

Political Career

  • Influenced by Gladstonian liberalism
  • Founding member of the Indian National Congress (moderate faction)
  • Championed Indian interests in legislative councils
  • Opposed restrictive British policies (Arms Act, Vernacular Press Act)
  • Supported Ilbert Bill, local self-governance
  • Criticized Lord Curzon’s control over universities

Nationalist Contributions

  • Founded the Bombay Chronicle newspaper (1910)
  • Highlighted plight of Indians in South Africa (inspired Gandhi)
  • Publicly welcomed Gandhi to India (1915)


  • Numerous institutions named after him (halls, roads, law colleges)
  • Remembered for resisting government interference in universities
  • Founding member of Indian National Congress and Bombay Presidency Association


  1. Surendranath Banerjee
  • Born: November 10, 1848, Kolkata, India
  • Education: University of Calcutta

Civil Service Aspirations and Dismissal

  • Attempted Indian Civil Service exams in England (1868)
  • Became first Hindu to pass interview stage
  • Appointed Assistant Magistrate in Sylhet (1871)
  • Dismissed by British in 1874 (alleged jurisdictional impropriety)

Shift to Academia and Nationalism

  • Became professor of English at Metropolitan College
  • Founded Ripon College (later Surendranath College) in Kolkata
  • Used teaching to inspire nationalism in students


  1. Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Born: July 23, 1856, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra


  • Founded Deccan Education Society (1884)
  • Co-founded Fergusson College (1885)


  • Devout Hindu, used scriptures to inspire fight against oppression
  • Emphasized self-rule (Swaraj) as key to progress
  • Popularized:
    • Ganesh Chaturthi festival
    • Shiv Jayanti celebrations

Political Life

  • Early advocate for complete independence (Swaraj)
  • Part of Lal-Bal-Pal extremist trio
  • Joined Indian National Congress (INC) in 1890

Surat Split (1907)

  • Extremists (Tilak, Lal Lajpat Rai) vs. Moderates (Gopal Krishna Gokhale)
  • Extremists walked out over INC president selection

Contributions to Freedom Movement

  • Promoted Swadeshi movement (boycott of foreign goods)
  • Founded All India Home Rule League (1916)
  • Lucknow Pact (1916): Hindu-Muslim unity with Muslim League
  • Jailed (1908-1914) for defending revolutionaries

Newspapers: Kesari (Marathi), Mahratta (English)

Death: August 1, 1920


  1. Gopal Krishna Gokhale

Born: May 9, 1866, Kotluk village, Maharashtra


  • Advocated social reform, education, and peaceful struggle for freedom

Role in Colonial Legislatures

  • Bombay Legislative Council (1899-1902)
  • Imperial Legislative Council (1902-1915)
  • Played a key role in Morley-Minto reforms (1909)

Role in INC

  • Joined Moderate faction in 1889
  • President of INC (1905)
  • Despite differences, campaigned for Lal Lajpat Rai’s release (1907)

Other Works

  • Founded Servants of India Society (1905) for education
  • Associated with Sarvajanik Sabha journal
  • Established Ranade Institute of Economics (1908)
  • Started The Hitavada newspaper

Mentor to Gandhi

  • Considered Gandhi’s political guru
  • Gandhi dedicated a book titled “Dharmatma Gokhale” to him


  1. Kadambini Ganguly
  • Born: 1861
  • Died: 1923

Early Education and Achievements

  • Studied at Banga Mahila Vidyalaya and Bethune School
  • Became the first woman to pass the University of Calcutta entrance exam (1878)
  • Along with Chandramukhi Basu, became the first female graduates of Bethune College (1883) – also the first female graduates in India and the British Empire

Medical Career

  • First woman admitted to Calcutta Medical College (1884)
  • Trained in Scotland due to restrictions
  • Established a successful medical practice in India


  1. Lala Lajpat Rai

Born: January 28, 1865, Dhudike village, Punjab

Early Life and Influences

  • Studied law at Government College, Lahore
  • Joined Arya Samaj, influenced by Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Nationalist Leader

  • Formed Lal-Bal-Pal trio with Bipin Chandra Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak
  • Joined Indian National Congress, participated in agitations
  • Opposed Bengal partition, founded Home Rule League of America (1917)
  • Supported Non-Cooperation Movement, opposed Rowlatt Act and Jallianwala Bagh massacre
  • Died in 1928 from injuries sustained during a protest against the Simon Commission


  1. Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee

Early Life and Education (1844-1868)

  • Born: December 29, 1844, Calcutta (Kolkata)
  • Family: Brahmin family with a legal background
  • Education: Oriental Seminary and Hindu School (Calcutta)
  • Legal Training: Clerk at a law firm (1862), Middle Temple (London, 1864-1867)

Legal Career (1868-1906)

  • Barrister in Calcutta (1868)
  • First Indian Standing Counsel (1882, 1884, 1886, 1887)
  • Practiced law in England (later years)

Indian National Congress (1885-1892)

  • President of the INC (1885 Bombay session, 1892 Allahabad session)
  • Advocated for better provincial coordination within the INC
  • Criticized the British Salt Tax

Other Political Activities

  • Helped establish the London Indian Society (later merged with East India Association)
  • First Indian to contest a British Parliamentary seat (Barrow-in-Furness, 1892)

Later Life (1902-1906)

  • Returned to England with family (1902)
  • Died in Croydon, England (1906)


  1. Surendranath Banerjea
  • Born: November 10, 1848, Calcutta
  • Education: Calcutta University (1868)

Teaching Career and Inspiration

  • Professor of English (1875)
  • Influenced students with nationalistic ideas

Indian Association (1876)

  • Founded the Indian Association to unite Hindus and Muslims for political action
  • Promoted the concept of India as a unified political entity

National Conference (1883-1885)

  • Organized national conferences to discuss political issues
  • Paved the way for the Indian National Congress

Indian National Congress (1885-1906)

  • Played a key role in the INC’s formation
  • Served as President twice (1895, 1902)
  • Advocated for moderate reforms within the British Raj

Later Life (1906-1925)

  • Supported Montagu-Chelmsford reforms (1919)
  • Disagreed with Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement
  • Left Congress and accepted a knighthood (1919)

Died: 1925


  1. Dinshaw Wacha:

Industry and Politics:

  • Associated with cotton industry, President of Indian Merchants’ Chamber (1915)
  • Held positions in Bombay Legislative Council, Imperial Legislative Council, Council of State
  • Led Western India Liberal Association (1919-1927)

Indian National Congress:

  • Criticized lack of dedicated leadership
  • Praised Allan Hume’s role but argued against his dominance
  • Advocated for greater Indian involvement in Congress affairs


  1. Syed Ahmed Khan

Born: Delhi (1817)

  • Aristocratic family with ties to Mughal court
  • Educated in Quran and science, awarded honorary law degree later
  • Witnessed decline of Mughal Empire

Early Career

  • Rejected job offer from Mughal court, joined East India Company (1838)
  • Experienced loss of relatives in 1857 revolt
  • Authored “Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind” criticizing British policies in the revolt
  • Knighted by British government (1869)


  • Advocated for reconciliation of Western science with Quranic teachings
  • Believed in adaptability of religion and critical thinking
  • Promoted English education and opposed blind adherence to tradition
  • Advocated for interfaith understanding and authored “Commentary on the Holy Bible”


Educational Reforms:

  • Founded Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (MAOC, 1875), later Aligarh Muslim University
  • Established Aligarh Scientific Society to promote science among Muslims
  • Believed education was key to Muslim progress

Social Reforms:

  • Supported democratic ideals, free speech, and social reform
  • Advocated for women’s education and challenged practices like purdah and polygamy
  • Promoted religious tolerance and unity

Literary Works:

  • Authored “The Causes of the Indian Revolt” analyzing the 1857 rebellion
  • Published “Tahzebul Akhlaq” magazine to address social and religious issues


  • Discouraged Muslims from joining the National Movement, prioritizing education over politics
  • Views on separatism seen as contributing to the Two-Nation Theory


  • Died: Aligarh (1898)
  • Considered a pivotal figure in Muslim education and social reform in 19th century India





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