Although the Congress claimed to represent all Indians, many Muslims, fearful of the vast Hindu majority, began to withdraw from the Congress. The Congress was divided on approaches to economic reform; the conservatives favored cautious reform while the leftists, of which Jawaharlal Nehru was a leader, urged socialism. The great strength of the organization was shown in the provincial elections of 1937.
At the outbreak of World War II, the Congress voted for neutrality. When India came under Japanese attack, the Congress demanded immediate concessions from Great Britain toward a democratic government in return for cooperation in the war effort. The British responded by outlawing the organization and arresting its leaders. In the 1946 elections to the Indian constituent assembly, the Congress lost the Muslim vote to the Muslim League; it reluctantly accepted the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the formation of the state of Pakistan.
After partition the Congress, as the largest party, governed India under Nehru's leadership. The Congress successfully adjusted to its new role as a political party and won the majority of the seats in the next election. It retained this support into the 1960s. After Nehru's death, the party began to lose support. The leadership of Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, who became prime minister in 1966, was challenged by a powerful right-wing group within the Congress, and in 1969 the party formally split into two factions; one led by Morarji Desai, the other (New Congress) by Indira Gandhi.
In the 1971 national elections and the 1972 state elections Gandhi's faction won strong victories, but, in a reaction against her emergency rule, it lost the election of 1977. It was the first time the Congress had lost government control since independence. Gandhi (now with a new faction, Congress Indira) returned to power in the 1980 elections, called when the opposition coalition disintegrated.
After her assassination (1984), her son Rajiv Gandhi succeeded to the leadership. Although he led Congress to reelection in 1984, the party was defeated in 1989 because of scandals and became the major opposition party. Following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during the 1991 election campaign, P. V. Narasimha Rao became head of the party and, after Congress won a plurality in parliament later that year, prime minister. In 1996 scandal again led voters to reject Congress at the polls, but Rao remained party leader. Leadership soon passed to the ineffectual Sitaram Kesri, but in 1998 Rajiv Gandhi's widow, Sonia Gandhi, a political newcomer, was elected head of Congress and had some success in rebuilding party support among Muslims and the poor. Congress nonetheless did poorly in the 1999 elections. In 2004, however, Congress returned to power, but the foreign-born Gandhi declined to lead the new coalition government; Manmohan Singh, a former finance minister, became prime minister; the party remained in power, with a larger plurality, after the 2009 elections.
See S. Kochanek, The Congress Party of India (1968); A. M. Zaidi and S. Zaidi, The Encyclopaedia of the Indian National Congress (18 vol., 1976-83); B. N. Pande, A Concise History of the Indian National Congress, 1947-1985 (1986); P. Brass and F. Robinson, Indian National Congress 1885-1985 (1987).
In the pre-independence era, the congress was divided in two groups, moderate and activist. The moderates were more educated and wanted to win people's faith to rule over the country and enjoy the power which British was enjoying and eventually they achieved what they were looking for.
Founded in 1885 with the objective of obtaining a greater share in government for educated Indians, the Indian National Congress was initially not opposed to British rule. The Congress met once a year during December. Indeed, it was a Scotsman, Allan Octavian Hume, who brought about its first meeting in Bombay, with the approval of Lord Dufferin, the then-Viceroy.
Womesh Chandra Bonerjee was the first President of the INC. The first meeting was scheduled to be held in Pune, but due to a plague outbreak there, the meeting was later shifted to Bombay. The first Session of INC was held from 28-31 December 1885, and was attended by 72 delegates.
A few years down the line, the demands of INC became more radical in the face of constant opposition from the government, and the party became very active in the independence movement. By 1907 the party was split into two halves: the Garam Dal of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, or Extremists (literally "hot faction"), and the Naram Dal of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, or Moderates (literally "soft faction"), distinguished by their attitude towards the British. Under the influence of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Congress became the first integrated mass organization in the country, bringing together millions of people against the British.
In its time as the nation's leader in the freedom struggle, it produced the nation's greatest leaders. Before the Gandhi Era came leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Mohammed Ali Jinnah (later leader of the Muslim League and instrumental in the creation of Pakistan), all starting with the first legendary icon of Indians: Dadabhai Naoroji, the president of the sister Indian National Association and later the first Indian Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons. The Congress was transformed into a mass movement by Surendranath Banerjea and Sir Henry Cotton during the partition of Bengal in 1905 and the resultant Swadesi Movement. Gandhi came back from South Africa in 1915 and with the help of the pro-British group led by Ghokhale he through an extraordinary coup became the President of The Congress without any election and formed an alliance with the Khilafat Movement. In protest a number of leaders went out of Congress. Khilafat movement ended up in a disaster and The Congress was split. A number of leaders Chittaranjan Das, Annie Besant, Motilal Nehru, went out of The Congress to set up the Swaraj Party.
With the rise of Mahatma Gandhi's popularity and his Satyagraha art of revolution came Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (the nation's first Prime Minister), Dr. Rajendra Prasad (the nation's first President), Khan Mohammad Abbas Khan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Chakravarti Rajgopalachari, Jivatram Kripalani and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. With the already existing nationalistic feeling combined with Gandhi's popularity the Congress became a forceful mass organization in the country, bringing together millions of people by specifically working against caste differences, untouchability, poverty, and religious and ethnic boundaries. Although predominantly Hindu, it had members from virtually every religion, ethnic group, economic class and linguistic group. In 1939, Subhas Chandra Bose, the elected president in both 1938 and 1939 was expelled from the Congress for his socialist views and The Congress was reduced to a pro-Business group financed by the business houses of Birla and Bajaj. At the time of the Quit India movement, the Congress was undoubtedly the strongest political and revolutionary organization in India, but the Congress disassociated itself from the Quit India movement within a few days. The Indian National Congress could not claim to be the true representative of the Indian people as other parties were there as well particularly the Hindu Mahasabha, Azad Hind Sarkar, Forward Bloc.
The 1929 Lahore session under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru holds special significance as in this session "Poorna Swaraj" (complete independence) was declared as the goal of INC. The 26th January 1930 was declared as "Poorna Swaraj Diwas," Independence Day although the British remained in India a number of years longer. It was to commemorate this date particularly that The Indian Constitution was formally adopted on 26 January 1950 (even though it was passed on 26 November 1949).However in 1929 Srinivas Iyenger was expelled from the Congress for demanding full independence, not just home rule as demanded by Gandhi.
After the First World War the party became associated with Mahatma Gandhi, who remained its unofficial, spiritual leader and mass icon even as younger men and women became party president. The party was in many ways an umbrella organization, sheltering within itself radical socialists, traditionalists and even Hindu and Muslim conservatives, but all the socialists (including the Congress Socialist Party, Krishak Praja Party, Swarajya Party members) were expelled along with Subhas Chandra Bose in 1939 by Gandhi.
During the INA trials of 1946, the Congress helped to form the INA Defence Committee, which forcefully defended the case of the soldiers of the Azad Hind government. The committee declared the formation of the Congress' defence team for the INA and included famous lawyers of the time, including Bhulabhai Desai, Asaf Ali, and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Members of the Congress initially supported the sailors who led the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny. However they withdrew support at the critical juncture, when the mutiny failed.
After the murder of Gandhi in 1948, and the death of Sardar Patel in 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru was the sole remaining iconic national leader, and soon the situation became so that Nehru was key to the political potency and future of the Congress. Nehru embraced secularism, socialist economic policies and a non-aligned foreign policy, which became the hallmark of the modern Congress Party. Nehru's policies challenged the landed class, the business class and improved the position of religious minorities and lower caste Hindus. A generation of freedom fighting leaders were soon replaced by a generation of people who had grown up in the shadow of Nehru. Nehru led the Congress Party to consecutively majorities in the elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962.
After Nehru's death in 1964, the party's future first came into question. No leader was competitive enough to touch Nehru's iconic status, so the second-stage leadership mustered around the compromise candidate, the gentle, soft-spoken and Nehruvian Lal Bahadur Shastri. Shastri remained Prime Minister till his own death in 1966, and a broad Congress Party election opted for Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter, over the right-wing, conservative Morarji Desai . It is alleged that Indira Gandhi was selected because the old and corrupt congressmen wanted indira, who had a reputation in early years of being shy and reluctant, to be their outward face for the people while they could continue with their corrupt practices.
In 1955 in Awadi session the party adopted a socialistic pattern of society for India.
The first serious challenge to Congress hegemony came in 1967 when a united opposition, under the banner of Samyukt Vidhayak Dal, won control over several states in the Hindi belt. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Nehru, and Congress president, was then challenged by the majority of the party leadership. The conflict led to a split, and Indira launched a separate INC. Initially this party was known as Congress (R), but it soon came to be generally known as the New Congress. The official party became known as Indian National Congress (Organisation) led by Kamaraj. It was informally called the Old Congress. As Indira Priyadarshini had control over the state machinery, her faction was recognized as the "real" INC by the Election Commission of India, although her organization was the break-away group.
The split can in some ways be seen as a left-wing/right-wing division. Indira Gandhi wanted to use a populist agenda in order to mobilise popular support for the party. She raised slogans such as Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty), and wanted to develop closer ties with the Soviet Union. The regional party elites, who formed the INC(O), stood for a more conservative agenda, and distrusted Soviet help. INC(O) later merged into the Janata Party.
Gradually, Indira Gandhi grew more and more authoritarian. Following allegations of widespread rigging in the general elections, a court overturned Indira Gandhi's victory in the Parliamentary constituency. Facing growing opposition she proclaimed a state of National Emergency in 1975, curtailed the powers of the courts, and unleashed a police state.
After she lifted the emergency in 1977, more Congress factions were formed, the one remaining loyal to Indira Gandhi being popularly known as Congress(I) with an 'I' for Indira. The Congress (I) was routed in the general elections by the Janata Party, but the coalition government fell apart in two years. The Congress party returned to power in the ensuing 1980 elections. In 1984 Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, in revenge for Operation Blue Star. In the following days more than six thousand Sikhs were killed in the 1984 riots, mainly in Delhi, by activists and leaders of the Congress Party.
About the riots, the new PM and Indira's son, Rajiv Gandhi remarked, "When a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake."
After Indira, her son Rajiv Gandhi, took over as Congress leader and led the party to victory with a large majority in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. It governed from 1984-9 and then was defeated in the 1989 general election. Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated by the LTTE during the course of the election campaign in 1991. Following Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, P.V. Narasimha Rao succeeded him as Congress leader and became prime minister.
The 1990s was a period of prolonged crisis for the Congress. After gradually losing political influence the party asked the Rajiv Gandhi's widow, Sonia, to accept the position of Congress President. She refused at the time, and the Congress stuck with Narasimha Rao. Rao dramatically changed the party's traditionally socialist policies and introduced major economic reforms and liberalization, with the help of then Finance minister (and future Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh. Nonetheless, his involvement in the bribery of members of parliament(first found guilty in 2000 and on appeal was cleared of charges in 2002) was a major issue which led to the downfall of the Congress in 1996, and subsequently his fall out with other leaders in his own party and eventual exit from politics[?]. For all its follies, this Congress government is significant, in the sense, it provided a stable central government that brought back the economy on track.
Former treasurer Sitaram Kesri took over the reins of the party and oversaw the Congress support to the United Front governments that ran from 1996 - 1998. During his tenure, several key leaders broke away from the party, and serious infighting broke out among those left. In 1998, Sonia Gandhi finally accepted the post of Congress President, in a move that may have saved the party from extinction.
After her election as party leader, a section of the party, which objected to the choice, broke away and formed the Nationalist Congress Party. The use of "Congress (I)" continues to denote the party run by Indira Gandhi's successors. There have been repeated attempts by the Indian nationalist groups (such as the BJP) to discredit Sonia Gandhi's leadership on the basis of her foreign origin - she is Italian-born.
Although the Congress expedited the downfall of the NDA government in 1999 by promising an alternative, Ms. Gandhi's decision was followed by fresh elections and the Congress party's worst-ever tally in the lower house. The party spent the interval period forging alliances and overseeing changes in the state and central organizations to revive the party. It has had many electoral successes which led up to the formation of a Congress-led government in 2004.
In every Indian state and union territory or pradesh, there is a Pradesh Congress Committee, which is the provincial unit of the party, responsible for directing political campaigns at local and state levels and assisting the campaigns for Parliamentary constituencies. Each PCC has a Working Committee of 10-15 key members, and the state president is the leader of the state unit. The Congressmen elected as members of the states legislative assemblies form the Congress Legislature Parties in the various state assemblies, and their chairperson is usually the party's nominee for Chief Ministership.
The All India Congress Committee is formed of delegates sent from the PCCs around the country. The delegates elect various Congress committees, including the Congress Working Committee, which consists of senior party leaders and office bearers, and takes all important executive and political decisions.
The President of the Indian National Congress is in effect the party's national leader, head of the organization, head of the Working Committee and all chief Congress committees, chief spokesman and the Congress choice to become the Prime Minister of India.
Constitutionally, the president is to be elected by the vote of the PCCs and members of the AICC. However, this procedure has often been by-passed by the Working Committee, choosing to elect its own candidate as an emergency measure.
Congress is currently in power in five states (Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and Manipur) where the party enjoys a majority of its own. In four other states — Assam, Goa, Maharashtra and Pondicherry — it has shared the spoils of power with other alliance partners. In the remaining states and union territories, with the exception of Tamil Nadu, various opposition parties or blocks are in power. In Tamil Nadu, the party provides outside support to the ruling DMK.
|Name of President||Life Span||Year of Presidency||Place of Conference|
|Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee||December 29, 1844- 1906||1885||Bombay|
|Dadabhai Naoroji||September 4, 1825- 1917||1886||Calcutta|
|Badaruddin Taiyabji||October 10, 1844- 1906||1887||Madras|
|George Yule||1829- 1892||1888||Allahabad|
|Sir William Wedderburn||1838- 1918||1889||Bombay|
|Sir Pherozeshah Mehta||August 4, 1845- 1915||1890||Calcutta|
|P. Ananda Charlu||August 1843- 1908||1891||Nagpur|
|Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee||December 29, 1844- 1906||1892||Allahabad|
|Dadabhai Naoroji||September 4, 1848- 1925||1893||Lahore|
|Alfred Webb||1834- 1908||1894||Madras|
|Surendranath Banerjea||November 10, 1848- 1925||1895||Poona|
|Rahimtulla M. Sayani||April 5, 1847- 1902||1896||Calcutta|
|Sir C. Sankaran Nair||July 11, 1857- 1934||1897||Amraoti|
|Ananda Mohan Bose||September 23, 1847- 1906||1898||Madras|
|Romesh Chunder Dutt||August 13, 1848- 1909||1899||Lucknow|
|Sir Narayan Ganesh Chandavarkar||December 2, 1855- 1923||1900||Lahore|
|Sir Dinshaw Edulji Wacha||August 2, 1844- 1936||1901||Calcutta|
|Surendranath Banerjea||November 10, 1825- 1917||1902||Ahmedabad|
|Lalmohan Ghosh||1848- 1909||1903||Madras|
|Sir Henry Cotton||1845- 1915||1904||Mumbai|
|Gopal Krishna Gokhale||May 9, 1866- 1915||1905||Benares|
|Dadabhai Naoroji||September 4, 1825- 1917||1906||Calcutta|
|Rashbihari Ghosh||December 23, 1845- 1921||1907||Surat|
|Rashbihari Ghosh||December 23, 1845- 1921||1908||Madras|
|Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya||December 25, 1861- 1946||1909||Lahore|
|Sir William Wedderburn||1838- 1918||1910||Allahabad|
|Pandit Bishan Narayan Dar||1864- 1916||1911||Calcutta|
|Rao Bahadur Raghunath Narasinha Mudholkar||1857- 1921||1912||Bankipur|
|Nawab Syed Muhammad Bahadur||?- 1919||1913||Karachi|
|Bhupendra Nath Bose||1859- 1924||1914||Madras|
|Lord Satyendra Prasanna Sinha||March 1863- 1928||1915||Mumbai|
|Ambica Charan Mazumdar||1850- 1922||1916||Lucknow|
|Annie Besant||October 1, 1847- 1933||1917||Calcutta|
|Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya||December 25, 1861- 1946||1918||Delhi|
|Syed Hasan Imam||August 31, 1871- 1933||1918||Mumbai (Special Session)|
|Pandit Motilal Nehru||May 6, 1861- February 6, 1931||1919||Amritsar|
|Lala Lajpat Rai||January 28, 1865- November 17, 1928||1920||Calcutta (Special Session)|
|C. Vijayaraghavachariar Ismail||1852- April 19, 1944||1920||Nagpur|
|Hakim Ajmal Khan||1863- December 29, 1927||1921||Ahmedabad|
|Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das||November 5, 1870- June 16, 1925||1922||Gaya|
|Maulana Mohammad Ali||December 10, 1878- January 4, 1931||1923||Kakinada|
|Maulana Abul Kalam Azad||1888- February 22, 1958||1923||Delhi (Special Session)|
|Mahatma Gandhi||October 2, 1869- January 30, 1948||1924||Belgaum|
|Sarojini Naidu||February 13, 1879- March 2, 1949||1925||Kanpur|
|S. Srinivasa Iyengar||September 11, 1874- May 19, 1941||1926||Gauhati|
|Dr. M A Ansari||December 25, 1880- May 10, 1936||1927||Madras|
|Pandit Motilal Nehru||May 6, 1861- February 6, 1931||1928||Calcutta|
|Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru||November 14, 1889- May 27, 1964||1929 & 30||Lahore|
|Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel||October 31, 1875- December 15, 1950||1931||Karachi|
|Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya||December 25, 1861- 1946||1932||Delhi|
|Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya||December 25, 1861- 1946||1933||Calcutta|
|Nellie Sengupta||1886- 1973||1933||Calcutta|
|Dr. Rajendra Prasad||December 3, 1884- February 28, 1963||1934 & 35||Mumbai|
|Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru||November 14, 1889- May 27, 1964||1936||Lucknow|
|Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru||November 14, 1889- May 27, 1964||1936& 37||Faizpur|
|Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose||January 23, 1897- August 18, 1945?||1938||Haripura|
|Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose||January 23, 1897- August 18, 1945?||1939||Tripuri|
|Maulana Abul Kalam Azad||1888- February 22, 1958||1940-46||Ramgarh|
|Acharya J.B. Kripalani||1888- March 19, 1982||1947||Delhi|
|Dr Pattabhi Sitaraimayya||December 24, 1880- December 17, 1959||1948 & 49||Jaipur|
|Purushottam Das Tandon||August 1, 1882- July 1, 1961||1950||Nasik|
|Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru||November 14, 1889- May 27, 1964||1951 & 52||New Delhi|
|Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru||November 14, 1889- May 27, 1964||1953||Hyderabad|
|Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru||November 14, 1889- May 27, 1964||1954||Calcutta|
|U N Dhebar||September 21, 1905- 1977||1955||Avadi|
|U N Dhebar||September 21, 1905- 1977||1956||Amritsar|
|U N Dhebar||September 21, 1905- 1977||1957||Indore|
|U N Dhebar||September 21, 1905- 1977||1958||Gauhati|
|U N Dhebar||September 21, 1905- 1977||1959||Nagpur|
|Indira Gandhi||November 19, 1917- October 31, 1984||1959||New Delhi|
|Neelam Sanjiva Reddy||May 19, 1913- June 1, 1996||1960||Bangalore|
|Neelam Sanjiva Reddy||May 19, 1913- June 1, 1996||1961||Bhavnagar|
|Neelam Sanjiva Reddy||May 19, 1913- June 1, 1996||1962 & 63||Patna|
|K. Kamaraj||July 15, 1903- October 2, 1975||1964||Bhubaneswar|
|K. Kamaraj||July 15, 1903- October 2, 1975||1965||Durgapur|
|K. Kamaraj||July 15, 1903- October 2, 1975||1966 & 67||Jaipur|
|S. Nijalingappa||December 10, 1902- August 9, 2000||1968||Hyderabad|
|S. Nijalingappa||December 10, 1902- August 9, 2000||1969||Faridabad|
|Jagjivan Ram||April 5, 1908- July 6, 1986||1970 & 71||Mumbai|
|Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma||August 19, 1918- December 26, 1999||1972- 74||Calcutta|
|Dev Kant Baruah||February 22, 1914- 1996||1975- 77||Chandigarh|
|Indira Gandhi||November 19, 1917- October 31, 1984||1978- 83||New Delhi|
|Indira Gandhi||November 19, 1917- October 31, 1984||1983 -84||Calcutta|
|Rajiv Gandhi||August 20, 1944- May 21, 1991||1985 -91||Mumbai|
|P. V. Narasimha Rao||June 28, 1921- December 23, 2004||1992 -96||Tirupati|
|Sitaram Kesri||November 1919- October 24, 2000||1997 -98||Calcutta|
|Sonia Gandhi||December 9, 1946-||1998-present|