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What Is a Case Study?

When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.

Deep Dive into a Topic

At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.

As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.

Study a Pattern

One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.

Gather Evidence

During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.

Present Findings

As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.

Draw Conclusions

Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.


write a case study for indian national congress in 200 words

  • IAS Preparation
  • This Day in History
  • This Day In History Dec - 28

Formation of Indian National Congress - [December 28, 1885] This Day in History

28 December 1885

The Indian National Congress was formed.

What happened?

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.

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Indian National Congress Formation

  • 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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Indian National Congress

India was the journal produced by the British Committee of the Indian National Congress . It began as a monthly journal and then became a weekly digest. The British Committee of the Indian National Congress was made up of British men interested in India and some Indians who were based in London. They sought to organize sympathizers to Congress in Britain, write and distribute Congress annual reports and literature, and raise Congress petitions in Parliament through the Indian Parliamentary Committee, chaired by William Wedderburn. The journal was used for some of these purposes and to give an accurate account of events in India to British readers.

It was edited by British individuals: William Digby (1890-92), Morse Stephens (1893), Gordon Hewart (1893-1905), J. Muirhead (Prof.) (1905-6), H. E. A. Cotton (1906-19), H. S. Polak (1919-20).

India: A Journal for the Discussion of Indian Affairs India: A Record and Review of Indian Affairs

Kaul, Chandrika, Reporting the Raj: The British Press and India c.1880-1922 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003)

Owen, Nicholas, The British Left and India: Metropolitan Anti-Imperialism, 1885-1847 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

League Against Imperialism

The roots of the League Against Imperialism (LAI) lay in the Second Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) in July 1920, which considered the formulation of a colonial policy, and included a debate between Lenin and Manabendra Nath Roy, founder of India’s Communist Party. Some years of debate over the viability of an international union to fight imperialism followed. A joint meeting of the Workers’ International Relief and the Committee Against Atrocities in Syria in February 1926 resulted in the formation of a League Against Colonial Oppression, a precursor to the LAI.

In Brussels in 1927 the LAI was officially founded in the presence of key international political figures, including Jawaharlal Nehru , General Secretary of the Indian National Congress . Shapurji Saklatvala had attended the meeting in the House of Commons to decide on the British delegation, but was not himself present in Brussels, although his name was added to the minutes. Messages of support for the LAI were sent by Albert Einstein, Victor Margueritte and M. K. Gandhi . A Sino-Indian declaration of solidarity, drafted by Nehru, was signed at the congress. The League’s stated aim was to ‘deter imperialist governments from oppressing weak nations’.

Just two months after the Brussels Congress the Government of India banned LAI literature from entering India, but the All-India Congress Committee recommended in May 1927 that the Indian National Congress (INC) seek membership of the LAI, ratified in December 1927. Controversies over the exact political affiliation of the LAI continued for some years, and by 1931 many members had left or been expelled from the League. In April 1930, Nehru , stung by condemnation of the Delhi Manifesto by members of the LAI, directed Congress to cease all correspondence with the LAI; Nehru was expelled from the LAI the following year.

The LAI in Britain consistently exploited the Labour Party’s uncertain commitment to the anti-imperialist cause, offering a practical alternative to socialist rhetoric. Furthermore, the LAI claimed that economic troubles in England including rising unemployment were directly related to capitalist investment and involvement in Empire. The British Section of the LAI was held to be one of the most active, particularly in its India operations. These included streams of resolutions, petitions and articles as well as demonstrations and meetings. One such meeting in October 1928 in Limehouse Town Hall protested against the Labour Party’s participation in the Simon Commission , and was attended by Tarini Sinha, member of the Indian Office of the ILP, Sarojini Naidu and Maulana Mohammed Ali, members of the INC.

Ultimately, suspicions of the LAI’s Communist affiliation brought about its downfall, alongside the difficulties of aligning various nationalist movements with different forms of socialism. In December 1931 the LAI’s headquarters in Berlin were raided, and the League then moved to Paris for some months before settling in London. By the mid-1930s, however, the League was barely an international organization, membership had fallen in most countries, and the decision to cease activities was taken early in 1937.

Report of the National Conference of the League Against Imperialism, British Section, February 1931. (London: The League against Imperialism, 1931).

Report of the National Conference of the League Against Imperialism, British Section, February 1931 (London: The League against Imperialism, 1931), p. 13

Precursor: League Against Colonial Oppression Original title: League Against Imperialism and For National Independence

Bush, Barbara, Imperialism, Race and Resistance: Africa and Britain, 1919-1945 (London and New York: Routledge, 1999)

Haithcox, John Patrick, Communism and Nationalism in India: M. N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920-39 (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1971)

Hargreaves, John D, ‘The Comintern and Anti-Colonialism: New Research Opportunities’, African Affairs 92.367 (Apr. 1993), (Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal African Society), pp. 255-61.

Howe, Stephen, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918-1964 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)

Jones, Jean, The League Against Imperialism , Socialist History Society Occasional Pamphlet Series No. 4 , (Preston: Lancashire Community Press, 1996)

Saville, John, ‘Reginald Bridgeman,’ in Joyce M. Bellamy and John Saville (eds.) Dictionary of Labour Biography , VII (London: 1984), pp. 40-50.

A snapshot of the attitudes and motivations of the British Section of the LAI. This extract is on contemporary interpretations of the movement towards independence in India

In the discussion… a delegate from the Indian Freedom League said that Labour Party leaders in Britain had deserted the struggle against imperialism, but that in India Gandhi had created a psychology of revolt which will never die, even if Gandhi and the leaders of the Indian National Congress were to betray the struggle by compromise with the British Government. Other speakers showed that the great movement of mass revolt in India had arisen not because of Gandhi, but in spite of his policy and that Jawaharlal Nehru, who had said that Indian should not discuss conditions of self-government while British troops remained in India, was now supporting Gandhi in negotiations with the Viceroy. The Congress leaders had done nothing to establish the League in India, although this was proposed at Brussels in 1927.

Indian Delegation, 1927 Brussels Congress:

Virendranath Chattopadhyaya , J. Naidu (Association of Indians in Central Europe), A. C. N. Nambiar (Association of Indian Journalists), Jawaharlal Nehru (member of Executive Committee of LAI), Bakar Ali Mirza (Indian Oxford Union), Tarini Sinha (Indian Office of the ILP),

English Delegation, 1927 Brussels Congress (selected members):

Reginald Bridgeman, Shapurji Saklatvala (member of LAI)

LAI in Britain: Ben Bradley (secretary 1934-40), Bhabani Bhattacharya , Fenner Brockway (chairman, 1928), Clemens Palme Dutt (member of the executive committee of the British Section of the LAI)

The International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. Their main website,, gives a list of materials relating to the LAI

1942 Quit India Movement

Gowalia Tank Maidan, Bombay, India

On 8 August 1942 at the All-India Congress Committee session in Bombay, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched the 'Quit India' movement. The next day, Gandhi, Nehru  and many other leaders of the Indian National Congress  were arrested by the British Government. Disorderly and non-violent demonstrations took place throughout the country in the following days.

By the middle of 1942, Japanese troops were approaching the borders of India. Pressure was mounting from China, the United States and  Britain to solve the issue of  the future status of India before the end of the war. In March 1942, the Prime Minister dispatched Sir Stafford Cripps , a member of the War Cabinet, to India to discuss the British Government's Draft Declaration. The draft granted India Dominion status after the war but otherwise conceded few changes to the British Government Act of 1935. The draft was unacceptable to the Congress Working Committee who rejected it. The failure of the Cripps Mission further estranged the Congress and the British Government.

Gandhi seized upon the failure of the Cripps Mission , the advances of the Japanese in South-East Asia and the general frustration with the British in India. He called for a voluntary British withdrawal from India. From 29 April to 1 May 1942, the All India Congress Committee assembled in Allahabad to discuss the resolution of the Working Committee. Although Gandhi was absent from the meeting, many of his points were admitted into the resolution: the most significant of them being the commitment to non-violence. On 14 July 1942, the Congress Working Committee met again at Wardha and resolved that it would authorise Gandhi to take charge of the non-violent mass movement. The Resolution, generally referred to as the 'Quit India' resolution, was to be approved by the All India Congress Committee meeting in Bombay in August.

On 7 to 8 August 1942, the All India Congress Committee met in Bombay and ratified the 'Quit India' resolution. Gandhi called for 'Do or Die'. The next day, on 9 August 1942, Gandhi, members of the Congress Working Committee and other Congress leaders were arrested by the British Government under the Defence of India Rules. The Working Committee, the All India Congress Committee and the four Provincial Congress Committees were declared unlawful associations under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908. The assembly of public meetings were prohibited under rule 56 of the Defence of India Rules. The arrest of Gandhi and the Congress leaders led to mass demonstrations  throughout India. Thousands were killed and injured in the wake of the 'Quit India' movement. Strikes were called in many places. The British swiftly suppressed many of these demonstrations by mass detentions; more than 100,000 people were imprisoned.

The 'Quit India' movement, more than anything, united the Indian people against British rule. Although most demonstrations had been suppressed by 1944, upon his release in 1944 Gandhi continued his resistance and went on a 21-day fast. By the end of the Second World War , Britain's place in the world had changed dramatically and the demand for independence could no longer be ignored.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose , Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , Mohammed Ali Jinnah , Asoka Mehta, Jaya Prakas Narayan,  Jawaharlal Nehru , Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Chakravarti Rajgopalachari.

Gandhi, Mahatma, Quit India , ed. by R. K. Prabhu and U. R. Rao (Bombay: Padma Publications, 1942)

Bakshi, Rakesh Ranjan, Quit India Movement in U. P.: Sabotage, Bomb, and Conspiracy Cases (Sitapur: NP Publishers, 1992) 

Bakshi, S. R., Congress and Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Criterion Publications, 1986)

Basavapunnaiah, M., Quit India Call and the Role of the Communists: A Reply to Arun Shourie (New Delhi: National Book Centre, 1984)

Bhaskaran, Krishna, Quit India Movement: A People's Revolt in Maharashtra (Mumbai: Himalaya Publishing House, 1999)

Bhuyan, Arun Chandra, The Quit India Movement: The Second World War and Indian Nationalism (New Delhi: Manas Publications, 1975)

Chakrabarty, Bidyut, Local Politics and Indian Nationalism: Midnapur, 1919-1944 ( New Delhi: Manohar, 1997)

Chakravarty, Shachi, Quit India Movement: A Study (Delhi: New Century Publications, 2002)

Chaudhari, K. K., Quit India Revolution: The Ethos of Its Central Direction (Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1996)

Chopra, P. N., Historic Judgement On Quit India Movement: Justice Wickenden's Report (Delhi: Konark Publishers, 1989)

Chopra, P. N., Quit India Movement: British Secret Report (Faridabad: Thomson Press, 1976)

Congress Responisibility for the Disturbances, 1942-43 (Delhi: Manager of Publications, 1943)

Desai, Sanjiv P., Calendar of the 'Quit India' Movement in the Bombay Presidency (Bombay: Department of Archives, Government of Maharashtra, 1995)

Dwivedi, Surendranath, Untold Story of August Revolution (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1993)

Goyal, P. K., Battle of India's Freedom Movement (Delhi: Vista International Publishing House, 2005)

Hutchins, Francis G., India's Revolution: Gandhi and the Quit India Movement (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973)

Hutchins, Francis G., Spontaneous Revolution: The Quit India Movement (Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1971)

Jana, Anil Kumar, Quit India Movement in Bengal: A Study of Contai Subdivision  (Delhi: Indian Publishers' Distributors, 1996)

Kamath, Suryanath U., Quit India Movement in Karnataka (Bangalore: Lipi Prakashana, 1988)

Kamtekar, Indivar, What Caused the 'Quit India' Movement? (Calcutta: Indian Institute of Management, 1990)

Kumar, Ravindra, Champaran to Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Mittal, 2002)

Limaye, Madhu, The August Struggle: An Appraisal of Quit India Movement (Bombay: Sindhu Publications, 1993)

Limaye, Sirubhau, Nau Ogasta (Pune: Manasanmana Prakasana, 1996)

Maity, Pradyot Kumar, Quit India Movement in Bengal and the Tamralipta Jatiya Sarkar (Tumluk, Purba Medinipur: Purvadri Prakasani, 2002)

Malhotra, S. L., From Civil Disobedience to Quit India: Gandhi and the Freedom Movement in Punjab and Haryana, 1932-1942 (Chandigarh: Punjab University Publication Bureau, 1979)

Mathur, Y. B., Quit India Movement (Delhi: Pragati Publications, 1979)

Mehta, Chitra P., I Fought for My Country's Freedom: Being an Inspiring and Instructive Story of the Part Played by a Young Non-Violent Soldier in the Historic Indian Struggle for Freedom of 1942-44 (Bombay: Hamara Hindoostan Publications, 1946)

Naidu, C. M., Mahatma Gandhi's Leadership and Quit India Movement in Coastal India (Visakhapatnam: C. M. Naidu, 1996)

Nimbkar, Krishnabai, Pages from a Quit India Freedom Fighter's Diary (1944-45) (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1996)

Pandey, Gyanendra, The Indian Nation in 1942 (Calcutta: Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta & K. P. Bagchi, 1988)

Panigrahi, D. N., Quit India and the Struggle for Freedom (New Delhi: Vikas, 1984)

Pati, Biswamoy, Turbulent Times, India, 1940-44 (Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1998)

Patil, V. T., Gandhi, Nehru and the Quit India Movement (Delhi: B. R. Pub. Corp., 1984)

Pattanayaka, Jagannatha, Landmarks of Quit India Movement in Orissa (Cuttack: Orissa State Freedom Fighters' Samity, 1992)

Ramu, P. S., Gandhi-Subhas and 'Quit India' (Delhi: S. S. Publishers, 1995)

Ramu, P. S., Prelude to 'Quit India': Home Rule to Satyagraha (Delhi: S. S. Publishers, 1996)

Rath, Bijay Chandra, Quit India Movement in Orissa (Cuttack: Arya Prakashan, 1994)

Roy, Pankaj Kumar, The Quit India Movement in Bihar: The Special Reference to the Old Division of Bhagalpur (Delhi: Capital Publishing House, 1991)

Sarkar, Kalyan Kumar, The 'Quit India' Movement in the District of Nadia (Calcutta: Barnali, 1988)

Sengupta, Syamalendu, and Gautam Chatterjee, Secret Congress Broadcasts and Storming Railway Tracks during Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Navrang, 1988)  

Sharma, Alka, History of Modern India: The Quit India Movement (Delhi: H. K. Publications, 1992)

Shourie, Arun, 'The Only Fatherland': Communists, 'Quit India', and the Sovjet Union (New Delhi: ASA Publications, 1991)

Shukla, Vivekananda, Rebellion of 1942: Quit India Movement (Delhi: H. K. Publishers and Dsitributors, 1989)

Thomas, Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi and the Communal Problem: From the Khalifat Movement to Quit India (New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 1983)

The Transfer of Power, 1942-7 (London: H. M. S. O., 1971)

Venkataramani, M. S., Quit India: The American Reponse to the 1942 Struggle   (New Delhi: Vikas, 1979)

Wolpert, Stanley, Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Zaidi, A. M., Defying a Distant King: A Study of the Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Publications Department, Indian Institute of Applied Political Research, 1986)

Zaidi, A. M., The Way Out to Freedom: An Enquiry Into the Quit India Movement Conducted by Participants (New Delhi: Orientalia, 1973)

Alfred Webb

Alfred Webb was an Irish nationalist. He was elected MP for West Waterford in 1890 for the Irish Parliamentary Party. Waterford West was a UK parliamentary constituency for Ireland from 1885 to 1918. Webb was elected again in 1892 on an anti-Parnell ticket. He became a member of the Indian parliamentary party set up by William Wedderburn following the election of Dadabhai Naoroji .

Webb resigned from Parliament in 1895 but remained involved in Irish and Indian nationalist politics. During a visit to India in 1898 he was elected President of the Indian National Congress .

Dadabhai Naoroji

Legg, Marie-Louise (ed.), Alfred Webb: The Autobiography of a Quaker nationalist (Cork: Cork University Press, 1999)

O'Donoghue, D. J., ‘Webb, Alfred John (1834–1908)’, rev. Alan O'Day, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Regan-Lefebvre, Jennifer, Cosmopolitan Nationalism in the Victorian Empire: Ireland, India and the Politics of Alfred Webb (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

National Library, Ireland

Trinity College, Dublin

Religious Society of Friends, Dublin

Alfred John Webb

S. P. Sinha

Satyendra Prasanno Sinha was born in Raipur in Bengal in 1863. He entered Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1878, married Gobinda Mohini, with whom he had four sons and three daughters, in 1880, and left for England in 1881 without taking a degree.

In England he joined Lincoln's Inn where he won a scholarship of £50 a year for four years to study Roman Law, Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law and International Law. Later he also won the Lincoln's Inn scholarship of £100 for three years. Sinha was called to the Bar in 1886 and finished his education by touring the European continent. In 1886, he returned to Calcutta where he joined the City College as a lecturer in law and he also practised as a barrister.

In 1905 Sinha was appointed as advocate-general of Bengal, a post that was confirmed in 1908, and in 1909 Lord Morley appointed him legal member of the Governor-General's Executive Council, the first Indian in this position. In 1915 he was elected President of the Indian National Congress . In 1917, Sinha returned to England to work for Secretary of State, E. S. Montagu, first as an assistant, and later as a member of the Imperial War Cabinet and Conference along with the Maharaja of Bikanir. In London he stayed with William Wedderburn for a few days. He received the freedom of the City of London in 1917, took a place on the King's Counsel in 1918 (the first Indian to do so), and in 1926 was made a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. In 1919, he was made Under-Secretary of State for India, raised to the peerage of Baron Sinha of Raipur and saw the Government of India Act of 1919 through the House of Lords. He returned to India in 1920.

It is known that his third son, Sushil Kumar, studied at Colet Prepatory School in Hammersmith (1907-9), St Paul's School, London (1909-13) and Balliol College, Oxford (1913-7) and joined the Indian Civil Service but appeared to settle in England. In 1926, Sinha joined the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London but his health forced him to winter in India. He died in Berhampore, Bengal, on 4 March 1928.

The Future of India: Presidential Address to the Indian National Congress, 1915 (London: J. Truscott & Son, 1916)

The Insistent Claims of Indian Reform: Speeches at the Banquet in London to Lord Sinha on 7th March 1919 (London: P. L. Warner, 1919)

Speeches and Writings of Lord Sinha, with a Portrait and a Sketch (Madras: G. A. Natesan and Co., 1919)

Maharaja of Bikanir (collegue in the Imperial War Cabinet and Conference Cabinet), E. S. Montagu, Lord Morley, Bhupinder Singh (Maharaja of Patiala), William Wedderburn.

The Bengalee (member of editorial board)

Cokayne, G. E., The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs and others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)

FitzGerald, S. V., 'Sinha, Satyendra Prasanno, first Baron Sinha (1863-1928)', rev. Tapan Raychaudhuri, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Husainy, Abi, 'Pulling it all together: case study of Lord Satyendra Prasanna Sinha (1863-1928)',

Sen, S. P., Dictionary of National Biography (Calcutta: Institute of Historical Studies, 1972-74)

Sengupta, S., and Basu, A., Samsada Bangali Caritabidhana (Kalikata: Sahitya Samsad, 1976)

Sir S. P. Sinha: A Sketch of His Life and Career (Madras: Natesan, 1918)

Official papers relating to the Paris peace conference, Mss Eur F 281, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Letters to Lord Carmichael and W. R. Gourlay, Hardinge MSS, Cambridge University Library

National Archives of India, New Delhi

Nehru Memorial Library, New Delhi

Satyendra Prasanno Sinha

Satyendra Prasanna Sinha

1881-6, 1917-20, 1926

Lalmohan Ghose

Called to the Bar.

Stood as Liberal Candidate for Deptford in 1885 General Election, but was defeated.

Member of Indian National Congress and President in 1903 Madras Session.

W. C. Bonnerjee , R. C. Dutt , Dadabhai Naoroji .

Kentish Mercury , 8 May 1885, 16 October 1885

Craig, F. W. S. (ed.), British Parliamentary Election Results 1885-1918 (London: Macmillan, 1974)

Dutt, R. C., Three Years in Europe (Calcutta: S. K. Lahiri & Co., 1890)

Mehrotra, S. R., The Emergence of the Indian National Congress (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Visram, Rozina, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: Indians in Britain, 1700–1947 (London: Pluto Press, 1986)

Lal Mohun Ghose

Lal Mohan Ghose

Lalmohan Ghosh

1869-72, 1879-80

Ananda Mohun Bose

Ananda Mohun Bose studied mathematics at the University of Cambridge from 1870. He earned a First Class degree and was the first Indian wrangler. While in Britain, Bose also studied to become a barrister and was called to the Bar in 1874.

Bose was a member of the Brahmo Samaj and had travelled to Britain in February 1870 with Keshub Chunder Sen . He formed a friendship with Sophia Dobson Collett and interested her in the Brahmo Samaj.

Upon his return to India in 1874, Bose joined the Calcutta High Court. He had become friends with Surendranath Banerjea in England in 1871. When Banerjea was unfairly dismissed from the ICS in 1874, Bose tried to help him. Together they formed the Indian National Association to campaign to raise the minimum age for Indian candidates in the Indian Civil Service. This organization is seen by some historians as a prototype nationalist organization. When the Indian National Congress was founded in 1885, Bose became a member. He was President of the 14th Session in 1898 at Madras.

Bose returned to Britain in 1897 to enrol his two sons into university. He took a tour of Britain delivering speeches about the Brahmo Samaj. He died in 1905, following the partition of Bengal.

Surendranath Banerjea , Jagadish Chandra Bose , Keshub Chunder Sen .

Gupta, V. P., and Gupta, Mohini, A Dictionary of Freedom Fighters (New Delhi: Radha Publications, 1999)

Sarkar, Hem Chandra, A Life of Ananda Mohan Bose (Calcutta: A. C. Sarkar, 1910)

Ananda Mohan Bose

February 1870 - September 1874

M. R. Jayakar

M. R. Jayakar was a barrister, Federal Court Judge (1937-9) and member of the Bombay Legislative Assembly. He had been called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in London in 1905. In the 1930s he sent his son, Jayapal , to study in Oxford, having failed to gain admission to Oxford in the early twentieth century himself.

Jayakar became heavily involved in nationalist politics in India. He was known for his sympathies with the Hindu Mahasabha, clashing with Mohammed Ali Jinnah . He was a member of the Hindu Missionary Society in Bombay and leader of the Swaraj Party for a short time, resigning in 1925. In 1930, Jayakar and Tej Bahadur Sapru were involved in negotiations between Congress and the Government when Motilal Nehru and other Congress members were imprisoned. These negotiations are said to have led to the Gandhi-Irwin Pact of March 1931 whereby Congress members were released from prison in return for the discontinuation of non-cooperation; the salt tax was removed and Congress members would be represented at the next Round Table Conference . Jayakar was a member of the Judicial Privy Council in London and attended the Round Table Conference in London in 1931.

Jayakar was known for his educationist and philanthropist work. He received an honorary DCL from Oxford University in 1938, upon the recommendation of E. J. Thompson . He was Vice-Chancellor of Poona University from 1948 upon its foundation, until his retirement in 1955.

Social Reform and Social Service (Madras: Theosophical Society, 1917)

(ed.) Kirtikar, V. J., Studies in Vedanta (Bombay: Taraporevala, 1924)

The Story of My Life (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1958)

Isaac Foot, M. K. Gandhi , Lord Irwin, Jayapal Jayakar (son), M. A. Jinnah , George Lansbury, Sir Francis Low, Jawaharlal Nehru , Motilal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, E. J. Thompson , Sir Evelyn Wrench.

Letter to Times of India , 22 May 1931, criticising India Society and promotion of Bengal school of art

Bakshi, S. R. (ed.), M. R. Jayakar (New Delhi: Anmol, 1994)

Brown, Judith M., Gandhi’s Rise to Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972)

Dhanki, Joginder Singh (ed.), Perspectives on Indian National Movement: Selected Correspondence of Lala Lajpat Rai (New Delhi: National Book Organisation, 1998)

Israel, Milton, Communications and Power: Propaganda and the Press in the Indian Nationalist Struggle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Kulkarni, V. B., M. R. Jayakar (New Delhi: Government of India, 1970)

Lahiri, Shompa, Indians in Britain: Anglo-Indian Encounters, Race and Identity, 1880-1939 (London: Frank Cass, 2000)

Mitter, Partha, The Triumph of Modernism (London: Reaktion, 2007)

Nehru, Jawaharlal, An Autobiography: With Musings on Recent Events in India (London: Bodley Head, 1936)

Portrait (taken 8 September 1931 by Bassano) and portrait of son (1939-40), National Portrait Gallery, London

Letter to Attlee, Attlee Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Correspondence with E. J. Thompson, Thompson Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Correspondence with George Lansbury, LSE Archives, London

Letter to Friends House, Mss Eur C170, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Files relating to conversations with Congress leaders, and relating to the Round Table Conference, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Papers, National Archives of India, Delhi  

Round Table Conference , 1931-2

Mukund Ramrao Jayakar

1903-5, 1931, 1932, 1938

London – Carlton Hotel and Dorchester Hotel (1931)

W. C. Bonnerjee

Woomes Chunder Bonnerjee was the son of Girish Chunder Bonnerjee, an attorney, and his wife, Saraswati Devi. He was educated at the Oriental Seminary and the Hindu School, Calcutta. Concerned at his negligence, his father removed him from school and in 1861 articled him to a local British solicitor. Bonnerjee won a government scholarship to study Law in England in 1864 and lodged at 108 Denbigh Street, St George's Road, London. He was admitted a student of  Middle Temple on 19 November 1864 and was called to the Bar on 11 June 1867. He was a founder and Secretary of the London Indian Society , and advocated representative and responsible government in India. He then became a member of the East India Association , which superseded the London Indian Society.

Bonnerjee left England in 1868, and on 12 November was enrolled as an advocate at the Calcutta High Court. He became involved with Calcutta University; he was a member of its syndicate, President of its Faculty of Law (1884), and its first representative on the Legislative Council (1894–5). Bonnerjee was one of the founder-members of the Indian National Congress in December 1885. Proposed by Allan Octavian Hume, he was unanimously elected the first President. In the meantime, Bonnerjee travelled between India and Britain: he sent his four-year old son Shelley, and young Nolini and Susie to be educated in Britain in 1874. He and his wife, Hemangini, travelled to and fro, bringing their children to be educated in Britain. In 1888 Hemangini settled permanently in London.

Wealthy from the Bar, Bonnerjee, in about 1890, bought a large house, 8 Bedford Park, Croydon, Surrey, which he named Kidderpore. Bonnerjee lived partly in England and partly in India until 1902, thereafter living mostly at Croydon and practising before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He died at his home, Kidderpore, on 21 July 1906. Although Hemangini had converted to Christianity, W. C. Bonnerjee had remained a Hindu, but was given a non-religious burial in England, as according to his wishes. Hemangini returned to India after his death and died in 1910. Their descendents live in India and Britain.

Reform of the Hindu Marriage Laws: A Paper Read at a Meeting Held on the 26th of November 1867 and Reprinted from the Journal of the East India Association (London: Macmillan, 1868)

The Hindu Wills Act, Act Xxi of 1870 (Calcutta, 1871)

Indian Politics: A Collection of Essays and Addresses. With an Introduction by W. C. Bonnerjee (Madras: G. A. Natesan & Co., 1898)

Surendranath Banerjea (Bonnerjee defended Banerjea in 1883), Hemangini Bonnerjee (wife), Janaki Agnes Penelope Majumdar (daughter), Kamal Krishna Shelley Bonnerjee (son), Ratna Krishna Curran Bonnerjee (son), Noline Héloise Bonnerjee (daughter), Pramilla Bonnerjee (daughter), Susila Anita Bonnerjee (daughter), Revd Pitt Bonarjee (cousin), Romesh Chunder Dutt , Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji , Badruddin Tyabji .

Journal of the East India Association 1.1 (Jul. 1867) [transcripts of first EIA annual meeting in which W. C. Bonnerjee was involved]

Banerji, K. L., Life, Letters and Speeches of W. C. Bonnerjee (Calcutta: 1923) 

Bonnerjee, Sadhona, Life of W.C. Bonnerjee: First President of the Indian National Congress (Calcutta: Bhowanipore Press, 1944)

Craig, F. W. S., British Parliamentary Election Results 1885-1918 ([S. l.]: Macmillan, 1974)

Foster, Joseph, Men-at-the-Bar: A Biographical Hand-List of the Members of the Various Inns of Court, Including Her Majesty's Judges, Etc ([S.l.]: Reeves and Turner, 1885)

Ghose, Manmatha Nath, W. C. Bonnerjee - the First and Eighth President of Indian National Congress. Snapshots from His Life and His London Letters. Vol. 1 ... Revised by Manmatha Nath Ghose (Calcutta: Deshbandhu Book Depot, 1944)

Lahiri, Shompa, Indians in Britain: Anglo-Indian Encounters, Race and Identity, 1880-1930 (London: Frank Cass, 2000)

Majumdar, Janaki Agnes Penelope, Family History , ed. and introduction by Antoinette Burton (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Mukherjee, Manicklal, W. C. Bonnerjee: Snapshots from his Life and his London Letters (Calcutta: Deshbandu Book Depot, 1944)

Sanyal, Ram Gopal, A General Biography of Bengali Celebrities, both living and dead (Calcutta: U. C. Chuckerbutty, 1889)

Stearn, Roger T., ' Bonnerjee, Woomes Chunder (1844–1906)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Sturgess, H. A. C., Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, from the Fifteenth Century to the Year 1944 (London: Published for the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple by Butterworth, 1949)

Virabhadraravu, Adiraju, Jivita Caritavali = Lives of Great Men: Mudati Bhagamu (Madras: A. Virabhadraravu, 1913)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

Woomes Chunder Bonnerjee

Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee

1864-8, 1888, 1890-1902 (on and off), 1902-6

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar, Kanthiawar, India, to father Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi and his fourth wife Putlibai. In 1882 he married Kasturbai Makanji, with whom he had five children. Gandhi enrolled at Samaldas College, Bhaunagar, in 1887 but left after one term. However, he was encouraged to go to London to study law and he left for London on 4 September 1888.

Arriving on 29 September 1888, Gandhi immediately went to the Victoria Hotel before relocating briefly to the suburb of Richmond and eventually settling in a room in West Kensington for a year. At first, he tried to become an 'English gentleman' but after a few months realized that he had to cut his expenditures and gave up most of his new habits. Besides his law studies he passed the University of London matriculation examination in June 1890. Gandhi did not participate in the newly established British Committee of the Indian National Congress but did attend meetings of the London Indian Society . He also attended meetings of the Anjuman-e-Islam (after 1903 called the Pan-Islamic Society), the National Indian Association , and the Northbrook Indian Society . He passed his Roman law examination in March 1890 and passed the Bar finals in January 1891. Before leaving for London, Gandhi had promised his mother not to eat meat. He found it difficult at first but soon discovered vegetarian restaurants and joined the London Vegetarian Society. He often wrote for their journal the Vegetarian  and became a member of the Executive Committee on 19 September 1890.   Gandhi had also come into contact with the Theosophical Society in 1889, and was introduced to Annie Besant before he left London on 12 June 1891.

He lived in India until 1893 when he left for South Africa to practice law. It was here he raised his family, established himself as a lawyer and then a political activist fighting the discrimination of Asians in Africa. By 1906, he had emerged as the spokesman of Indians in Natal and Transvaal and in October that year he was once again in London to speak on behalf of the Indian community. In London he met with Lord Elgin to discuss the rights of Indians in South Africa, but upon his return in December 1906, Gandhi was disappointed. Imperial politics brought Gandhi to London again in July 1909. However, what concerned Gandhi the most this time was the status of highly educated Indians. In August, he visited Louth with his friend Pranjivan Mehta; later in August he visited George Allen in the Cotswolds, and on 7 November he spoke to the Indian students at Cambridge.  On his voyage back to South Africa, he wrote his powerful book Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule , in which he wrote about his increasing discontent with the West, the power of non-violence and the vision of self-rule.

Between 1909 and 1914, Gandhi received several invitations to return to India, but before doing so he visited London again in August 1914, two days after the outbreak of the First World War. The purpose of his trip was to visit his friend and mentor G. K. Gokhale but he had already left for Paris. With Gokhale gone, Gandhi met the poetess Sarojini Naidu instead. On 8 August, a reception was held for him at the Hotel Cecil. In attendance were, among others, Charlotte Despard , Albert Cartwright, Bhupendranath Basu, Sacchidanand Sinha, Lala Lajpat Rai, Mohammed Ali Jinnah , Ananda K. Coomaraswamy , Amir Ali and J. M. Parikh. While in London he established the Indian Volunteer Corps before he left on 19 December 1914.

From 1919 Gandhi became highly politically active in India. It was his belief in satyagraha that made him the leader of the nationalist movement against the Raj. By 1931 he had become integral to Indian national life and the sole representative of the Indian National Congress at the second Round Table Conference (Gandhi was in prison during the first Conference in 1930). He arrived in September 1931 and gave his first speech at the Conference on 15 September. The Second Round Table Conference failed to yield independence for India, and Gandhi left London on 5 December 1931. Back in India Gandhi continued to promote satyagraha and led the Quit India Movement in 1942. On 30 January 1948, Gandhi was walking through the grounds of Birla House, New Delhi, when he was shot at point blank range by Nathuram Godse.

Hind Swaraj (1909)

Discourses on the 'Gita' (1926)

An Autobiography, or, the Story of My Experiments with Truth , trans. from the original in Gujarati by Mahadev Desai (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1927)

Satyagraha in South Africa ... Translated ... By Valji Govindji Desai (Madras: S. Ganesan, 1928)

The Constructive Programme (1941)

(with Krishna Kripalani) All Men are Brothers: Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as Told in His Own Words (Paris; Unesco, 1969)

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi , 90 vols (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt of India, 1958-84)

H. O. Ally, B. R. Ambedkar , C. F. Andrews , Annie Besant , Sir Mancherjee Bhownagree , Subhas Chandra Bose , Sir Henry Cotton, Charlotte Despard , G. K. Gokhale, Sir William W. Hunter, Mohammed Ali Jinnah , Aga Khan, Shyamaji Krishnavarma , George Lansbury, T. T. Mazmudar, Dr Pranjivan Mehta, Sarojini Naidu , Dadabhai Naoroji , Mansukhlal H. Nazar, Jawaharlal Nehru , Josiah Oldfield, V. D. Savarkar , Dalpatram Shukla, Rabindranath Tagore , E. J. Thompson , Sir William Wedderburn, Marquess of Zetland .

Indian Opinion

There are more than two thousand critical works on Gandhi. Below is a small selection of those: 

Arnold, David, Gandhi (Harlow: Longman, 2001) 

Bakshi, S. R., Gandhi and Concept of Swaraj (New Delhi: Criterion Publications, 1988)

Brown, Judith M., Gandhi's Rise to Power: Indian Politics, 1915-1922 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1972)

Brown, Judith M., Gandhi and Civil Disobedience: The Mahatma in Indian Politics, 1928-34 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977)

Brown, Judith M., Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989)

Brown, Judith M., ' Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand [Mahatma Gandhi] (1869–1948)' , Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Chandra, Bipan, Essays on Indian Nationalism (New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications, 1993) 

Chatterjee, Margaret, Gandhi's Religious Thought (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1983)

Chakrabarti, Atulananda, Gandhi and Birla (Calcutta: General Printers and Publishers, 1955)

Dhar, Niranjan, Aurobindo, Gandhi and Roy: A Yogi, a Mahatman and a Rationalist (India: Minerva, 1986)

Gandhi, Mahatma, and Iyer, Raghavan , The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986-87)

Gupta, Manmath Nath, Gandhi and His Times (New Delhi: Lipi Prakashan, 1982)

Herman, Arthur, Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age (New York: Bantam Books, 2008)

Hunt, James D., Gandhi in London (New Delhi: Promilla, 1978)

Krishnan, Asha, Ambedkar and Gandhi: Emancipators of Untouchables in Modern India (Mumbai: Himalaya Publishing House, 1997)

Majeed, Javed, Autobiography, Travel and Postnational Identity: Gandhi, Nehru and Iqbal (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Mathur, D. B., Gandhi, Congress and Apartheid (Jaipur: Aalekh Publishers, 1986)

Mehrotra, S. R., Gandhi and the British Commonwealth (New Delhi: Indian Council of World Affairs, 1961)

Nanda, Bal Ram, Gandhi and His Critics (Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985)

Nehru, Jawaharlal, Jawaharlal Nehru: An Autobiography. With Musings on Recent Events in India, Etc. [with Plates, Including Portraits.] (London: John Lane: London, 1936)

Parekh, Bhikhu C., Colonialism, Tradition and Reform: An Analysis of Gandhi's Political Discourse (New Delhi; London: Sage, 1989)

Parekh, Bhikhu C., Gandhi's Political Philosophy: A Critical Examination (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989)

Ramakrishnan, Padma, Gandhi and Indian Independence (New Delhi: Blaze Publishers and Distributors, 1994)

Roberts, Elizabeth, Gandhi, Nehru and Modern India (London: Methuen, 1974)

Sharma, Shri Ram, Gandhi: The Man and the Mahatma (Chandigarh: Rajan, 1985)

Singh, G. B., Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity (Lahore: Vanguard Books, 2005)

Swan, Maureen, Gandhi: The South African Experience (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1985)

Tidrick, Kathryn, Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life (London: I. B. Taurus, 2006)

Wadhwa, Madhuri, Gandhi Between Tradition and Modernity (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1991)

Zakaria, Rafiq, Gandhi and the Break-Up of India (Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1999)

Gandhi National Museum and Library, New Delhi, India

Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmadabad, India

Home Department Mss, Government of India, National Archives of India, New Delhi

Nehru and Indian National Congress Mss, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi

Current affairs footage and documentaries, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

News and documentary footage, Film and Video Archive, Imperial War Museum, London

Oral history interview and recorded talk, Sound Archive, Imperial War Museum, London

Round Table Conference, 1931

Quit India Movement , 1942

Mahatma Gandhi

1888-91, 1906, 1909, 1914, 1931

20 Baron's Court Road, West Kensington

Store Street, London

Tavistock Street, London

52 St. Stephen's Gardens, Bayswater, London

88 Knightsbridge

60 Talbot Road, Bayswater, London

16 Trebobir Road, West Kensington, London

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The Decline of the Congress Party in Indian Politics

 From being the single dominant party in India to its pathetic performance in the recently held assembly elections in five states, the Congress party has been on a steady downhill journey. This article looks at its trajectory post independence and especially in the aftermath of the 2014 general election.  

 The 2014 general election dealt the Congress an electoral punch that  knocked the wind out of its sails. It also threw up a leader in Narendra Modi that was reminiscent of Indira Gandhi with a larger than life image and that resulted in a tectonic shift of political equilibrium in Delhi from the middle of the centre ideological pinning of the Congress to the right wing brand of politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which rolled out a new political discourse promising to usher in a new India free from the Congress.   

In the aftermath of these elections, journalistic and academic narratives focussing on the decline of the Congress party in the country’s political arena abounded and red flags were raised within the party circles to arrest its terminal downslide and save it from being marginalised. The party went into a huddle but internal dissensions and lack of visionary strategies failed to revive its electoral fortunes. It lost the state elections held in 2015-2016 in quick succession and conceded the remaining political space to the BJP which was on a roll. The recent assembly elections held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa in March were a kind of a referendum on demonetisation undertaken by Modi and a midterm appraisal of the BJP government. The issue of demonetisation created a sharp political divide and provided the Congress the much needed opportunity not only in stopping the saffron juggernaut but also in reversing its losing streak and making a political u-turn.  

The electorate of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand handed the saffron party one of the biggest state election mandates in independent India. The Congress registered a consolation win in Punjab and emerged as the largest party in Manipur and Goa (in terms of seats, but lagged behind the BJP in terms of popular votes) but still lost the opportunity to form the government in the smaller states. This was largely due to poor negotiations by the party’s state interlocutors and the flip flop by its national leadership. The declining wheel turned a full circle and the Congress is in power now in only six states--- Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Mizoram and Meghalaya on its own and in Bihar as a junior partner in an alliance.  

On the other hand, the BJP has extended its political reach and rules in 17 states either on its own or in alliance. The electoral map of India has turned almost saffron signalling the rise of the BJP as a dominant player in the country’s politics. The electoral shrinkage of the Congress after the elections in the above mentioned five states has once again started the debate in the public domain over its imminent decline with some over-enthusiastic political observers even writing obituaries and penning requiems.  

Historical Perspective

It thus becomes contextual to delve into the declining popularity graph of the Congress and ascertain the most plausible reasons that could explain the current downsizing of electoral support for the party from a vantage point. The political journey of the party can be divided into three time frames. It began its first innings officially as the Indian National Congress (INC) after independence and witnessed a rebirth in 1971 when Indira Gandhi broke free from the shackles of powerful leaders who had known her father and formed her own party. The Congress (Indira) continued after her death in 1984 under the leadership of her son Rajiv Gandhi until his assassination in 1991. There was a political interregnum between 1992 and 1997 when the party was not led by any member of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The taking over of the reins of the Congress by Sonia Gandhi in 1997 marked the 3.0 version of the party. She propelled it back to power at the centre in 2004 and ruled for ten years (in alliance with other parties) before taking an electoral bow in 2014.  

Indian National Congress 1952-1968  

From the first general election in 1952 when Jawaharlal Nehru led it to a landslide victory (it won 364 of the 401 seats), the INC won in the majority of the following state elections and paved the way for a Nehruvian era of single party dominance. Political scientist Rajni Kothari in his book Politics in India defines a one-party dominant system as,  “a competitive party system but one in which the competing parts play dissimilar roles and one which consists of, parties of pressure and parties of consensus”. The parties of pressure operate within the margin of pressure which comprises opposition parties. The parties of consensus are those which are part of the ruling consensus. The system depends on the sensitivity of the margin of pressure, where the parties of pressure operate, ensure suitable checks and balance on the ruling consensus and ensure the accountability of the parties of consensus. He identified the Congress party as the main consensus and therefore the dominant party with an obligation towards nation building through which the Indian political system operated after independence with back-to-back electoral victories in the 1952, 1957 and 1962 Lok Sabha elections.  

The Congress party system during this period worked in a copy book style with leadership at national, state and local level chosen by elected members of the legislative bodies commanding their full support. There was an overlap between the executive and legislative wings but their work profile was neatly demarcated for proper functioning united in purpose and full respect for constitutional propriety. The Congress government under Nehru was the need of the hour for an India that had been totally messed up by British misrule, but its overarching dominance sowed seeds of its self weakening which became evident in the long run. Kothari stated that  “in a sense, the Nehru period was an exceptional period in India’s history, one that was so necessary, but not so normal, but it had its effect on the working of the party system. While the congress gained in strength, Nehru in another way weakened the party by concentrating power in his own hands and through acting as if only he could hold the country together”.  

The general elections held in 1967 under the leadership of Indira Gandhi after the death of Nehru and Lal Bahadhur Shastri proved Kothari’s argument  right as the Congress party besieged by internal dissensions and factionalism not only lost in more than 100 parliamentary seats but also shed four percentage points of popular votes. It lost eight state elections thereafter which seriously threatened its dominance, but it continued to remain “the preponderant political force in the country”. Nehru’s strong leadership created insecurities among the powerful leaders in his cabinet and led to the formation of syndicates which surfaced after his death for capturing power and harming the image of Congress party known for its decisive leadership and flag bearers of inner party democracy.

The lack of consensus in choosing a successor led to infighting in the party which was openly aired in the public domain. This could be flagged as the first sign of the moral decline of the Congress party and the dilution of its political legacy leading to gradual loss of the enormous mass support it commanded among the people during the Nehruvian period.    

  Lok Sabha Elections: Performance of Indian National Congress  

  Source: Election Commission of India

  Congress (Indira-Rajiv Gandhi) 1969-1991  

After the death of the incumbent Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri the leadership issue within the party was sorted out with the elevation of Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister of India in 1966. However, the internecine battle among the two warring factions continued. The infighting finally resulted in a vertical split within the party, with the majority going with Indira Gandhi and the formation of the Congress (I). The general election in 1971 was contested by Indira Gandhi on the slogan “Garibi Hatao” and her pro-poor posturing created a electoral wave in her favour with the party adding 69 more parliamentary seats and increasing its vote share pan-India by 3%. The elections sorted out the leadership issue once and for all with Indira Gandhi acquiring a larger than life image equated with the Indian goddess Durga and starting a new chapter that became known as the personality cult in Indian politics.

 The period that followed destroyed the second tier leadership in the party and voice for constructive criticisms as she replaced state leaders with their own standing with people who had no political base and were completely loyal to her. The party’s organisational structure was changed from the bottom upwards and weakened its moorings with the common people, shutting the direct line of communication and feedback from the electorate. The isolation of Indira Gandhi was completed in 1972 as the party lost several by-elections including one seat which it had not lost since the first general elections and encountered a host of internal problems like high inflation due to the war with Pakistan, drought in some parts of the country and the 1973 oil crisis.

 Her falling popularity ratings combined with the verdict of the  Allahabad High Court on electoral malpractices led to the declaration of emergency in 1975. She bypassed the parliament and ruled the country by centralizing complete power in her hands with draconian decrees and presidential promulgations trampling constitutional bodies and democratic rights of the people. The extra constitutional powers appropriated by her son Sanjay Gandhi by passing the party leadership and the excesses committed by him not only squandered the popular mandate bestowed on the Congress but also dealt a severe blow on the party structure that was built and consolidated over the years.  

The general elections in 1977 witnessed one of the rare occasions in the political history of the country of opposition parties uniting with the purpose of knocking out the Congress from the throne of Delhi by forming the Janata Party.  The opposition conglomerate handed the Congress party one of the worst electoral defeats since its inception losing more than 200 seats and nine percent popular votes. The Indira Congress would have declined beyond redemption but the internal bickering within the Janata Party and the subsequent split provided it a window to regroup itself. The low index of opposition unity, the witch hunt of the Congress leaders for emergency excesses and the repositioning of the Congress on stability plank brought it back to power with a big majority in the 1980 national elections. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the leadership baton passed on to Rajiv Gandhi who led the party to a thumping victory in 1984 General elections winning a record of 415 seats mainly due to the sympathy wave created by the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The party came under the cloud of Bofors scam and lost its political pre-eminence and single party dominance in the 1989 General elections.  

 The Congress returned to power after the 1991 Lok Sabha elections and ruled the country with a clear cut mandate between 1971-1988 and remained the largest political outfit between 1989 and 1996. But its organisational structure and mass support base was substantially strained due to personality cult and the “high command” culture that flourished and eroded the brand ratings of the Congress party. The reasons for the decline of the party are manifold but it could be primarily attributed to the centralised leadership.  

The other factors include the consensus in decision making was brushed under the carpet, the broad basing and nurturing of leadership in states and local level came to a grinding halt, the invincibility tag of the party was punctured by two electoral defeats, the ivory tower syndrome of top leadership isolated it from grass root workers and the party workers lost its zeal to connect with the people and keep the momentum going for the party. The winnabilty ratios of the Congress and the political halo as the only party which could govern India were seriously breached during this period.   

Lok Sabha Elections: Performance of Congress (Indira-Rajiv Gandhi)  

Source: Election Commission of India

The period between 1992 and 1996 could be seen as an interregnum for the party as the leadership changed hands and it was the first instance when the Congress president was not from Nehru-Gandhi family. The party’s political fortunes dipping further south as the post Mandal and Mandir phase of politicking witnessed the rise and growth of identity based regional parties and the Hindutva based BJP. The mandate in the 1996 general elections was against the Congress which conceded political space to the BJP. The saffron party made further inroads into the Congress citadel by winning 182 seats in 1999 general elections and emerge as the single largest party. It formed an alliance with like-minded parties under the banner of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and formed the first right wing government at the centre with Atal Bihari Vajpayi as the new prime minister.

 The Congress which realised that the BJP could steal its thunder and emerge as a viable national party alternative, invited Sonia Gandhi who had kept away from politics after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, to take command and steer the party back into reckoning. This marks the third phase of Congress party politics which arrested the imminent decline and brought the party back to power at the centre in 2004. 

  Congress (Sonia-Rahul Gandhi) 1998 onwards

  The Lok Sabha election in 2004 was a battle between the NDA led by its popular Prime minster Vajpayi and the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) stitched together under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. The NDA government had performed reasonably well, but the riots in Gujarat and its “India Shining” campaign did not go down well with voters and it lost the elections to its main adversary. Manmohan Singh became the prime minister of the UPA government. The leadership was diluted from a single person to Manmohan-Sonia-Rahul troika which worked well for five years (2004-09) and in the 2009 national elections was able to retain power winning over 200 seats on its own. The impressive performance of the congress was due to the combined leadership of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), farm loan waiver scheme, pro poor policies of the UPA government, confidence of stability and victory of secular forces.  

The gains made in 2009 by the Congress were lost midway as the UPA II government was besieged by numerous scams, high inflation and unemployment rates, price rise and the policy paralysis that hit the country in the last two years of its regime. The general election in 2014 marked the real decline of the Congress as it witnessed a “wave” election with a new dimension as there were two currents running simultaneously in the country. The first current was a strong anti incumbency wave against the Congress which pushed it tally of seats to 44 which is the lowest and its vote share fell below 20% . The second wave was in favour of the BJP PM designate Narendra Modi which propelled the saffron party back to power in Delhi with a comfortable majority for the saffron party signalling the beginning of the BJP dominance in national spectrum of power politics.  

Lok Sabha Elections: Performance of Congress (Sonia-Rahul Gandhi)  

 The seeds of the deterioration of the Congress party which were sown during the period of Nehru germinated and grew during the Indira regime before becoming a full blown tree in the Sonia-Rahul era which is most likely to fall due to its overbearing weight. The reasons for the decline of the Congress party which surfaced during the Indira period were not addressed by the current leadership and kept in limbo. The working of the Congress government and party gave birth to new problems which hastened its downslide further. The dual control of the Manmohan Singh government and the Congress party by the Gandhi family worked was calibrated properly and worked well initially but it ran into rough weather in the second term.  

The remote control of the government and managing the alliance partners created frictions which snowballed into a serious of political crisis and electoral backlash in 2014 hustings. The high command syndrome which decided party matters earlier at national and state matters was extended at local levels with no connect with party functionaries at ground zero. The absence of a strong leader within the Congress is another significant factor.    

The Congress under Nehru was an omnibus party which co-opted the ideological shades of the right-centre-left and built a consensus to rule India giving no leeway to political parties of left and right orientation to spread their political and electoral wings. The leadership and party organisation were in equilibrium and equally strong with no major opposition to challenge its supremacy. The ascendancy of Indira after a tough fight with right leadership in the Congress and subsequent expulsion paved the way for centre to left policies making her one of the most popular leader of her time. The charismatic leadership of Indira weakened the party rank and file and she banked on centralised and authoritative decisions to rule the country and maintain the single party dominance of the Congress.  

The party at present does not have a strong leader and workable structure and its ideological agenda of leftist-welfareist policies for the poor has been hijacked by the BJP which is using it cleverly to position itself as the single dominant party in Indian politics. The Congress needs to rewrite its ideological agenda and open the entry gates of the party for people with rightist views within its broad spectrum of secular politics to counter the BJP surge in the country.  The party can revive itself by rebuilding the party organisation by repopulating its cadres with foot soldiers and flag bearers at the grassroots level and set up realistic goals to do a political rebound in the distant future.

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