IGNOU HISTORY Study Notes for IAS, UPSC Exams

 Modern India 1857-1964


10.0 Objectives
10.1 Introduction
10.2 Composition of the Congress
10.2.1 Middle Class Organisation
10.2.2 The Methods of Work
10.3 The Moderates
10.3.1 The Demands and Programme
10.3.2 Evaluation of Work
10.4 The Extremists
10.4.1 Ideological Basis of Extremism
10.4.2 Extremists in Action
10.5 Moderates and Extremists: An Analysis
10.5.1 Differences
10.5.2 Personality Clash
10.5.3 Open Conflict and Split
10.5.4 The Consequences of the Split
10.6 Let Us Sum Up
10.7 Key Words
10.8 Answers to Check Your Progress Exercises


In this unit we will discuss the evolution of Indian National Congress and role of early nationalist leadership. After reading this unit you should be able to:
describe the character of the early Congress,

  • know how two diverse viewpoints i.e. moderates and extremists emerged in the ! Congress,
  • know what were the points of differences between the two groups,
  • know how the differences in moderates and extremists led to the split of Congress in 1907,
  • know how this split effected the Congress and national movement.


In Unit 7 you have studied how as a result of several factors operating on the Indian scene the Indian National Congress came into existence in 1885. The declared aims of the
Congress were:

  • the promotion of friendly relation among political workers hailing from different parts of the country,
  • development and consolidation of the feeling of national unity irrespective of caste, creed, or region, and
  • the education and organisation of public opinion for the welfare of the country.

The early years (1885- 1905) saw the evolution of Indian National Congress. During this period the Congress was dominated by moderate leaders. Gradually a section emerged which did not agree with the moderate policies and believed in aggressive action. Due to their aggressive posture this group was called the extremists. Both the groups believed in different political methods to oppose the British rule. Their differences led to the split in Congress in 1907. In this unit we will study these developments in the Congress and how thev affected the national movement.

Beginning with its first session at Bombay in 1885, the congress became by 1886 (second session at Calcutta) 'the whole country's Congress'. In 1885, only 72 delegates had, attended the Congress session, whereas at Calcutta (1886) there were 434 delegates elected by different local organisations and bodies. Here it was decided that the Congress would meet henceforth annually in different parts of the country.

10.2.1 Middle Class Organisation

Representing as it did the entire nation, the Congress could be only a platform of all the races, castes, creeds, professions, trades and occupations, as well as provinces. But this broad sweeping description does not give a correct picture. As a matter of fact there was a great disparity in the representation of various castes, creeds, races, professions, trades and provinces. Among the classes, the educated middle class had the largest share. The legal profession was most heavily represented among the professions. The Brahmins among the castes were comparatively larger in number. Among the provinces, as Anil Seal has shown  in his book, The Emergence oflndiarz Nationalism (Cambridge, 1968) the presidencies- Bombay, Calcutta and Madras took the leading part. The masses were conspicuous by their  absence. So was the case with the landed class. So the Congress was by and large an entirely middle cIass affair. A look at the figures of the members who attended the early sessions of the Congress will bear out this statement.

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    Courtesy: eGyanKosh