The Moderates


  • Congress politics during the first twenty years of its history is roughly referred to as moderate politics. Congress at that time was hardly a full-fledged political party; it was more in the nature of an annual conference, which deliberated and adopted resolutions during the “three day tamashas”, and then dispersed.
  • Its members were mostly part-time politicians, who were successful professionals in their personal lives-a thoroughly Anglicized upper class who had very little time and commitment for full-time politics.

A) Moderate Leaders:

  • The leading figures during the first phase of the National Movement were A.O. Hume, W.C. Banerjee, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Dadabhai Naoroji, Feroze Shah Mehta, Gopalakrishna Gokhale, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Badruddin Tyabji, Justice Ranade, G.Subramanya Aiyar etc.

W.C. Banerjee

  • He was the first president of Indian National Congress. He was the first Indian to contest the election for the British House of Commons although he lost the election.
  • He was the president of the Indian National Congress again in the 1892 session in Allahabad

Feroze Shah Mehta

  • He was a Parsi Indian political leader, activist, and a leading lawyer of Mumbai, who was knighted by the British Government in India for his service to the law.He was known as The Lion of Bombay.
  • He became the Municipal commissioner of Bombay Municipality in 1873 and its President four times.
  • Pherozeshah Mehta was nominated to the Bombay Legislative Council in 1887 and in 1893 a member of the Imperial Legislative Council.
  • He was chosen the president of the Indian National Congress in 1890.
  • In 1910, he started Bombay Chronicle, an English-language weekly newspaper

Justice Ranade

  • Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade (18 January 1842 – 16 January 1901) was a distinguished Indian scholar, social reformer and author.
  • He was a founding member of the Indian National Congress and owned several designations as member of the Bombay legislative council, member of the finance committee at the centre, and the judge of Bombay High Court.
  • He published books on Indian economics and on Maratha history. He saw the need for heavy industry for economic progress and believed in Western education as a vital element to the foundation of an Indian nation.
  • With his friends Atmaram Pandurang, Bal Mangesh Wagle and Vaman Abaji Modak, Ranade founded the Prarthana Samaj, a Hindu movement inspired by the Brahmo Samaj, espousing principles of enlightened theism based on the ancient Vedas. Prarthana Samaj was started by Keshav Chandra Sen.
  • Ranade founded the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha & Ahmednagar Education Society and later was one of the originators of the Indian National Congress. He has been portrayed as an early adversary of the politics of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and a mentor to Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
  • Ranade was a founder of the Social Conference movement, directing his social reform efforts against child marriage, the shaving of widows’ heads, the heavy cost of marriages and other social functions, and the caste restrictions on traveling abroad, and he strenuously advocated widow remarriage and female education. He was one of the founders of the Widow Marriage Association in 1861.

Surendranath Banerjee

  • He founded the Indian National Association. He was also known by the Rashtraguru.
  • He cleared the Indian Civil Service examinations in 1869, but was barred owing to a dispute over his exact age.
    • Banerjee cleared the exam again in 1871 and was posted as assistant magistrate in Sylhet. However, Banerjee was dismissed soon from his job owing to racial discrimination.
    • Banerjee went to England to protest this decision, but was unsuccessful. During his stay in England (1874–1875), he studied the works of Edmund Burke and other liberal philosophers. These works guided him in his protests against the British. He was known as the Indian Burke.
  • In 1879, he founded the newspaper, The Bengalee.
  • He founded the Indian Association (1876) to agitate for political reforms. He had convened the Indian National Conference (1883) which merged with the Indian National Congress in l886.
  • He firmly opposed the Partition of Bengal.He was an important figure in the Swadeshi movement – advocating goods manufactured in India against foreign products.
  • Banerjee supported the Morley-Minto reforms 1909 – which were resented and ridiculed as insufficient and meaningless by the vast majority of the Indian public and nationalist politicians. Banerjee was a critic of the proposed method of civil disobedience advocated by Mahatma Gandhi

Subramanya Aiyar

  • He was a leading Indian journalist, social reformer and freedom fighter who founded ‘The Hindu’ newspaper along with M. Veeraraghavachariar, T. T. Rangachariar, P. V. Rangachariar on 20 September 1878. He preached nationalism through the Madras Mahajana Sabha. He also founded Swadesamitran.
  • He was one of the 72 delegates present at the Bombay Conference at Tejpal Sanskrit College on 12 December 1885, which resulted in the founding of the Indian National Congress.
  • Subramania Iyer campaigned vehemently for reforms in Hindu society. He supported widow remarriage and desired to abolish untouchability and child marriages. Subramania Iyer arranged for the remarriage of his widowed daughter for which he was socially boycotted.

Dadabhai Naoroji

  • Dadabhai Naoroji (4 September 1825 – 30 June 1917), known as the Grand Old Man of India, was a Parsi intellectual, educator, cotton trader, and an early Indian political and social leader.
    • He was a member of parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom House of Commons between 1892 and 1895, and the first Asian to be a British MP.
    • In his political campaign and duties as an MP, he was assisted by Muhammed Ali Jinnah,
  • In 1867 Naoroji helped to establish the East India Association, one of the predecessor organisations of the Indian National Congress with the aim of putting across the Indian point of view before the British public.
    • This Association soon won the support of eminent Englishmen and was able to exercise considerable influence in the British Parliament.
    • He was also a member of the Indian National Association founded by Sir Surendranath Banerjee from Calcutta a few years before the founding of the Indian National Congress in Bombay, with the same objectives and practices.
    • The two groups later merged into the INC, and Naoroji was elected President of the Congress in 1886.
  • In 1874, he became Prime Minister of Baroda and was a member of the Legislative Council of Mumbai (1885–88).
  • Dadabhai Naoroji became Indian representative in the socialist Second International, at their 1905 congress in Amsterdam.
    • Later , on 22 August 1907, his assistant Mrs. Bhikaiji Rustom Cama attended the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, where she described the devastating effects of a famine that had struck the Indian subcontinent. In her appeal for human rights, equality and for autonomy from Great Britain.
  • Naoroji published Poverty and un-British Rule in India in 1901.
    • Dadabhai Naoroji’s work focused on the drain of wealth from India into England through colonial rule. Naoroji’s work on the drain theory was the main reason behind the creation of the Royal commission on Indian Expenditure in 1896 in which he was also a member. This commission reviewed financial burdens on India and in some cases came to the conclusion that those burdens were misplaced.
  • In 1906, Naoroji was again elected president of the Indian National Congress.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale

  • Gokhale became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1889, as a protégé of social reformer Mahadev Govind Ranade.
  • In 1899, Gokhale was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council.
    • He was elected to the Council of India of Governor-General of India on 22 May 1903 as non-officiating member representing Bombay Province.
    • He later served to Imperial Legislative Council after its expansion in 1909. He there obtained a reputation as extremely knowledgeable and contributed significantly to the annual budget debates.
    • Gokhale developed so great a reputation among the British that he was invited to London to meet with secretary of state Lord John Morley. Gokhale would help during his visit to shape the Morley-Minto Reforms introduced in 1909.
  • In many ways, Tilak and Gokhale’s early careers paralleled – both were Chitpavan Brahmin, both attended Elphinstone College, both became mathematics professors, and both were important members of the Deccan Education Society.
    • When both became active in the Congress, however, the divergence of their views concerning how best to improve the lives of Indians became increasingly apparent.
    • Gokhale’s first major confrontation with Tilak centred around one of his pet issues, the Age of Consent Bill introduced by the British Imperial Government, in 1891–92.
    • Gokhale and his fellow liberal reformers, wishing to purge what they saw as superstitions and abuses in their native Hinduism, supported the Consent Bill to curb child marriage abuses.
    • Though the Bill was not extreme, only raising the age of consent from ten to twelve, Tilak took issue with it; he did not object per se to the idea of moving towards the elimination of child marriage, but rather to the idea of British interference with Hindu tradition. The bill however became law in the Bombay Presidency.
  • In 1905, Gokhale became president of the Indian National Congress.
    • Gokhale used his now considerable influence to undermine his longtime rival, Tilak, refusing to support Tilak as candidate for president of the Congress in 1906.
    • By now, Congress was split: Gokhale and Tilak were the respective leaders of the moderates and the “extremists”.
  • In 1905, when Gokhale was elected president of the Indian National Congress and was at the height of his political power, he founded the Servants of India Society to specifically further one of the causes dearest to his heart: the expansion of Indian education and to train Indians to dedicate their lives to the cause of the country.
    • Gokhale wrote that “The Servants of India Society will train men prepared to devote their lives to the cause of country in a religious spirit, and will seek to promote, by all constitutional means, the national interests of the Indian people.”
  • Gokhale was famously a mentor to Mahatma Gandhi in his formative years. In 1912, Gokhale visited South Africa at Gandhi’s invitation.
    • As a young barrister, Gandhi returned from his struggles against the Empire in South Africa and received personal guidance from Gokhale, including a knowledge and understanding of India and the issues confronting common Indians.
  • Despite his deep respect for Gokhale, however, Gandhi would reject Gokhale’s faith in western institutions as a means of achieving political reform and ultimately chose not to become a member of Gokhale’s Servants of India Society.
    • Many members of Society were also against Gandhi joining it.
    • After death of Gokhale, first Gandhi wanted to join it but later withdrew application due to division among members.
  • Gokhale was also the role model and mentor of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the future founder of Pakistan, who in 1912, aspired to become the “Muslim Gokhale”.
  • Gokhale died on 19 February 1915 at an early age of forty-nine. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, his lifelong political opponent, said at his funeral: “This diamond of India, this jewel of Maharashtra, this prince of workers is taking eternal rest on funeral ground. Look at him and try to emulate him”.

Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya

  • Madan Mohan Malaviya pronunciation (1861–1946) was an Indian educationist and politician notable for his role in the Indian independence movement. He was also addressed as ‘Mahamana’.
    • In December 1886, Malaviya attended the 2nd Indian National Congress session in Calcutta under chairmanship of Dadabhai Naoroji.
  • He remained a member of the Imperial Legislative Council from 1912 and when in 1919 it was converted to the Central Legislative Assembly he remained its member as well, till 1926.
    • Malaviya was an important figure in the Non-cooperation movement.
    • However, he was opposed to the participation of Congress in the Khilafat movement.
  • Malaviya was the founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) at Varanasi in 1916. In April 1911, Annie Besant met Malaviya and they decided to work for a common Hindu University at Varanasi.
    • Besant and fellow trustees of the Central Hindu College, which she has founded in 1898 also agreed to Government of India’s precondition that the college should become a part of the new University.
    • Thus Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was established in 1916. In 1933, Malaviya started Sanatana Dharma from BHU, a magazine dedicated to religious, dharmic interests.
  • He was a moderate leader and opposed the separate electorates for Muslims under the Lucknow Pact of 1916.
  • Malaviya was the President of the Indian National Congress on four occasions (1909 & 1913,1919,1932) he left congress in 1934 and also one of the initial leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha.
  • In protest against the Communal Award which sought to provide separate electorates for minorities, Malaviya along with Madhav Shrihari Aney left the Congress and started the Congress Nationalist Party. The party contested the 1934 elections to the central legislature and won 12 seats.
  • Malviya was one of the founders of Scouting in India. He also founded a highly influential, English-newspaper, The Leader published from Allahabad in 1909.
  • In 1924, Malviya along with the help national leaders Lala Lajpat Rai and M. R. Jayakar and industrialist Ghanshyam Das Birla, acquired Hindustan Times and saved it from an untimely demise. His efforts resulted in the launch of its Hindi edition named Hindustan Dainik in 1936
  • Malaviya played an important part in the removal of untouchability and in giving direction to the Harijan movement. The Harijan Sevak Sangh was founded at a meeting in 1933 at which Pandit Malviya presided.

Badruddin Tyabji

  • Badruddin Tyabji (10 October 1844 – 19 August 1906) was an Indian lawyer who served as the third President of the Indian National Congress.
  • Badruddin Tyabji returned to India in 1867 after study in Europe and became the first Indian solicitor.

B) Ideology:

  • They did demand equality, which seemed to be a rather abstract idea; they equated liberty with class privilege and wanted gradual or piecemeal reforms.
  • ‘British rule’, to most of them seemed to be an act of providence destined to bring in modernization.
    • Indians needed some time to prepare themselves for self-government. In the meanwhile, absolute faith could be placed in British in Parliament and the people.
    • Their complaint was only against “un-British” in India perpetrated by the viceroy, his executive council and the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy-an imperfection that could be reformed or rectified through gentle persuasion.
  • Their politics was very limited in terms of goals and methods.
  • They were secular in their attitudes, though not always forthright enough to rise above their sectarian interests. They were conscious of the exploitative nature of British rule, but wanted its reforms and not expulsion.

C) Methods:

  • Early Congressman had an implicit faith in the efficacy of peaceful and constitutional agitation as opposed to popular mean of agitation.
  • It was well explained by Gokhle in his journal Sudhar as 3P method: Petition, Prayer and Protest. The press and platform of the annual sessions were their agency of agitation.
  • The holding of annual sessions was another method of Congress propaganda.
    • At this session, the government policy was discussed and resolutions were passed in forceful manner, this annual sessions attracted the attention of both educated section of educated middle class and government.
    • But the biggest drawback was that the Congress lasted only for 3 days in a year and it had no missionary to carry on the work in the internal between the two sessions.
  • The congressmen believed in the essential sense of justice and the goodness of British nation.
    • The Moderates believed that the British basically wanted to be just to the Indians but were not aware of the real conditions.They thought it was only the bureaucracy which stood between the people and their rights.
    • Therefore, if public opinion could be created in the country and public demands be presented to the Government through resolutions, petitions, meetings, etc., the authorities would concede these demands gradually.
    • To achieve these ends, they worked on a two-pronged methodology:
      • create a strong public opinion to arouse consciousness and national spirit and then educate and unite people on common political questions;
      • persuade the British Government and British public opinion to introduce reforms in India on the lines laid out by the nationalists.
  • To remind the British, deputations of leading Indians were sent to Britain to give this viewpoint.
    • To do this in 1889, a British committee of INC was founded to carry was founded to carry out its propaganda. It was to present India’s view point to the British authority.
    • Dadabhai Naoroji was to present it. He spent his major part in England where he got elected in the British House Commons and formed a powerful Indian lobby in the House of Commons.
    • In 1890, it was decided to hold a session of the Indian National Congress in London in 1892, but owing to the British elections of 1891 the proposal was postponed and never revived later.


A) Constitutional field

    • They first of all wanted to abolish the Indian Council which prevented the secretary of state from initiating liberal policies in India.
    • They also wanted to broaden Indian participation in legislatures through an expansion of the central and provincial legislature by introducing 50% elected representation from local bodies, chambers of commerce, universities, etc.
    • They also wanted new councils for North-Western Provinces and Punjab and two Indian members in the Viceroy’s Executive Council and one such member in each of the executive councils of Bombay and Madras.
    • The budget should be referred to the legislature, which should have the right to discuss and vote on it and also the right of interpellation.
    • There should also be right to appeal to the Standing Committee of the House of Commons against the Government of India.
  • Thus their immediate demand was not for full self-government or democracy; they demanded democratic rights only for the educated members of the Indian society, who would substitute for the masses.
  • The expectation of the moderate politicians was that full political freedom would come gradually and India would be ultimately given the self-governing right like those enjoyed by the other colonies as Canada or Australia.
  • With an intrinsic faith in the providential nature of British rule in India, they hoped that one day they would be recognized as partners and not sub-ordinates in the affairs in the affairs of the empire and be given the rights of full British citizenship.
  • What they receive in return, however, was Lord Cross’s Act or the Indian Council’s Amendment Act of 1892, which only provided for marginal expansion of the legislative councils both at the center and the provinces.
  • Some Moderates like Ranade and Gokhale favoured social reforms. They protested against child marriage and widowhood.

Constitutional Reforms and Propaganda in Legislature:

  • Legislative councils in India had no real official power till 1920. Yet, work done in them by the nationalists helped the growth of the national movement.
  • The Imperial Legislative Council constituted by the Indian Councils Act (1861) was an impotent body designed to disguise official measures as having been passed by a representative body.
  • Indian members were few in number—thirty years from 1862 to 1892 only forty-five Indians were nominated to it, most of them “being wealthy, landed and with loyalist interests. Only a handful of political figures and independent intellectuals such as Syed Ahmed Khan, Kristodas Pal, V.N. Mandlik, K.L. Nulkar and Rashbehari Ghosh were nominated.
  • From 1885 to 1892, the nationalist demands for constitutional reforms were centred around:
    • Expansion of councils—i.e., greater participation of Indians in councils,
    • Reform of councils—i.e., more powers to councils, especially greater control over finances.
  • The early nationalists worked with the long-term objective of a democratic self-government. Their demands for constitutional reforms were conceded in 1892 in the form of the Indian Councils Act.
  • These reforms were severely criticised at Congress sessions. Now, they demanded (i) a majority of elected Indians, and (ii) control over the budget i.e., the power to vote upon and amend the budget.
  • They gave the slogan—“No taxation without representation”. Gradually, the scope of constitutional demands was widened and Dadabhai Naoroji (1904), Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1905) and Lokmanya Tilak (1906) demanded self-government like the self-governing colonies of Canada and Australia. Also, leaders like Pherozshah Mehta and Gokhale put government policies and proposals to severe criticism.
  • The British had intended to use the councils to incorporate the more vocal among Indian leaders, so as to allow them to let off their “political steam”, while the impotent councils could afford to remain deaf to their criticism.
    • But the nationalists were able to transform these councils into forums for ventilating popular grievances, for exposing the defects of an indifferent bureaucracy, for criticising government policies/proposals, raising basic economic issues, especially regarding public finance.

B) Administrative system

  • The first demand of the moderates was for the Indianisation of the services. An Indianised civil service would be more responsive to the Indian needs, they argued.
    • It would stop the drainage of money, which was annually expatriated through the payment of salary and pension of the European officers. More significantly, this reform was being advocated as a measure against racism.
  • They demanded actually were simultaneous civil service examination both in India and London and raising of the age limit for appearing in such examinations from nineteen to twenty-three.
  • In 1892-93, under the initiative of William Gladstone, the House of Commons passed a resolution for simultaneous examination, though the secretary of state was still opposed to it. But at the same time, the maximum age for examination was further lowered to the disadvantage of the Indians.
  • Criticism of an oppressive and tyrannical bureaucracy and an expensive and time-consuming judicial system.
  • They demanded Separation of judicial from executive functions.
  • The other administrative demands of the moderates included the extension of trial by jury, repeal of the arms act, and a campaign against the exploitation of the indentured labour at the Assam tea gardensm Increase in expenditure on welfare (i.e., health, sanitation), education—especially elementary and technical— irrigation works and improvement of agriculture, agricultural banks for cultivators, etc.
  • They demanded better treatment for Indian labour abroad in other British colonies, who faced oppression and racial discrimination there.

C) Military

  • The British Indian army was being used in imperial wars in all parts of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. These and the Indian frontier wars of the 1890s put a very heavy burden on the Indian finances.
  • The moderates demanded that this military expenditure should evenly shared by the British government; Indians should be taken into the army as volunteers and more and more of them should be appointed in higher ranks. All of these demands were however rejected.
  • Criticism of an aggressive foreign policy which resulted in annexation of Burma, attack on Afghanistan and suppression of tribals in the North-West.

D) Economic Critique of Imperialism

  • The most significant historical contribution of the moderates was that they offered an economic critique of colonialism.
  • The early nationalists took note of all the three forms of contemporary colonial economic exploitation, namely, through trade, industry and finance. They clearly grasped that the essence of British economic imperialism lay in the subordination of the Indian economy to the British economy.
  • Names important to remember in this respect: Dinshaw Wacha, Dadabhai Naoroji, a successful businessman, Justice M.G. Ranade (wrote ‘Essays in Indian Economics‘ (1898) and R.C Dutt, a retired ICS officer, who published The Economic History of India in two volumes (1901-1903).
  • The early nationalists complained of India’s growing poverty and economic backwardness and the failure of modern industry and agriculture to grow and they put the blame on British economic exploitation. Dadabhai Naoroji declared that the British rule was “an everlasting, increasing, and every day increasing foreign invasion”.
  • The main thrust of this economic nationalism was on Indian poverty created by the application of the classical economic theory of free trade their main argument was that British colonialism had transformed itself in the 19th century by jettisoning the older and direct modes of extraction through plunder, tribute and mercantilism in favour of more sophisticated and less visible methods of exploitation through free trade and foreign capital investment.
    • This turned India into a supplier of agricultural raw materials and foodstuffs and a consumer of manufactured goods. India was thus reduced to the status of a dependent agrarian economy and a field of British capital investments.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji in his famous book Poverty and Indian Poverty and UnBritish Rule in India wrote his Drain Theory.
      • He showed how India’s wealth was going away to England in the form of salaries, savings, pensions, payments to British troops in India and, profits of the British companies. In fact, the British Government was forced to appoint the Welby Commission, with Dadabhai as the first Indian as its member, to enquire into the matter.
      • In Naoroji’s calculation this drain of wealth from India to Britain amounted to about £ 12 million per year, while William Digby calculated it to be £ 30 million.
  • What the moderates wanted was a change in economic policies.
    • Their recommendations included reduction of expenditure and taxes, reallocation of military charges, a protectionist policy to protect Indian industries, abolition of salt tax, reduction of land revenue of land revenue assessment, extension of Permanent Settlement to Ryotwari and Mahalwari areas, (this was pro Zamindar demand), reduction in military expenditure, encouragement of cottage industries and handicrafts, and encouragement to modern industry through tariff protection and direct government aid.
    • But none of these demands were fulfilled.
  • This economic theory of linking Indian poverty to colonialism rule, and also perhaps by implication challenging the whole concept of paternalistic imperialism or British benevolence.
    • In this way, the moderate politicians generated anger against British rule, though because of their own weaknesses, they themselves could not convert it into an effective agitation for its overthrow.

E) Defence of Civil Right:

  • The early Indian nationalists were attracted to modern civil rights, namely, the freedoms of speech, the Press, thought and association. They put up a strong defence of these civil rights whenever the Government tried to curtail them.
  • The struggle for democratic freedoms became an integral part of the nationalist struggle for freedom.
    • The Government arrested B.G.Tilak and several other leaders in 1897 for spreading disaffection against the Government. The Natu brothers were deported without trial.
    • The entire country protested against this attack on the liberties of the people.


A) 3P (Prayers, Petitions and Protest):

  • The moderate politicians could not or did not organize an agitation against British rule because of them still shred an intrinsic faith in the English democratic liberal political tradition.
    • Their method was to send prayers and petitions, to make speeches and publish articles.
    • By using these tools of colonial modern public life, they tried to prepare a convincing logical case aimed at persuading the liberal political opinion in England in favour of granting self-government to India.
  • They did ot understand true nature of British rule in India.
  • The failure of moderate politics was quite palpable by the end of the 19th c. and their failure was doomed as the less sympathetic Tories returned in power in Britain at the turn of the century.

B) Narrow Social base, absence of mass participation and negative attitude of Government:

  • There early moderate politicians were also mainly Hindus, barring the notable exception of Bombay politician, Badruddin Tyabji.
    • Between 1892 and 1909, nearly 90% of the delegates who attended the Congress sessions are Hindus and only 6.5% were Muslims and among the Hindus again, nearly 48% were Brahmans and the rest were upper-caste Hindus.
    • This social composition inevitable resulted in social orthodoxy as social questions were not to be raised in the congress sessions till 1907.
  • Muslim participation in Congress sessions began to decline rather dramatically after 1893. Yet, there was major Congress politicians suffered from a sense of complacency as no rival Muslim political organization worth its name developed until 1906.
  • The basic weakness of the early national movement lay in its narrow social base.
    • It did not penetrate down to the masses. In fact, the leaders lacked faith in the masses.
    • Describing the difficulties in the way of organizing of active political struggle, Gopal Krishna Gokhale pointed to the endless divisions and subdivisions in the country, the bulk of the population ignorant and clinging with a tenacity to the old modes of thought and sentiment, which are averse to all changes and do not understand change.
    • Lacking support of the masses, the early nationalists could not adopt a militant political position.
  • They failed to visualize that the masses could prove to be the real driving force in the movement.
  • There were contradictions in moderate politics, which made it more limited and alienated from the greater mass of the Indian population.
    • This was related to the social background of the mostly belonged to the propertied classes.
    • About 18.99% of the delegates who attended the congress sessions between 1892 and 1909 were landlords; the rest were lawyers (39.32%), traders (15.10%), journalists (3.18%), doctors (2.94%), teachers (3.16%) and other professionals (17.31%).
  • The congress could therefore not consequently take a logical stand on peasant questions.
      • They demanded extension of the Permanent Settlement only in the interest of the zamindars and opposed cadastral survey in 1893-94, though it was meant to protect the peasants from the manipulations of the zamindars.
  • They were opposed to factory reforms like factory reforms like the Mining Bill which proposed to improve the living condition of women and children and restrict their employment under certain plea that they were prompted by Lancashire interests.
    • However, they supported labour reforms for Assam tea gardens as capitalist interest involved there was of foreign origin, happily forgetting that the Indian mill owners in Bombay exploited their labourers in no less flagrant ways.

C) Other Failure:

  • British agreed to share only a small fraction of military expenditure and demand for appointing Indian in commissioned ranks were rejected as no European officer would cherish the thought of being ordered by Indian Commander.
  • Many other demands were rejected.
  • The moderate politics thus remained quite limited in nature in terms of its goals, programs, achievements and participation. Lord Dufferin, therefore could easily get away with his remark in November 1888 that Congress represented only a ‘microscopic minority’ of the Indian people.


  • Despite limitations representation, the historical significance of the early Congress lay in the fact that by providing an economic critique of colonialism and by linking Indian poverty to it, the moderate politicians had constructed a discursive field within which the subsequent nationalists attack on colonialism could be conceptualized.
  • On the request of Moderates in 1886, Lord Dufferin appointed Aitchison Committee on Indian Civil Service. On its recommendation, the upper age was increased to 22 but examination was to be held in London only.
  • The Moderates had succeeded in getting the expansion of the legislative councils by the Indian Councils Act of 1892.
  • On request of Moderates, Calcutta University Act of 1904 and Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act of 1904 were passed.
  • The Moderates were able to create a wide national awakening among the people and above all, the feeling of belonging to one nation. They popularized the ideas of democracy, civil liberties and representative institutions.
  • They represented the most progressive forces of the time.
  • They trained people in political work and popularised modern ideas.This helped in generating anti-imperialist sentiments among the public.
  • They exposed the basically exploitative character of colonial rule, thus undermining its moral foundations.
  • Their political work was based on hard realities, and not on shallow sentiments, religion, etc.
  • They were able to establish the basic political truth that India should be ruled in the interest of Indians.
  • They created a solid base for a more vigorous, militant, mass-based national movement in the following years.
  • But, at the same time, the nationalists failed to widen the democratic base of the movement by not including the masses, especially women, and not demanding the right to vote for all.

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