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Indian National Congress

Indian National Congress
Leader Sonia Gandhi
Founded 1885
Main Office 24, Akbar Road, New Delhi – 110011
Alliance United Progressive Alliance
Ideology Populist
Publications Congress Sandesh
Website http://www.congress.org.in
See also Politics of India

Political parties in India
Elections in India

Election symbol of the Congress
Election symbol of the Congress

The 'Indian National Congress' (also known as the Congress Party) is the largest subscription-based organisation in the world. It is also the largest democratic political organisation in the world; the oldest surviving political organisation in India. In the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009), it is the single largest party with 145 members. It played a major role in the Indian independence movement and was the ruling party in most of independent India's governments. It is currently the chief member of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition government supported by the Left Front. India was totally changed and forever has one of the strongest Congress' in the world.

Table of contents

History

Pre-Independence

Founded in 1885 with the object of obtaining a greater share in government for educated Indians, the Indian National Congress was initially not opposed to British rule. Indeed, it was a Scotsman, Allan Octavian Hume, who brought about its first meeting in Bombay, with the approval of Lord Dufferin, the then-Viceroy. Later, however, its demands became more radical in the face of constant opposition from the government, and the party became very active in the independence movement. During this period there were two camps in the Congress: the Garam Dal, or Extremists (literally "hot faction"), and the Naram Dal, or Moderates (literally "soft faction"), distinguished by their attitude towards the British.

After the First World War the party came to be headed by Mahatma Gandhi, who remained its unofficial leader even as younger men and women became party president. The party was in many ways an umbrella organisation, sheltering within itself radical socialists, traditionalists and even Hindu conservatives. The battle for the soul of the party was fought first between Jawaharlal Nehru, a young social democrat and Subhash Chandra Bose, a militaristic radical; and subsequently between Nehru, a left-leaning liberal and Vallabhbhai Patel, a conservative. Neither of the two challengers could match Nehru in pan-Indian popularity; further, it was believed that Nehru was Gandhi's chosen successor.

Post-Independence

Congress mural in Kolkata

Gandhi is said to have held the view that the INC was formed only for achieving independence and should have been disbanded in 1947. However, at the time of independence, the INC (led by Jawaharlal Nehru) was the major political organization in the country, and was established as the major political party. The party ruled uninterrupted until 1977, and has remained as a major political force.

The first serious challenge to Congress hegemony came in 1967 when a united opposition, under the banner of Samyukt Vidhanayak Dal, won control over several states in the Hindi belt. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Nehru, and Congress president, was then challenged by the majority of the party leadership. The conflict led to a split, and Indira launched a separate INC. Initially this party was known as Congress (R), but it soon came to be generally known as the New Congress. The official party became known as Indian National Congress (Organisation) led by Kamaraj. It was informally called the Old Congress. As Indira Priyadarshini had control over the state machinery, her faction was recognized as the "real" INC by the Election Commission of India, although her organization was the break-away group.

The split can in some ways be seen as a left-wing/right-wing division. Indira Gandhi wanted to use a populist agenda in order to mobilize popular support for the party. She raised slogans such as Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty), and wanted to develop closer ties with the Soviet Union. The regional party elites, who formed the INC(O), stood for a more right-wing agenda, and distrusted Soviet help.

INC(O) later merged into the Janata Party.

Gradually, Indira Gandhi grew more and more authoritarian. Facing growing opposition she proclaimed a state of emergency in 1975.

After the lifting of emergency in 1977, more Congress factions were formed, the one remaining loyal to Indira Gandhi being popularly known as Congress(I) with an 'I' for Indira. The Congress (I) was routed in the general elections by the Janata Party. The party was able to return to power in the 1980 elections. In 1984 Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, as a revenge for the Operation Blue Star. In the following days thousands of Sikhs were killed in riots, especially in Delhi. Many human rights organizations consider that Congress activists played a role in carrying out the 1984 riots. [1]

After Indira, her son Rajiv Gandhi, took over as Congress leader. Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated in 1991.

The 1990s was a period of prolonged crisis for the Congress. After gradually losing political influence the party asked the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, the Italian – born Sonia Gandhi, to accept the position as Congress president. After the election of Sonia Gandhi as party leader, a section broke away and formed Nationalist Congress Party. Where breakaway factions are active, the use of "Congress (I)" to denote the party run by Indira Gandhi's successors continues. There have been repeated attempts by the Hindu nationalist groups (such as the BJP) to discredit Sonia Gandhi's leadership on the basis of her foreign origin. Nonetheless Sonia has emerged as one of the most popular political leaders of India, reaffirming that the legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is still considered to be a mark of legitimacy for broad sections of the Indian population.

Formation of present Government of India

Lok Sabha election result 2004, click for full image.
In the 2004 general elections, the Congress alliance won the most number of seats and got an assurance of support from the Left Front upsetting the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance which according to all forecasts was going to coast to victory. Shortly thereafter, Sonia Gandhi was nominated by the Congress-led 19-party alliance to be the next Prime Minister. But in what was described as dropping of a political bombshell, Sonia Gandhi refused to take the position based on her "inner voice". Eminent economist, former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader Dr. Manmohan Singh was backed by her for the post of Prime Minister. The swearing in ceremony took place on May 22, 2004.''''

Party Presidents

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