National Party

Flag_of_the_Indian_National_Congress.svg
Allan Octavian Hume, Founder
First session of INC, 1885 Jawaharlal Nehru

Indian National Congress

Founded in 1885 under the guidance of British civil servant Allan Octavian Hume, the Indian National Congress (INC), popularly known as the Congress, is the country’s oldest political party. Today it is one of the two major national political parties, other being the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and operates on the ideology of Gandhian Socialism and Social Democracy. Its political position is centre-left in contrast to BJP which is the right-wing nationalist party.

Members of the Theosophical Society, namely Dadabhai Naoroji, Surendranath Banerjee, M.G. Ranade, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Dinshaw Wacha, Monomohun Ghose and William Wedderburn, headed by A.O. Hume, established the Indian National Congress to obtain greater share of Indians in the British government. Liberal nationalism became the war-cry of the Congress, drawing to it more than 15 million members and triple the number of participants in the anti-imperialist struggle. Though it began as a political party, the INC was symbolic of the largest vehicle of the Indian National Movement in the pre-independence era, being the sole representative of the people of the country and representing social reform causes and human progress.

The Congress is credited with a number of historic demands and movements of the freedom struggle. With Mahatma Gandhi adorning the centre stage of Indian freedom struggle, a number of other members of the Congress joined the freedom struggle. Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jayaprakash Narayan, Jivatram Kripalani, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Rajendra Prasad and others embraced the Gandhian policy of Satyagraha and his concept of non-violence. The Congress became increasingly popular among the masses, though with years, it began to identify itself with the big business houses of the Tatas and the Birlas. In the final years of the British rule, the Congress became synonymous with the leadership and spiritual guidance of Mahatma Gandhi.

With the independence of India in 1947 and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru became the sole undisputed head of the INC in independent India. His daughter Indira Gandhi became his political successor. But she gradually became autocratic and dictatorial in her approach, as the Congress President as well as the PM of India, leading to factionalism within the Congress party. In the face of severe opposition, she proclaimed National Emergency in 1975. She lifted the emergency in 1977 when fresh elections were held. Indira Gandhi’s authoritarian rule led to the first electoral defeat of the Congress at the hands of the Janata Party in 1977.

The present President of the INC is Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi, the wife of Rajiv Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi is the current Vice President of INC. The Nehru-Gandhi legacy has percolated to the party’s top leadership even today. The Congress has won General Elections a number of times in the country. The 2009 elections made the Congress form the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Manmohan Singh was chosen again as the Prime Minister of India, and represents.

The Congress had to face a drubbing in the 2014 Indian General Elections, winning only 44 seats out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP registered a landslide victory in the elections, accounting for 282 seats on its own. Thereafter, the Congress lost to BJP in every subsequent state elections in 2014.

Leaders of Congress

The Congress Working Committee is the highest decision-making body of the INC. The leaders of the INC, who are also their representatives and national executives, are:

  • Sonia Gandhi, President of INC Sonia Gandhi, the Parliamentary Chairperson of the INC, succeeded her husband Rajiv Gandhi as the Congress President in 1998 and has remained in that post ever since. She is the longest serving party President in the history of the INC. She has served as the President of the National Advisory Council (NAC), a body set up to aid and advise the Prime Minister in his governance of the country. She has also served as the Leader of Opposition in the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999, when the BJP-led NDA government came to power. Sonia Gandhi is the Chairperson of the present United Progressive Alliance (UPA) since 2004, when the Congress-led UPA came to power consecutively in 2004 and 2009.
  • Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister Singh had retained the post of PM for two consecutive terms in 2004 and 2009. He was the first PM after Jawaharlal Nehru, to have completed the full five-year term in office. His government under UPA-1 and UPA-2 was said to have brought about certain important acts and schemes such as the Right to Information Act in 2008, Rural Health Mission, Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and the Food Security Bill in 2013.
  • Sushil Kumar Shinde, former Minister of Home Affairs Shinde is a member of the Congress Working Committee in the category of ‘Permanent Invitees’. Besides functioning as the party Leader in Lok Sabha, he served as the Minister of Home Affairs in the UPA-2 government.
  • Rahul Gandhi, Vice-President of the INC Rahul Gandhi is a Member of Parliament from the Amethi constituency in UP. He is also the Chairperson of the Indian Youth Congress as well as the National Students Union of India (NSUI). Rahul Gandhi was the Prime Ministerial candidate from the INC in the 2014 General Elections.
  • A.K. Anthony, former Minister of Defence Antony was the Defence Minister of India in the UPA government.
  • Digvijay Singh, General Secretary, AICC Singh, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, is one of the important figures in the INC.
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