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Congress Foundation Day: All you need to know about the history of the grand old party

The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 by retired British Indian Civil Service officer Allan Octavian Hume as a platform for civil and political dialogue among educated Indians.

December 28, 2020 / 04:41 PM IST
Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Robert Vadra

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Robert Vadra


The Congress on December 28 celebrated its 136th Foundation Day at its headquarters in Delhi even though party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi gave the event a miss.

Senior leader AK Antony unfurled the flag at the AICC headquarters in the presence of senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

 Here is all you need to know about the grand old party’s history

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 A platform for civil and political dialogue

The Indian National Congress (INC) was founded in 1885 by retired British Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer Allan Octavian Hume as a platform for civil and political dialogue among educated Indians. Hume, accompanied by members of the Theosophical Society including Dadabhai Naoroji, Surendranath Banerjee, MG Ranade, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Dinshaw Wacha, Monomohun Ghose and William Wedderburn, established the Indian National Congress.

Lord Dufferin was the Viceroy of British India at that time. The first conference of representatives was convened on December 25, 1885, by the Union of Pune (Maharashtra). The meeting was later decided to be held in Bombay. Thus the first session of the Congress was held on December 28-31 in Bombay’s Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College. Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee became the first president of the Congress in the first session attended by 72 delegates from across the country. Hume became the general secretary. Besides Hume, two additional British members -- William Wedderburn and Justice John Jardine-- were members of the founding group.

Synonymous with the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi

Between 1885 and 1905, the Indian National Congress passed several resolutions in subsequent annual sessions. Through the resolutions, the humble demands made included civil rights, administrative, constitutional and economic policies. Over the years, the INC became the sole representative of the people during pre-independence days. Towards the end of British rule, the Congress became synonymous with the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, who was instrumental in spearheading historic movements of the freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhi was the president of INC’s Belgaum session in 1924. Gandhi spearheaded several movements like the non-violent civil disobedience, non-cooperation, swadesi movement, etc.

First electoral victory

INC tasted political power for the first time in the provincial elections of 1937. It came to power in eight of the eleven provinces where elections were held. This helped in blooming of internal organisation. Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who presided over at least eight INC sessions, was the front-runner in India's struggle for independence and eventually became the first prime minister of independent India, a position that he held for 17 years. Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, became his political successor and the first woman prime minister of India, a position she held for 15 years before her assassination in 1984. Indira Gandhi's son Rajiv Gandhi took over from her and became the youngest prime minister of India from 1984-89. In all, the party has given seven prime ministers to India and has won elections on six occasions and led coalition four times.

The 'two bullocks with plough' symbol

The Election Symbol of the original Congress during election sheld in 1952 and 1971 was an image of 'two bullocks with a plough'. The symbol during the 1971-1977 period was a cow with a sucking calf. The symbol was changed to 'right hand', with palm-side facing front by Indira Gandhi when she split from the Congress (R) faction and formed the new  Congress  (I) after the 1977 general elections.

 The Sonia Gandhi Era

Former PM Rajiv Gandhi's widow, Sonia Gandhi, became the Congress president in 1998, seven years after her husband’s assassination. In the 2004 general election, the Congress stitched up an alliance with several regional parties and formed the new government as the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Manmohan Singh was appointed as the prime minister. The UPA returned to power in 2009 with Manmohan Singh as prime minister. This tenure was however marred with major graft allegations. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, INC was reduced to 44 seats as Narendra Modi-led NDA government stormed to power. The NDA returned to power in 2019.

The Rahul Gandhi tenure and after

In December 2017, Rahul Gandhi took over the party’s reins from his mother Sonia Gandhi who has been the president of the country's oldest party for 19 long years. Rahul Gandhi stepped down as president after the party faced a drubbing in 2019 general election. Sonia Gandhi is the interim president and election for a new president is due. As the Congress kept losing elections at the Centre and the states, questions have been raised within the party over its leadership and the Gandhi family’s dominance. As many as 23 leaders, including many former chief ministers, had recently written to Sonia Gandhi seeking an overhaul in the leadership of the party.
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