The rise of national consciousness in India led to the formation of Indian National Congress, after which the British government had to start bending towards the demands of Indian people The changes in the Indian freedom struggle after the formation of Indian National Congress were very intersting which is part of UPSC mains GS paper 1.


  • Indian National Congress
  • Moderates
  • Extremists
  • Difference between Moderates and Extremists


  • Formed in 1885 by Allan Octavian Hume, a retired British civil servant.
  • Other founding members include Dadabhai Naoroji and Dinshaw Wacha.
  • First session was held in Bombay under the presidency of Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee in 1885.
  • First session was attended by 72 delegates from across the country.
  • Viceroy of India at the time was Lord Dufferin who gave his permission to Hume for the first session.
  • The Congress was formed with the intention of discussing problems faced by the people of the country irrespective of caste, creed, religion or language.
  • It was basically a movement of the upper and middle class, western educated Indians in its moderate phase.
  • Second session of the Congress was held in Calcutta in 1886 followed by the third in Madras in 1887.

The aims and objects of the Congress described in the first session as:

• Promotion of personal intimacy and friendship amongst the countrymen,
• Eradication of all possible prejudices relating to race, creed or provinces,
• Consolidation of sentiments of national unity,
• Recording of the opinions of educated classes on pressing problems of the day, and
• Laying down lines for future course of action in public interest.
• This organization initially fought for reforms in the country, and subsequently for the freedom of India from the foreign yoke.
• The history of the Indian National Movement can be categorized in three important phases:

• The phase of 1885-1904; Phase of moderate nationalism when the Congress continued to be loyal to the British crown.
• The phase of 1905-1917; Swadeshi Movement, rise of militant nationalism and the Home Rule Movement.
• The phase of 1918-1947; Known as the Gandhian era.


  • The Indian National Congress founded in 1885, provided common platform for the nationalist leaders to meet & voice their grievances & place their demands before the British government.
  • The early leaders of the Indian National Congress were Dadabhai Naoroji, M.G. Ranade, Sir P.M. Mehta, G.K. Gokhale, W.C. Banerjee & S.N. Banerjee.
  • They were staunch believers in liberalism and Moderate politics.
  • They came from the upper strata and were the product of western education.
  • The moderates had a fascination for British Parliamentary institutions.
  • They were reformers and believed in the British justice.
  • They wanted a balanced and lucid presentation of their needs before the Englishmen and their parliament.
  • They used the methods of constitutional agitation.
  • They believed that their main task was to educate the people in modern politics & arouse national consciousness, create a united public opinion on political questions.
  • They hold public meetings; they passed resolutions setting forth popular demands, and sent petitions to the British authorities in India and to the parliament in England.
  • The moderates believed that the British were unaware of the real conditions of India.
  • They therefore made all efforts to enlighten the British public opinion through memorials, petitions and political propaganda in England.
  • The Moderates considered the coming of the British as beneficial and providential.
  • They wanted to use the British in their attempts to reform contemporary Indian society.
  • The early nationalist leaders did not expect the Congress to function as a political party.
  • A.O. Hume wanted it to function on the model of the Irish Home Rule League, which sought autonomy in internal affairs under the British suzerainty. Thus, the Western concept of self-government, was the political goal of the moderates. This goal was to be achieved through a gradual process.

Opinion Against Economic Exploitation

  •  The Moderates linked the poverty in India to the economic exploitation of the country by the British.
  •  Dadabhi Naoroji pointed out the root cause of India’s poverty & traced it to the drain of India’s wealth.
  •  The Moderates suggested the development of modern industry as a remedy for the eradication of poverty.
  •  They popularized the concept of swadeshi as a means of promoting Indian industries.
  •  They carried on agitation for the reduction in land revenue and asked for a radical change in the existing pattern of taxation & expenditure.
  •  They urged the government to provide cheap credit to the peasants through agricultural banks and to make available large scale irrigation facilities.
  •  They demanded improvement in the condition of plantation laborers, abolition of salt tax & other taxes.
  •  They were critical of the high government expenditure on the army that was employed in Asia & Africa.

Administrative Reforms

  • The Moderates demanded for increasing Indianization of administrative services; criticized the oppressive & tyrannical behavior of the police & government officials towards the common people and demanded the separation of the executive from the judiciary.
  • They opposed the official policy of disarming the people.
  • They emphasized the need for the spread of education, extension of medical facilities to the people, improvement of the public system and demanded freedom of speech & abolition of press censorship.

Constitutional Reforms

  • They were also extremely cautious, lest the Government suppress their activities. From 1885 to 1892 they demanded the expansion and reform of the Legislative councils.
  • The British Government was forced by their agitation to pass the Indian Councils Act of 1892. By this Act the number of members of the imperial Legislative Council as well as the provincial councils was increased. Some of these members could be elected indirectly by Indians, but the officials’ majority remained.
  • The nationalists were totally dissatisfied with the Act of 1892 and declared it to be a hoax.
  • By the beginning of the 20th century, the nationalist leaders advanced further and put forward the claim for swarajya of self-government within the
  • British Empire on the model of self-governing colonies like Australia and Canada. This demand was made from the Congress platform by Gokhale in 1905 and by Dadabhai Naoroji in 1906.


  • The Moderates lacked confidence in the masses.
  • They came from the cities and were sympathetic towards the people of the country side but could not keep close contact with them.
  • They did not realize that a prolonged struggle against imperialism could be waged through a mass movement only.
  • The Moderates apprehended that if they led a mass movement, the British Government would easily break the Congress. The Moderates, therefore, did not organize a mass movement on a large scale.


  • The Moderates were the most progressive in Indian society at that time and they were true patriots.
  • They desired all-round progress and modernization of India and wished the betterment of the Indian society.
  • The Moderates succeeded in creating a wide political awakening in India and arousing among the Indians the feeling of belonging to one common nation.
  • They popularized the ideas of democracy & civil liberty.
  • They also trained a large number of political workers in the art of modern politics.
  • In spite of their loyalty to the British crown, they exposed the true character of the British imperialism in India and blamed British rule for the poverty of the Indian people.


  • The younger group of nationalists in the Indian national Congress, led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal; was known as the Extremist Congress.
  • This group was extremely critical of the ideology and methodology of the Moderate leadership.
  • They believed in radical programmes for the attainment of their demands.
  •  According to the extremists the Moderates with their elitist background did not succeed in making any effective impact on the masses.

Reasons for the Rise of Extremists

  •  The failure of the Moderates to win any notable success other than the expansion of the legislative councils by the Indian Councils Act (1892).
  • The famine and plague of 1896-97 which affected the whole country and the suffering of the masses.
  •  The economic conditions of the people became worse.
  •  The ill-treatment of Indians in South Africa on the basis of colour.
  •  The Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 in which Japan defeated the European power Russia. This encouraged Indians to fight against the European nation, Britain.
  •  Other then above mentioned causes the viceroyalty of Curzon & his reactionary policies contributed to the rise of extremist movement.
    Curzon considered that the main objective of his mission was to strengthen the roots of the British empire in India
  •  He curtailed the number of Indians in the Calcutta Corporation & increased the official control over the Indian universities in the name of educational reforms.
  •  He spent Indian money lavishly on foreign missions, the Delhi Durbar and the Tibetan expedition.
  • Curzon’s highhanded action forcing the partition of Bengal against the will of the people, earned unpopularity & alienated the educated classes from the British rule.

Course of Action

  • Consequently, the extremist leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, and Aurobindo Ghosh advocated stronger agitation and mass action.
  • The extremists differed in ideology and action from the moderates. They rejected prayer and petition method of moderates.
    The new leadership sought to create a passionate love for liberty, accompanied by a spirit of sacrifice and readyness to suffer for the cause of country.
  • They advocated boycott of foreign goods, use of swadesi goods, national education and passive resistance.
    They had deep faith in mass and they planned to achieve swaraj through mass action.
  • The leaders of this wing gave up the soft approach of appeals and petitions.
  • Instead, they made radical demands and adopted strong ways of political agitation.
  • They had no faith in good intentions of the British government. The extremist aimed at achiveing ‘swaraj’ that meant complete independence from British rule.
  • They considered that the demand of the moderate leaders for Swaraj was for colonial self government.
  • Tilak remarked, ‘Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it’.
  • Aurobindo Ghosh said “political freedom is the life breath of a nation”.
  • The most outstanding leader among the Extremists was Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He started a school & founded two newspapers, the Maratha in English and the Kesari in Marathi. Both the newspapers, by their fearless criticism of the government attained great popularity.
  • In 1890, Tilak opposed the Age of Consent Bill, on the ground that a foreign government had no right to interfere with Hindu religion and social matters and in 1893, also sponsored the cow-protection movement.
  • Tilak reorganized the festival of Ganapati, and started the Shivaji festival to revive the spirit of adventure & liberate the country from foreign domination.
  • Tilak advised the peasants to withhold payment of land revenues when their crops failed because of draught or famine. He called for Swadeshi and boycott of British goods.


  • The differences between the Moderates & the Extremists were that the moderates were against the idea of boycott as a general political weapon, though they welcomed swadeshi.
  • G.K. Gokhale recommended the use of the word swadeshi to describe the anti partition movement.
  • These differences centred round two main points, namely the political goal and the method to achieve it.
  •  As regards the goal, Tilak summed up his idea in one sentence ‘Swaraj is my birth right and I will have it’.
  •  The Extremists interpreted Swaraj to mean complete autonomy without any dependence on the British rule. But G.K. Gokhale, did not expect that. He said that there was no alternative to British rule, for a long time to come.
  • The differences between the Moderates and the Extremists had become irreconcilable and in 1906 the Calcutta Congress proposed the name of Tilak for the Presidents of the Congress. However, the moderates opposed this proposal.
  • A split was avoided by choosing Dadabhai Naoroji; under his president ship four compromise resolutions on Swadeshi, boycott, national education, and self-government demands were passed.


  • In 1907, the annual session of the Congress proposed to be held at Nagpur, which was considered as the Extremist stronghold. However, due to the Moderates, the venue was shifted to Surat.
  • The final showdown between the two factions in the Congress was staged at Surat. The Extremists wanted Lala Lajpat Rai as the president of the Congress. However, the Moderates chose Rashbehari Ghose as the president.
  • The Surat Congress of 1907 ended in a split between the Moderates and the extremists led by Gokhale and Tilak respectively.

The reasons of what led to the formation of Indian national Congress and the thoughts which were followed by the Congress are very important part of the UPSC syllabus. To read more articles on Modern India History click here