Indian National Congress

The Congress has remained the main political organization of India for more than 125 years now. Its achievements and lapses, its strength and weakness, and its moments of glory and tragedies, have all been an integral part of the Indian political scene. It evolved from a platform to forum and then a movement, and later to a new political party after independence. There were two opinions about its reorganization after independence. Some wanted the Congress to dissolve, and others who wanted to reorganize it on the new lines, with clear direction.

“I am convinced” wrote Gandhiji “that no patch-work treatment can cure the Congress. The best thing for the Congress would be that it should dissolve itself. Its voluntary liquidation will brace up and purify the political climate”. Gandhiji believed with the liberation of the country, the Congress had fulfilled its cherished task, and the time had come for it to give place to what he called, ‘the purely political parties’, and advised that ‘the Congress should flower into a Lok Sewa Sangh’.

However, Jawaharlal Nehru and few others thought differently. They insisted that without the Congress, to which the power was really transferred by the retreating British, the supreme task of political unification of the sovereign nation and the establishment of a parliamentary democracy would remain undone. Finally, this view prevailed, and since independence, the Congress became a political power structure, a party of dominance being vanguard of the national movement.

The Congress party since independence has been both an all-India party and a regional-cum-local party, often playing two different roles at the two levels of Indian polity, i.e. national and state levels. It includes within its fold a wide range of ideological, caste, regional and interest groups, mutually antagonistic, but united by a common bond of survival and political ambition for power and prestige; with many groups and classes even attempting to change its direction and policies to suit their sectional purposes and political perspectives.

After independence of India in 1947, the Congress became the dominant political party in the country. Post-independence, in 1952, the first general elections were held, where the party swept to power in the Lok Sabha and most state assemblies. The party held power nationally until 1977 when it was defeated by the Janata coalition because of nation-wide emergency. It returned to power in 1980 and ruled until 1989, when it was once again defeated due to corruption related issues. It again formed the government in 1991 as the head of a coalition, and in 2004 and 2009 too, when it led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The Congress remained center-left in its social policies during this period while steadily shifting from a socialist to a liberal economic outlook. The BJP is its main rival party at the national and state level, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and various regional parties such as SAD and the Telugu Desam Party being the others.