The Moderate Congress (1885-1905)

The moderates contributed significantly in Indian freedom struggle. The main objective of the Moderates was to achieve self-government within the British Empire. They followed a middle path and not an extreme path against British Empire.

Methods employed by the Moderates:

  1. In order to achieve their aim, they made several demands for reform and indulged in criticising the Government policies.
  2. They believed in patience and reconciliation rather than in violence and confrontation.
  3. They relied on constitutional and peaceful methods in order to achieve their aim.
  4. They focus on educating people, arousing their political consciousness and creating a public opinion, which.
  5. In order to create public opinion in England, the Moderates arranged lectures in different parts of England. A weekly journal called India was published in England for circulation among the British population.
  6. Moderates used different types of newspaper and chronicles to criticise the government policies through newspaper like Bengali newspaper, Bombay chronicle, Hindustan Times, Induprakash, Rast Goftar and a weekly journal India.
  7. They also asked the Government to conduct an enquiry and find ways and means to solve the problems faced by people.
  8. They held meeting and held discussions concerning social, economic and cultural matters. The moderates organized meetings at various places like England, Mumbai, Allahabad, Pune, and Calcutta.

The major demands of the Moderates were:

  • Expansion and reform of legislative councils.
  • Greater opportunities for Indians in higher posts by holding the ICS examination simultaneously in England and in India.
  • Separation of the judiciary from the executive.
  • More powers for the local bodies.
  • Reduction of land revenue and protection of peasants from unjust landlords.
  • Abolition of salt tax and sugar duty Freedom of speech and expression and freedom to form associations
  • The repeal of the Arms Act
  • Reduction of spending on army.
  • The introduction of Permanent Settlement to other parts of India

Contributions of Moderate Nationalists:

  1. The moderates led by Dadabhai Naoroji, R.C. Dutt, Dinshaw Wacha and others, analysed the political economy of British rule in India, and put forward the “drain theory” to explain British exploitation of India.
  2. Moderates were able to create an all-India public opinion that British rule in India was the major cause of India’s poverty and economic backwardness. The moderates demanded reduction in land revenue, abolition of salt tax, improvement in working conditions of plantation labour, etc.
  3. They helped in expansion of council’s i.e. greater participation of Indians in councils and helped in reform of councils i.e. more powers to councils, especially greater control over finances.
  4. The early nationalists worked with the long-term objective of a democratic self-government.
  5. They campaigned for General Administrative Reforms. They demanded and put pressure on British Empire on Indianisation of government service on the economic grounds.
  6. They asked and contributed in Separation of judicial from executive functions.
  7. They criticised:
  • Oppressive and tyrannical bureaucracy and an expensive and time-consuming judicial system.
  • Aggressive foreign policy which resulted in annexation of Burma, attack on Afghanistan and suppression of tribals in the North-West.
  • Increase in expenditure on welfare, education, especially elementary and technical, irrigation works and improvement of agriculture, agricultural banks for cultivators etc.
  1. They fought for civil rights including the right to speech, thought, association and a free press. Through campaigns, the nationalists were able to spread modern democratic ideas, and soon the defence of civil rights became an integral part of the freedom struggle.

The nationalists were, thus, able to build a national movement while undermining the political and moral influence of imperialist rule. This helped in generating anti-imperialist sentiments among the public. But, at the same time, the nationalists failed to widen the democratic base of the movement by not including the masses, especially women, and not demanding the right to vote for all.