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Political Associations in India before the Indian National Congress

Political Associations

The political associations in the early half of the nineteenth century were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements, local or regional in character, and through long petitions to the British Parliament demanded.

  • Administrative reforms,
  • Association of Indians with the administration, and
  • Spread of education.

The political associations of the second half of the nineteenth century came to be increasingly dominated by the educated middle classthe lawyers, journalists, doctors, teachers, etc. and they had a wider perspective and a larger agenda.


In the rich tapestry of Indian history, the period preceding the establishment of the Indian National Congress holds great significance. During this time, several political associations emerged, paving the way for the eventual formation of the Congress. These associations played a crucial role in shaping India’s political landscape and advocating for the rights and aspirations of its people. This article explores the various political associations that existed before the Indian National Congress came into being, shedding light on their contributions and impact.

The Dawn of Political Awakening
The Role of Social Reform Movements

During the 19th century, India witnessed a wave of social reform movements aimed at challenging regressive customs and advocating for social equality. Prominent figures such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar spearheaded these movements and paved the way for political consciousness among the masses.

Emergence of Political Associations

Furthermore, inspired by the social reform movements, political associations began to emerge in various regions of India. These associations provided platforms for intellectuals, activists, and visionaries to convene and engage in discussions concerning governance, civil rights, and the imperative for political representation.

Key Political Associations
1. Indian Association

Founded by Surendranath Banerjee in 1876, the Indian Association aimed to foster nationalist sentiments and advocate for Indian interests. It played a pivotal role in organizing public meetings and raising awareness about the oppressive policies of the British Raj.

2. Madras Mahajan Sabha

Established in 1884, the Madras Mahajan Sabha became a prominent voice in Southern India. Led by G. Subramania Iyer, it worked tirelessly to address the grievances of the local population and press for administrative reforms.

3. Bombay Presidency Association

The Bombay Presidency Association, formed in 1885, actively campaigned for Indian representation in the legislative councils. Its founding members, including Dadabhai Naoroji and Pherozeshah Mehta, laid the groundwork for future political movements in India.

4. Poona Sarvajanik Sabha

Founded by Mahadev Govind Ranade in 1870, the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha aimed to promote social and educational reforms. It played a crucial role in encouraging public participation in governance and highlighting the need for responsible leadership.

5. East India Association

The East India Association, established in 1866, had its roots in London. Led by Dadabhai Naoroji, it worked towards exposing the economic drain caused by British colonial policies in India. The association also advocated for fair trade and the inclusion of Indians in administrative positions.

Contributions and Impact
Fostering Nationalistic Sentiments

Moreover, these political associations played a pivotal role in fostering nationalistic sentiments among the Indian population. Through their dynamic activities and influential publications, they effectively instilled a profound sense of pride and unity, thereby establishing the essential foundation for future mass movements.

Advocacy for Civil Rights

Additionally, one of the primary objectives of these associations was to actively advocate for civil rights and political representation. They valiantly fought against discriminatory laws and policies, relentlessly striving for equal treatment and fair governance for all Indians.

Shaping the Indian Identity

By emphasizing the rich cultural heritage of India and promoting indigenous industries, these associations played a crucial role in shaping and preserving the Indian identity. They celebrated the diversity of the nation while fostering a collective sense of purpose.

Mobilizing the Masses

Moreover, political associations organized public meetings, rallies, and conferences to mobilize the masses and raise awareness about the pressing issues of the time. These associations served as platforms for political discourse, fostering open dialogue, and actively encouraging public participation in governance.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. What were the main goals of these political associations?

The main goals of these political associations were to advocate for civil rights, political representation, and fair governance for the Indian population.

2. Who were some of the prominent leaders associated with these associations?

Prominent leaders associated with these associations included Surendranath Banerjee, G. Subramania Iyer, Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, and Mahadev Govind Ranade.

3. Did these associations have any impact on India’s independence movement?

Yes, these associations laid the foundation for India’s independence movement. They instilled nationalistic sentiments, mobilized the masses, and raised awareness about the oppressive policies of British colonial rule.

4. How did these associations contribute to shaping the Indian identity?

These associations celebrated India’s rich cultural heritage and promoted indigenous industries, thereby shaping and preserving the Indian identity.

5. Were these associations limited to specific regions in India?

No, these associations were spread across different regions of India, including Bengal, Madras, Bombay, and Pune. They aimed to address the concerns and aspirations of Indians across the country.

6. What was the significance of the Indian National Congress in relation to these associations?

Furthermore, the Indian National Congress, founded in 1885, built upon the strong foundations laid by these political associations. Moreover, serving as a unifying platform, the Indian National Congress provided Indians with a collective voice to express their demands and played an indispensable role in the arduous struggle for independence in the country.


The period preceding the Indian National Congress witnessed the emergence of several political associations that significantly shaped India’s political landscape. Moreover, these associations fostered nationalistic sentiments, championed civil rights, and effectively mobilized the masses. As a result of their dedicated efforts, they established the foundation for the eventual establishment of the Indian National Congress and paved the way for India’s arduous struggle for independence. Undoubtedly, the enduring legacy of these early political associations is deeply intertwined with India’s vibrant history, serving as a resounding testament to the unwavering spirit of its people.

Read Also: Bahadur Shah I: The Legacy of a Great Mughal Emperor

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