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  • The Indian National Congress was formed at a national convention held at Bombay in December 1885.
  • A.O. Hume, a former British civil servant and a political liberal is considered as the founder of INC. He toured across India, met various political leaders and persuaded them to meet at this national conference. He is also known as the father of Indian National Congress.
  • Initially, it was decided to meet at Poona and Poona Sarvajanik Sabha offered to host this event. But because of a plague outbreak, venue was shifted from Pune to Bombay.
  • The first session of INC was held from December 28 to 31, at Gokul Das Tejpal Sanskrit College, Bombay.
  • It was attended by 72 delegates from different parts of the country. Prominent among them were: A.O.Hume (Simla), Dadabhai Naoroji, K.T.Telang, Pherozeshah Mehta, D.E. Wacha, B.M.Malabari, N. G. Chandavarkar (from Bombay), G.G.Agarkar, W.S. Apta (from Poona), W.C.Bonnerjee, Narendra Nath Sen (from Calcutta), G.Subrahmaniya Iyer, M. Viraraghavachariar, P.R. Naidu (from Madras) etc. Majority of them from Bombay.
  • A.O. Hume was the first person to address this session.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji suggested the name ‘Congress’ for this organization, which he adopted from North American history.
  • They decided to hold congress session in every year at different parts of the country and to choose a president to lead the organization for a year. The president should be from a region other than the one where the session was being held.
  • W.C. Bonnerjee, a barrister from Calcutta became the first president of Congress. A.O. Hume served as the General Secretary of Congress till he left for England in 1894.
  • Total nine resolutions were presented in the first session of INC, and the first Resolution demanding the appointment of Royal Commission for India was presented by G. Subrahmaniya Iyer.

Important Persons at the time of Congress Formation

  • British Monarch : Queen Victoria
  • British Prime Minister : Lord Salisbury
  • Viceroy of India : Lord Dufferin
  • Governor of Bombay : Lord Reay
  • Safety Valve theory – Proposed by William Wedderburn in his biography of A.O. Hume, 1913 (PSC answer: Lala Lajpat Rai, in his book Young India)
  • Lightning rod theory – Proposed by Gopalakrishna Gokhale


  • Holiday recreation : B.G.Tilak
  • Begging Institute : Aurobindo Ghosh
  • Three day Thamasha: Ashinikumar Dutt
  • Mouthpiece of a Microscopic Minority : Lord Dufferin
  • Congress should distinguish between begging and claiming rights: B.G.Tilak
  • Indians could not achieve success if we croak once in a year: B.G.Tilak
  • Congress playing with bubbles: Bipin Chandra Pal
  • Congress is in reality a civil war without arms: Sayyed Ahmmed Khan
  • English knowing upper class affair : Jawaharlal Nehru (on early Congress)


  • Administrative reform by appointing more Indians in higher posts in civil services (Indianisation of civil services)
  • Include Indians in Viceroy’s executive Council.
  • Enlarge and empower legislative council with more Indian members.
  • Reduce Military expenditure
  • Abolish India Council of Secretary of State for India
  • Repeal discriminatory laws against Indians

Opposition to Congress

Sayyed Ahmmed Khan, an influential Muslim religious reformer opposed the participation of Muslims in the congress and given a call for a boycott of Congress. He believed that the organization is anti-British and it will negatively affect the Muslim interests. He founded United Patriotic Association in 1888 which included Muslims as well as Hindu members, all of whom were opposed to the Congress.  It aimed to develop close ties between the Muslim community and the British Raj. In 1893 he formed the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Defence Association of Upper India, confining its membership to Muslims and Englishmen.


1885 Bombay (President – W.C.Bonnerjee)

  • First Congress Session. It was attended by 72 delegates, majority of them from Bombay itself.
  • W.C. Bonnerjee was the first President of INC. He was also the first person to be the President of INC twice (1885 Bombay and 1892 Allahabad)

1886 Calcutta (President – Dadabhai Naoroji)

  • Second Congress session. It was attended by 434 delegates.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji is the second President of INC and first Parsi president.
  • He was the first person to be the President of INC three times (1886 Calcutta, 1893 Lahore and 1906 Calcutta)
  • Congress decided to set up Provincial Congress Committees across the country

1887 Madras (President – Badruddin Tyabji)

  • Attended by 607 delegates. First South Indian city to host a congress session was Madras.
  • Badruddin Tyabji was the first Muslim president of INC.

1888 Allahabad (President: George Yule)

  • It was attended by 1248 delegates
  • George Yule was the first Foreigner/European/White President of INC.

1889 Bombay (President: William Wedderburn)

  • Attended by 1889 delegates
  • William Wedderburn was the second foreigner President of INC
  • He was the only foreigner to be the President of INC twice (1889 Bombay and 1910 Allahabad)
  • First Congress session attended by Women

William Wedderburn

  • William Wedderburn arrived in India in 1860 as a member of the Indian Civil Service. He started his career as Assistant Collector, Dharwar, and retired in 1887 as Chief Secretary, Bombay Presidency.
  • He later became a Member of British Parliament.
  • He wrote the biography of A.O.Hume, when he died in 1912.
  • William Wedderburn was the first Chairman of British Committee formed in 1889.
  • He was the first Chairman of Indian Parliamentary Committee, from 1893 to 1900

1890 Calcutta (President –Pherozshah Mehta)

  • Pherosh Shah Mehta was the second Parsi president of INC.
  • A woman addressed Congress for the first time in this session.
  • Kadambini Ganguly was the first woman to address a Congress session.

1891 Nagpur Session (President – P.Ananda Charlu)

  • Ananda Charlu was the first South Indian President of INC (from Madras).
  • The term ‘national’ was added to the name of Congress.

1896 Calcutta (President – Rahimathullah M Sayani)

  • Vande Mataram was first sung in a Congress session. It was sung by Rabindra Natha Tagore
  • Congress officially accepted the drain of wealth theory in this session
  • Congress also passed a resolution blaming the British for the famine that had devastated many parts of India.
  • Rahimathullah Sayani was the second Muslim President of INC

1897 Amaraoti (Maharashtra) (President- Chettur Shankaran Nair)

  • Chettur Shankaran Nair is the only malayalee president of INC
  • He is also the first malayalee to be a member of Viceroy’s Executive Council

Chettur Shanakaran Nair (1857-1934)

  • Chettur Sankaran Nair became a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council in 1915 with the charge of the Education portfolio.
  • He resigned from Executive Council in protest to Jallian Walla Bagh massacre.
  • In 1928 he was appointed as the President of the Indian Central Committee to co-operate with the Simon Commission.
  • The Committee prepared a well-argued report asking for Dominion Status for India. When the Viceregal announcement came granting Dominion Status as the ultimate goal for India, Sir Sankaran Nair retired from active politics.
  • Gandhi and Anarchy was his famous book published in 1922. It severely criticizes Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement.

1898 Madras ( President – Anandamohan Bose)

  • Social reform was set as the main goal of Congress

1899 Lucknow ( President – R C Dutt)

  • First Party Constitution was framed for Congress
  • Congress demanded that the British government put a stop to the ‘drain of wealth’€from India to England that had been taking place as a result of colonial rule.

1901 Calcutta (president – D E Wacha)

  • First Congress session attended by Mahatma Gandhi
  • He moved a resolution on South Africa in this session

1904 Bombay (President – Henry Cotton)

  • Congress protested the violation of rules by Lord Curzon as he used revenues from India for his forward policy in Tibet.
  • Henry Cotton was the third foreigner President and first foreigner president in 20th century.

1905 Benares Session (President – Gopalakrishna Gokhale)

  • The divisions between the moderates led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Surendranath Banerjea and the extremists led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak came to the fore in this session.
  • While Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai wanted the Congress to boycott the visit of the Prince of Wales in protest against the Bengal Partition, the moderates opposed any such move.

1906 Calcutta (President –Dadabhai Naoroji)

  • Congress declared Swaraj or Self Government as its ultimate goal.
  • This declaration was made by President Dadabhai Naoroji.
  • Naoroji was 81 year old at that time and the oldest President of INC till date.
  • Four resolutions were passed at this session: These were on self-government, boycott, swadeshi and national education.

1907 Surat (President – Rashbehari Ghosh)

  • The 23rd Session of the Congress was held at the bank of the Tapti river, in Surat.
  • The Congress was split into: Moderates and Extremists. The session was marred with violence and eventually suspended. Extremists left Congress.
  • Surat Split was the first split in the history of Congress.

1911 Calcutta (President– B N Dar)

  • Jana Gana Mana was first sung in this session of Congress (December 27, 1911)
  • Congress welcomed the British Monarch, George V, who was visiting India for the first time.

1912 Bankipur (President – R.N. Mudholkar)

  • Bankipur Session was the first congress session attended by Jawaharlal Nehru

1916 Lucknow (President – A C Majumdar)

  • The moderates and extremists reunited in this session
  • Congress and the All India Muslim League decided to cooperate and signed a pact called Lucknow Pact.
  • The League also held its session in the same city, Lucknow, that year.
  • Mahatma Gandhi met Jawaharlal Nehru for the first time
  • Rajkumar Shukla invited Gandhi to Champaran at this session.

1917 Calcutta Session (President – Annie Besant)

  • Annie Besant was the first woman to be the president of INC.
  • She was also the first foreigner woman president of INC. Ireland was her native place.

1918 Delhi Session (President – Madan Mohan Malaviya)

  • First Congress Session held in Delhi

1920 Calcutta Special Session (President – Lala Lajpat Rai)

  • Congress decided to launch Non-cooperation movement

1920 Nagpur Session (President – C Vijayaraghavachariyar)

  • Congress was given new organizational structure
  • Congress decided to set up Provincial Committees on linguistic basis
  • Congress subscription was fixed at 4 annas and minimum age for membership was reduced to 18.
  • A 15-member Congress Working Committee was constituted.
  • Congress changed its goal from ‘attainment of self government by constitutional means’ to ‘attainment of swaraj by peaceful and legitimate manner.’

1921 Ahammedabad (President – CR Das, Hakkim Ajmal Khan)

  • Chitharanjan Das was chosen as the President of INC in 1921. Since he was in jail, Hakim Ajmal Khan was elected as President in the absence of C.R. Das.
  • Hakkim Ajmal Khan was the first Acting President of INC. He is the only person to have been appointed president of the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League and the All India Khilafat Committee.

Moulana Hasrat Mohani was the first person to propose that Swaraj should be defined as complete independence, free from foreign control in 1921 while presiding over a Muslim League Session in 1921.

1923 Delhi Special Session (President – Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad)

  • Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad became the president of INC for the first time
  • Azad was the youngest president of INC, at the age of 35.
  • Congress decided to set up All India Khadi Board

1924 Belgaum Congress Session (President –Mahatma Gandhi)

  • Belgaum session is the only Congress session Gandhi served as the President.
  • Belgaum is in Karnataka.

1925 Kanpur Session (President – Sarojini Naidu)

  • Sarojini Naidu became the second woman and first Indian woman to preside over the Congress

1927 Madras Session (President – M A Ansari)

  • Congress decided to boycott Simon Commission

1928 Calcutta (President – Motilal Nehru)

  • Congress demanded Dominion status to be given within one year.

1929 Lahore Session (President – Jawaharlal Nehru)

  • Congress passed Poorna Swaraj Resolution demanding complete independence.
  • Congress decided to celebrate January 26, 1930 as Poorna Swaraj day (or First Independence day)
  • On December 31, 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted tricolor flag on the Banks of river Ravi, at Lahore.
  • J.L. Nehru was the youngest person to be the president of INC in a regular session. (Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad became the president in a special session)

1931 Karachi (President – Sardar Vallabhai Patel)

  • Congress passed a resolution on fundamental rights and economic policy. The fundamental rights were defined by Congress for the first time.
  • This resolution was drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Congress endorsed Gandhi-Irwin Pact signed in 1931.
  • Congress also decided to send Gandhi as the sole representative of INC in the Second Round Table Conference to be held in London.

1933 Calcutta (President – Nellie Sengupta)

  • Nellie sengupta was the third woman, second foreigner woman and first British woman to be the president of INC.
  • Her original name was Edith Ellen Gray.

1937 Faizpur (President – Jawaharlal Nehru)

  • This session is known as the first village session of congress. It was the first Congress session held in a village.
  • Faizpur is in Maharashtra

1938 Haripura, Gujarat (President – Subhas Chandra Bose)

  • Subhas Chandra Bose became the president of INC for the first time in this session

1939 Tripuri, Madhya Pradesh (President – Subhas Chandra Bose)

  • In the 52nd Session of Congress, Subhash announced his candidature for the President. But Gandhi put forwarded the candidature of Pattabhi Sitharamaiyyah.
  • An election was held for the post of President, for the first time in Congress
  • Subhas Chandra Bose defeated Pattabhi Sitharamiyyah, the nominee of Gandhi. Subhas Chandra Bose was the first elected President of INC.
  • But he couldn’t continue for long. When he resigned in the same year itself, Rajendra Prasad served as the President for the rest of the term.

1940 Ramgarh, Jharkhand (President – Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad)

  • Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad was elected president for the second time
  • He served as the President of INC till 1946, making him the President who hold the office for the longest continuous term.

1946 Meerut (President –J B Kripalani)

  • J B Kripalani was the President of INC at the time of Indian Independence.

1948 Jaipur Session (President –Pattabhi Sitharamaiyyah)

  • It was the first Congress session in independent India
  • It was in this session, Congress appointed JVP Committee to look into the matter of linguistic reorganization of Indian states. The committee consisted of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitharamiyyah

Pattabhi Sitharamaiyyah

  • Pattabhi Sitharamiyyah is also known as ‘the official historian of Indian National Congress’
  • He is the author of the book ‘History of Congress.’ Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote introduction for this book published in 1935.
  • The diary he maintained during the jail time was published later as ‘Feathers and stones’

1955 Avadi, Madras (President- U N Dhebar)

  • Congress adopted a resolution to establish socialist pattern of society

1959 Delhi Session (President – Indira Gandhi)

  • Indira Gandhi was the first woman President of INC after Independence.

1985 Bombay

  • Rajiv Gandhi became the President of INC
  • He was the President of INC in its birth centenary

1998 New Delhi Special Session

  • Sonia Gandhi became the President of INC
  • She is the longest serving president of the Congress party, having held the office for 19 years from 1998 to 2017.
  • She joined the party as a primary member at the 1997 plenary session.

2017 Delhi

  • Rahul Gandhi became the 87th President of INC and 16th president of the Congress since Independence
President Pre Independence Post Independence
Oldest Dadabhai Naoroji Sitaram Kesari
Youngest Abdul Kalam Azad Rajiv Gandhi
Longest continuous term Abdul Kalam Azad Sonia Gandhi
City hosted most number of sessions Calcutta Delhi


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