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Indian political parties established before 1947

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There were five political parties which came into being in India before 1947. ‘Indian National Congress’ was the oldest party established in 1885, followed by ‘All India Muslim League’ (established in 1906), ‘Hindu Mahasabha’ (established in 1915), ‘Justice Party’ (established in 1917) and ‘Communist Party of India’ (established in 1925). These parties evolved over the next years and decades and served the interest groups associated with the Parties. In this article, a brief look at the origin and evolution of these five Parties is given.

Indian National Congress (1885):

The failed Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was the last effort by the elite Muslims of India to regain political power from British East India Company. Though in minority, the Muslims ruled a major part of India for about 650 years before 1857. After the mutiny of 1857, the total control of India was transferred from the East India Company to the British Empire.

To smash any further problem from Indian Muslims, the British government launched an unwritten pro-Hindu, anti-Muslim policy after the mutiny. Hindus, who constituted the majority population of India, started coming to the forefront of Indian society with direct help from the British government. Indian elite Muslims, on the other hand, went in the background to lick their wounded pride. However, the picture got reversed with the turn of the twentieth century.

Within 25 years of mutiny, a big group of educated Hindus grew-up in India who became conversant with the then socio-political dynamics and histories of the West. Meanwhile, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan also initiated Aligarh Movement in 1875 to encourage elite Muslims, not the Pasmanda Muslims, to come out of the shell and gather Western education for the progress of the Muslim community in India. Sir Syed’s unconditional allegiance to the British government was not astonishing.

The continued uneasiness of the British government about the mutiny of 1857 led them to look for a safety valve for educated Indians in respect of socio-political issues in India. A retired British ICS officer, A O Hume, was allowed by the British government to establish the Indian National Congress (henceforth will be called Congress) in 1885 as a platform for civil and political dialogue among educated Indians. Fundamentally, Congress was a British creation to serve the British interest.

That British move paid dividends for them in later periods. The early twentieth century saw a rise of armed resistance and fighting against the British in different parts of India, particularly in Bengal. The British government in 1915 planted M K Gandhi in the Congress with his deceptive and anti-Hindu ideology of non-violence to blunt the armed struggle of Indian freedom fighters.

Gandhi, the worshiper of non-violence, however, supported and helped the British in the most violent WW-I and II, accepted Dominion Status, disowned thousands of Indians who gave their lives for India’s freedom and allowed division of the country in 1947 to serve British interests.

Congress basically did not change from Hume to Gandhi to Nehru and even decades after Nehru till today. In independent India, Congress nakedly became and continued to remain a pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu party. Dozens of examples can be given on that count. With so much of love and concern for Muslims, Congress could have handed over the political power of un-divided India to Muslim League and saved itself from so much of worry about Muslims. There was no need to divide India even in 1947.

All India Muslim League (1906):

On 16 October 1905, British Bengal was partitioned by the then Viceroy Lord Curzon into Muslim majority Eastern part and Hindu majority Western part. The English-educated middle class Hindu Bengali saw this as a vivisection of their motherland, as well as a tactic to diminish their authority. A massive mass movement across Bengal against the partition was started. Nationalists all over India supported the Bengali cause. And after six years, the partition of Bengal was withdrawn in 1911. But damage was already done.

On 30 December 1906, All India Muslim League (henceforth will be called Muslim League) was established in Decca (Bangladesh) at the behest of its Nawab to safeguard the political rights of the Indian Muslims. That rise of Muslim politics in India was also supported by the British government. And separate electorate was introduced in Indian Councils Act 1909 for Muslims in India. With a separate electorate for Muslims, distinctive Islamic political identity developed in India, as well as Bengal. Muslims started dominating the Legislature of Bengal, due to their overall numerical strength in the province.

With the passage of time Muslim League crystalized the idea of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims from the body of British India. Jinnah, an initial sceptic of ‘Muslim homeland’, became the undisputed leader of Muslim League by early 1930s even in absentia. In 1930 session of Muslim League in Allahabad, Allama Iqbal demanded a state for Muslims of British India. In 1933 Choudhary Rahmat Ali published a pamphlet advocating a Muslim state, first-time calling it Pakistan. In the Lahore Resolution of 1940, Muslim League demanded the creation of an independent Muslim state.

After creation of Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1947, Muslim League lost its relevance in independent India. However, the first meeting of its Indian segment was held in Madras city in March 1948. On its basis Indian Union Muslim League came into being in September 1951 in Madras city. Currently it is a state level party in Kerala only. Different small versions of Muslim League are also still present in Pakistan. Fortunately for Indian Muslims, Congress has been playing the Muslim appeasing role of Muslim League even after seven decades of independence.

Hindu Mahasabha (1915):

Hindu Mahasabha was established in 1915, though a formal move to establish an All-India Hindu Sabha was made at the Allahabad session of Congress in 1910. Initially Hindu Mahasabha was a pressure group within Indian National Congress, advocating the interests of orthodox Hindus before the British government. Hindu Mahasabha was founded by the two veteran Congress leaders: Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai. Ideologically, Hindu Mahasabha was a response to All India Muslim League and it had also influenced the formation of RSS in 1925.

In the late 1930s, Hindu Mahasabha emerged as a distinct political party under the leadership of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who developed the far-right ideology of Hindutva (Hindu-ness) and became a fierce opponent of the secular nationalism espoused by the Congress. Hindu Mahasabha opposed the Gandhian non-violent civil disobedience and Quit India Movement. The party opposed the 1947 partition of India and sought the establishment of a secular and united state named Hindusthan with equal rights for citizens without regards to religion. After the assassination of Gandhi in 1948, Hindu Mahasabha’s fortunes diminished in Indian politics, and it was soon eclipsed politically by the establishment of Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951.

Justice Party (1917):

In 1917, the Justice Party was established in the then Madras by T M Nair, C N Mudaliar and P T Chetty. It was a political party and also known as South Indian Liberal Federation. It was a Caste-based party of non-Brahmins. It was angry at the higher education level among Brahmins of Madras Presidency that culminated into disproportionately higher and better socio-economic opportunities for the Brahmins under British rule.

During its initial period, the Justice party tried to convince the British government and public to support communal representation for non-Brahmins in the presidency. Annie Besant’s Home Rule League based in Madras was dominated by Brahmins and Justice Party took a stand against Annie Besant too. Gradually the rift between Brahmin and non-Brahmin in Madras Presidency widened under a demand from Justice Party for proportionate caste-based representation in jobs and legislature, which the party ultimately extracted from the British government.

The Government of India Act 1919 implemented the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, instituting a Diarchy in the Madras Presidency. The Justice Party opposed the non-cooperation movement of Gandhi of 1919. The Diarchy period extended from 1920 to 1937, encompassing five elections. Justice Party was in power for 13 of 17 years, save for an interlude during 1926 to 1930.

However, increasing nationalist feelings and factional infighting caused the Justice Party to shrink steadily from the early 1930s. After it lost to the Congress in the 1937 election, it never recovered. The Party came under the leadership of E. V. Ramaswamy Periyar. In 1944, Periyar transformed the Justice Party into a social organisation called Dravidar Kazhagam and withdrew it from electoral politics. The party was dissolved in 1944. Majority group joined Dravidar Kazhagam and a minority group gradually joined with Congress.

In 1949 Dravidar Kazhagam became a new political party under C N Annadurai. Its name was changed to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Then in 1972, Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) split from DMK under the leadership of M. G. Ramachandran. ADMK later became AIADMK. The Christian Missionary from London, Robert Caldwell, was instrumental in igniting the fire of Dravidianism in Madras during the early twentieth century. His writings and evangelism influenced the political journey of Tamilians from Justice Party to AIADMK.

The journey of the Dravidian ideology is a journey of progressive descent and comprehensive destruction of almost all facets of the original Tamil culture and heritage. Kiss of Christ has been fatal for the entire Dravidian Civilization because it disarmed Tamil people with the façade of love and compassion. An identity-centric and separatist ideology could capture political dynamics in Tamil Nadu with direct involvement of Christian Missionaries. The quest for an illusory “pure” Dravidian or Tamil identity was like peeling layer after layer of an onion and at the end, one was left with nothing but tears. The Cult of Dravidianism is dead in Tamil Nadu and a Christian preface awaits an epitaph.

Communist Party of India (1925):

Following the success of Bolshevik Revolution in Russia during 1917-1923, a new dawn arrived in the political horizon of modern human society. The world saw with astonishment, a bloody revolution and civil war in Russia that physically overthrew the Russian monarch and established the government of Proletariat. With the establishment of Communist regime in Russia, the Marxist theory entered in to its practical application phase.

A section of educated Indians got sucked into the new ideology which promised to end all socio-economic disparity between haves and have nots. The Communist Party of India (henceforth will be called CPI) was established in 1925 in Kanpur. Many founding members of CPI wanted to maintain a close relationship with Congress. Interestingly, that Congress-loving slant of Communists withstood almost a century, till the present day.

In its early years, CPI was harshly suppressed through legal prohibitions and criminal prosecutions by the British government of India. Participation of CPI in the freedom movement was motivated by the Marxist ideology of violent revolution. CPI was legalized in British India during 1942, after the USSR allied with Britain in WW-II. CPI members opposed Quit India Movement and even spied upon Congress leaders. CPI also supported the Pakistan cause of Muslim League.

After independence, CPI became the largest opposition party in the Indian Parliament with 16 MPs in the first general election of 1952. In 1964, CPI (Marxist) split from the parent CPI. Ironically, Communism could attract only the people of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, where the party ruled for a long period.

Lately, Communists are in an existential crisis in West Bengal and Tripura. But Kerala is still under Communist rule. The bottom line is, Indians, in general, were never impressed by the ideology of Communism, which failed to give a single example of good governance, freedom and prosperity in any country of the world. 

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