Moderates were the early proponents and leaders of Indian national movement associated with the Indian National Congress. They used methods of petitions, questioning and debate to vocalise India’s national subjugation and need for its amelioration.
Role of moderates in widening the base of India’s freedom movement:
- Moderates provided ideological base for growth of freedom movement. For example, Dada Bhai Naoroji’s economic critique of colonial rule created conviction about exploitative nature of the British rule in India.
- Gopal Krishna Gokhale was the political guru of Mahatma Gandhi and inspired him to travel around India to learn about the condition and needs of the nation. Gandhi would later catalyse biggest mass movements in the history of the world.
- Moderates created an understanding of common political, economic and cultural interests of Indians across the length and breadth of the country.
- Council reforms such as the Indian Council Acts 1892, expanded the scope of political participation for Indians.
- The lack of success of moderates’ methods, unintentionally provoked the rise of extremist faction, which aroused masses against the British such as during Swadeshi movement.
However, moderates’ achievement in mobilizing masses was limited as shown below:
- Moderates came from homogenous background of professionals like lawyers.
- They neither provided substantive nor descriptive representation of masses.
- Many of the moderates were convinced about the fundamentally good nature of British rule, unaware of its stark repercussions for the common poor.
- The cause of mass politics was harmed due to moderates’ intransigence which led to Surat split in congress and years of inactivity in national politics.
Despite the positive role played by moderates in furthering the cause of India’s independence, their role in providing a mass base to freedom struggle was limited. It was not until the phenomena called Mahatma Gandhi happened that Indian masses would find a voice and a face in the freedom struggle.