1. Question: Moderates = #EPICFAIL
  2. Introduction (Define | Data | Origin)
  3. Body#1: Proclaimed ideology and political goals
  4. Body#2: Why failed?
  5. Conclusion

Question: Moderates = #EPICFAIL

Q3. Why did the ‘Moderates’ fail to carry conviction with the nation about their proclaimed ideology and political goals by the end of the nineteenth century? (150 words, 10 marks asked in UPSC Mains GS1-2017)

क्या कारण था की उन्नीसवि शताब्दी के अंत तक आते-आते ‘नरमदलीय’ अपनी घोषित विचारधारा एवं राजनितिक लक्ष्यों के प्रति राष्ट्र के विश्वास को जगानेमें असफल हो गये थे?

First, let’s break down the words:

  • End of the nineteenth century: Years ending with AD 1900. We need not go into activities during Partition of Bengal (1905) or the clash of personalities during Surat split (1907) because question says “at the end of 1900” so narration of those events are beyond the scope of this question. Besides within 150 words limit, you can’t afford to venture till 1905-07.
  • “fail to carry conviction…”: The question in English has convoluted, cumbersome and Shashi-Tharoorish wording. If you read the Hindi version in the question paper & re-translate it in simple English, then it reads “Explain why moderates failed to convince all Indians about their political goals by AD 1900?” So you’ve to make two bodies (1) In brief: what were their political goals (2) why they failed to convenience people about their lofty goals?

Introduction (Define | Data | Origin)

We should give both definition as well as ‘origin’ of moderates, because Nature of this question demands both. Observe:

  • Origin: The history of the Indian National Movement can be studied in three important phases (i) Moderate nationalism (ii) Swadeshi to Home rule movements (iii) Gandhinan era. The phase of moderate nationalism began in 1885 with the establishment of Indian National Congress (INC) by a group of individuals^*^ .
  • (Definition) This group had total faith in the British sense of justice and fair play, and therefore used petitions, resolutions, meetings, leaflets and pamphlets, memorandum and delegations to present their demands. They wanted to attain political rights and self-government stage by stage without use of violence. Hence they were known as ‘moderate nationalists’.

^*^ Observe that I’ve not written ‘group of Indians’, because A.O. Hume was also involved. I could start by writing “British civil servant A.O. Hume and a group of Indians”- IF I wanted to fill up the page with more words. But since this is an easy question, such padding is unnecessary.

Body#1: Proclaimed ideology and political goals of the Moderates:

Moderates didnot want a clinical separation from the British empire. They wanted only limited self-government within the imperial framework. Some of their specific demands were:

  1. Expand size and powers of legislative councils and local bodies.
  2. Separate the judiciary from the executive.
  3. Reduce of spending on army.
  4. Hold ICS exam simultaneously in England and in India to (A) provide more jobs to Indians and (B) to reduce the ‘drain of wealth’ in salaries and pensions.
  5. Reduce land revenue, protect peasants from unjust landlords. Abolish salt tax and sugar duty.
  6. Freedom of speech, expression and associations.

You can compress or omit some of these goals and ideologies if you’ve more content to write for the body#2…

Body#2: Moderates couldn’t convince ALL Indians because:

Non-inclusive in nature

  1. Moderate group consisted mostly of Western-educated elite and privileged indigenous elite such as the Bhadralok in Bengal, the Chitpavan Brahmans & Parsis in Bombay, the Tamil Brahmans & Aiyangars of Madras. The backward regions and underprivileged groups remained outside their zone of contact and influence, until the entry of Gandhi.
  2. Both moderate and extremist intellectuals would conveniently bypass the long stretch of Muslim rule to present an idealised form of Indian/Hindu tradition rooted in classical Sanskrit texts. While this united the Hindus in opposition to an alien rule, but alienated the Muslims, non-Brahmans and the scheduled castes/tribes.
  3. As moderates started to become more assertive, the British became unfriendly, and began to encourage Muslims to stay away from the Congress. Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan and other prominent Muslim leaders feared that INC’s demand for ‘elected council’ would mean Hindu majority rule. End result was formation of separate Muslim league (in 1906).
  4. INC could have gained following among the women and mill workers, but it did not champion the mining, factory and labour reform bills in Bombay, due to lobbying from its industrialists members and donors.

Like CSAT-II they were biased towards English medium engineers (!)

  1. While articulating their ideas in speeches and writings, the moderates used English, Bengali, Marathi and Tamil- the languages of three Presidency cities.
  2. They couldn’t reach deep within the Oriyas, Biharis, Assamese, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu and Malayalam speaking regions of those three presidencies where university education was yet to percolate.
  3. Hence, Lord Dufferin had labelled the moderates “Babu politicians who represented only a microscopic minority”. (In 1888)

Elite nature of demands: Baby ko Chai nahi Cappuccino Pasand Hai

  • During 1860s and 70s: The British had imposed new direct taxes on the Indian professionals without giving Indians any control over expenditure.
  • Indian council Act provided for non-official Indian members but with overriding veto powers available to the Governor General.
  • Upper Age limit of civil service exam was reduced from 21 to 19. Vernacular Press Act gaged the local press.
  • As Moderates fought against above developments, they got patronage from the educated elites, but ordinary masses were unable to fathom how these reforms could benefit them, since their sufferings emanated from famines and landlords- On both these issues the moderates seemed to be less vocal and disconnected- since many of them were landed aristocrats and could not consequently take a logical stand on peasant questions.

Success inspires confidence & Facebook followers

  1. Moderates failed to make any notable success- except expanding legislative councils under Indian Councils Act (1892).
  2. On the other hand, Lord Curzon’s reactionary rule had prompted some nationalists to believe that extremist and forceful methods were necessary to achieve ‘self-rule’. This had created an ideological rift with INC. [I’ve already given full form of ‘INC’ in the introduction, so now I can use abbreviation.]
  3. Extremist leaders Bala Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipinchandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh et. al were great orators and prolific writers in vernacular newspapers. Hence their ideology began to gain more currency and followers and Facebook likes.

This much content is more than sufficient to fill even 250 words or even 1200 words essay.

Moderates in Freedom Struggle

Do you know who among these were moderates?


  • Question itself has given the premise that “Moderates failed to convenience people”- our job was to only enumerate the reasons behind it. Since examiner gave only 150 words limit, so conclusion is unnecessary- if all points are enumerated in proper sequence.
  • Nonetheless, if you’ve to make a conclusion, no need for any grand wisdom, simply summerize what you’ve written in the body. For example, here’s a sample conclusion:

Given their own peculiar socio-economic profile, political agendas and communication methods – the Moderates couldn’t convince all among the religious minorities, backward communities, peasants and rural youth that their lofty ideology will lead to betterment of every Indian’s life. Hence their movement couldn’t resonate with ordinary masses.
You may write more conclusions in the comments below!