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About Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)


This year, 2022, marks the 130th anniversary of the election, in 1892, of the first person of Indian origin, Dadabhai Naoroji to the House of Commons.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)
  2. Early work in England
  3. Leader of the Indian National Congress
  4. Election to the British parliament
  5. Drain Theory

About Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)

  • Dadabhai Naoroji is well known as the “Grand Old Man of India” and “Unofficial Ambassador of India”.
  • He was a Liberal Party Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons, represnting Finsbury Central between 1892 and 1895.
  • He was the second person of Asian descent to be a British MP, the first being Anglo-Indian MP David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre.
  • He was also a member of the Second Communist International (1889).

Early work in England

  • Naoroji began rousing public opinion in England on Indian issues in 1855, after he moved from India to Liverpool for business.
  • His first agitation, in 1859, concerned recruitment to the Indian Civil Service (today’s IAS).
  • During this period, Naoroji worked closely with Irish leaders in England, who found common cause with the Indian nationalist movement.
  • In 1865 and 1866, Naoroji helped found the London Indian Society and the East India Association respectively.
    • The two organisations sought to bring nationalist Indians and sympathetic Britons on one platform.
    • As the secretary of the East India Association, Naoroji travelled in India to gather funds and raise national awareness.

Leader of the Indian National Congress

  • In 1885, Naoroji became a vice-president of the Bombay Presidency Association, was nominated to the Bombay legislative council by Governor Lord Reay, and helped form the Indian National Congress.
  • He was Congress president thrice, in 1886, 1893, and 1906.
  • The first session of the Congress in 1885 passed a resolution calling for the formation of a standing committee in the British House of Commons for considering protests from legislative bodies in India.
  • Naoroji dedicated his efforts towards this objective when he returned to England in 1886.

Election to the British parliament

  • Naoroji first ran for the British Parliament in 1886, but did not get elected.
  • His second bid in 1892 was successful, when he won the Central Finsbury seat on a Liberal Party ticket.
  • In the British Parliament, Naoroji worked to bring Indian issues to the fore.
  • In 1893, he helped form an Indian parliamentary committee to attend to Indian interests.
  • The membership of the committee significantly grew in numbers in the coming years, becoming an important lobbying force.
  • Naoroji was a vocal critic of the colonial economic policy in India.
  • In 1895, he became a member of the royal commission on Indian expenditure.
  • A moderate himself, Naoroji acted as a liaison between nationalist Indians and British parliamentarians.

Drain Theory

  • Dadabhai Naoroji was among the key proponents of the ‘Drain Theory’, disseminating it in his 1901 book ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’.
  • Naoroji argued that imperial Britain was draining away India’s wealth to itself through exploitative economic policies, including India’s rule by foreigners;
    • The heavy financial burden of the British civil and military apparatus in India;
    • The exploitation of the country due to free trade;
    • Non-Indians taking away the money that they earned in India;
    • The interest that India paid on its public debt held in Britain.

-Source: Indian Express

November 2023