Toward a Congress Raj: Indian nationalism and the pursuit of a potential nation-state

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Indian National Congress, Governmentality, Anti-imperialism, Parallel government, Indian nationalism, India

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History


Near the colonial period in India, the British suspected that the Indian National Congress acted as if it were a parallel government. My research shows that Congress elites constructed the institutions that would enable Indians to govern themselves after India's liberation from British imperialism. Between 1935 and 1939, Congress elites surmised about the potentialities of a post-colonial India. They developed the policies that engaged the Congress with a process of state formation and constructed the ideological and practical foundations of a truly Indian governmentality, a new synthetic ideal of centralized government. With independence defined as national control of functions central government, Congress elites generated the independent instruments of governance analogous to the extant structures of the Raj.

The principle of non-cooperation with imperialism remained the foundation of all endeavors for generating a proto-government. Congress elites grappled with creating a national government that was ideologically distinct from Britain's footprint in India but which resembled the colonial restructuring of Indian society and politics. The emerging proto-government was a hybrid between Indian and British institutions, a synthesis which could remain a unique structure and that claimed its distinctiveness from Britain's paternalism.

My dissertation next investigates this emerging governmentality. Congress elites' attitudes towards democracy are investigated to determine how applicable democratic practices were to the post-colonial state. Attitudes towards international events are considered to illustrate that India's foreign policy challenged Britain's international attitudes. An independent economic policy was imperative if the Congress's proclaimed desire to ameliorate India's poverty was anything more than oppositional dialogue. Congress elites' attitudes towards a strong centralized government are considered to illustrate the federal structure of independent India.

This process of state formation was interrupted by World War II. Congress elites turned away from developing the potential institutions of governance and instead emphasized the creation of a so-called 'national government.' Congress elites never recovered from this new trajectory and they unequivocally abandoned all attempts to inaugurate a true Congress Raj. After the war, Congress elites discarded their ideal governmentality for the Congress's control of the Centre, a move designed to prevent the disintegration of the fledgling Indian Republic.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.