Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress (also known as the Congress Party) is the oldest surviving political organisation in India, and is also one of its largest political parties. In the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009), it is the single largest party with 145 members. It played a major role in the Indian independence movement and was the ruling party in most of independent India's governments. It is currently the chief member of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition government supported by the Left Front.
Founded in 1885 with the object of obtaining a greater share in government for educated Indians, the Indian National Congress was initially not opposed to British rule. Indeed, it was a Scotsman, Allan Octavian Hume, who brought about its first meeting in Bombay, with the approval of Lord Dufferin, the then-Viceroy. Later, however, its demands became more radical in the face of constant opposition from the government, and the party became very active in the independence movement. During this period there were two camps in the Congress: the Garam Dal, or Extremists (literally "hot faction"), and the Naram Dal, or Moderates (literally "soft faction");depending on their attitude towards the British. Its leaders before Indian independence included Mohandas Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose.
Gandhi is said to have held the view that the party was formed only for independence and should have been disbanded in 1947. But the party ruled India for much of the time after independence under Jawaharlal Nehru, Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv Gandhi, and P. V. Narasimha Rao, among others.
In the 1980s and 1990s it was also known as Congress-I, where the I stood for Indira (initially to distinguish it from Congress-O, led by Kamaraj, and other organisations). Slowly, many groups broke away from the Congress and there are now scores of parties each derived from the Congress and hence having Congress somewhere in their party names, thus decreasing somewhat the strength of the Congress from the 1940s to the 60s, when it used to regularly get a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Many consider the Congress to be responsible for inciting the 1984 riots that led to the killing of thousands of Sikhs.  (http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEH20040907143130&Page=H&Title=Top+Stories&Topic=0&)
Its current leader is Sonia Gandhi, widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. Her foreign origin (she was born and raised in Italy) has been the source of controversy ever since she took over as President of the Indian National Congress. The controversy reached its peaks during the Congress's attempts to get her elected as the Prime Minister of India. The first attempt was in 1998 when she was apparently keen to take over the government. Her attempt failed as the Samajwadi Party refused to give her support due to her foreign origin. The Bharatiya Janata Party has been most vocal about opposing her candidacy for prime ministership over the years. During the early years of her tenure as president of the Congress, a section of the Congress also raised the issue and were thrown out of the Congress for doing so. They formed the Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar which in 2004, allied with the Congress inspite of the apparent contradiction between its belief that no person of foreign origin should become the Prime Minister of India and the Congress's keenness to get Sonia Gandhi elected as the Prime Minister of India.
Formation of present Government of India2004 general elections, the Congress alliance won the most number of seats and got an assurance of support from the Left Front upsetting the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance which according to all forecasts was going to coast to victory. Shortly thereafter, in another attempt by the Congress to get Sonia elected as Prime Minister of India, Sonia Gandhi was nominated by the Congress-led 19-party alliance to be the next Prime Minister. But in what was described as dropping of a political bombshell, Sonia Gandhi refused to take the position based on her "inner voice". Eminent economist, former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader Dr. Manmohan Singh was backed by her for the post of Prime Minister. The swearing in ceremony took place on May 22, 2004. The emergence of the fact that the Left Front (parties with communist ideology) is supporting this government led to a plunge in the stock markets due to concern over continuance of economic reforms agenda pursued by the previous government.
de:Kongresspartei fr:Parti du Congrès ja:インド国民会議派 pt:Partido do Congresso sv:Kongresspartiet ta:இந்திய தேசிய காங்கிரஸ் zh-cn:印度国民大会党 kn:ಕಾ೦ಗ್ರೆಸ್ ಪಕ್ಷ