Is Rahul Gandhi the youngest Congress chief? Nope, INC’s first president WC Bonnerjee was just 41

While there is talk about infusion of youth into the party now that Rahul Gandhi has taken over, what you may not have known is that the Congress’s first president was younger than Rahul!

Published: 16th December 2017 08:44 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th December 2017 08:45 PM   |  A+A-

Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee (File | Wikipedia)

By Online Desk

Rahul Gandhi took charge today as Congress party’s president, replacing Sonia Gandhi, its longest-serving chief. While there is talk about infusion of youth into the party now that Rahul Gandhi has taken over, what you may not have known is that the Congress’s first president was younger than Rahul when he took on the prestigious role of heading the party? Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee, the first head of the Indian National Congress, was only 41 when he became Congress president. Here’s more about him.

  1. Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee was born on 29th December, 1844 in Calcutta’s Kidderpore area. At the age of 15, he married Hemangini Motilal, before starting his career as a barrister.

  2. Coming from a family of lawyers, Bonnerjee started out as a clerk with W P Gillanders at the Calcutta Supreme Court in 1862 before he went on to become a barrister.

  3. In 1864, he went to study law in England. However, before that, he worked with Girish Chandra Ghosh, to start the newspaper ‘Bengalee’ where he compiled a summary of weekly news for three years at just Rs 20 as stipend.

  4. At the age of 41, Womesh presided over the first session of the Indian National Congress. It was held from 28 December to 31 December in 1885. The session was attended by 72 other members of the party founded by Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji and Dinshaw Wacha.

  5. Bonnerjee, a man of the law, was against the jury system.

  6. Being a moderate in politics, Bonnerjee opposed the salt tax even before Mahatma Gandhi and thought it was an unjust tax as it was a “chief necessity of life” especially in a place like India where people could barely eat two meals. Womesh also wanted industrialisation in India and truly supported the Swadeshi Movement.

  7. Interestingly, Womesh Bonnerjee has many firsts to his credit. He was the first Indian to act as a Standing Counsel in the Calcutta High Court; he officiated four times.

  8. During his time as Standing Counsel, he defended Surendranath Banerjee, Indian political leader and later senior leader of the Indian National Congress for contempt of court which led them to establish a closer bond while working with the party.

  9. Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee was also the first Indian to contest the election for the British House of Commons. He lost elections on two occasions before which he finally broke into the ranks of the British Parliament to become the first Indian member; he won the seat by just five votes.

  10. He was the Congress president more than once and took a position for the second time in the 1892 session in Allahabad.

  11. In 1865, Dadabhai Naoroji founded the London Indian Society and made Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee the first general secretary. During this time, he established the Royal Commission for reduction on military expenditure and just distribution of funds among India and England.

  12. Taking his roots with him, when Womesh moved to England due to health reasons, he named his residence at Croydon in London after his birthplace, Kidderpore.

  13. Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee in his second president address in 1892 in Allahabad said that India and the Indian National Congress had learned a lot from the British. From showing merchants how to do trade and business to engineering and even agriculture, among other things.

  14. While he bought his house in Bedford in London in 1890, he only settled there in 1902. Womesh Chunder Banerjee breathed his last on 21 July, 1906, at Kidderpore, his London home. 

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