The Grand Old Man of India; associated with the Indian National Congress right from its inception; the first Indian to become a member of House of Commons on the Liberal Party’s ticket; President of Indian National Congress thrice, in 1886, 1893 and 1906.
He founded Jyan (Gyan) Prasarak Mandali, a Girls High School at Bombay, and Bombay Association in 1852.
During his stay in England, from 1855 to 1869, he educated British public on Indian affairs through the London Indian Association and the East India Association.
Dadabhai Naoroji exposed the the exploitative nature of British rule in India. He was the first Indian to draw the attention of the Indians as well as the British public to the drain of wealth from India to Britain and the resulting poverty of the Indians. Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, published in 1901, gives statistics to prove his thesis.
In India, lambasting the Raj for its unashamed leeching of Indian wealth for British aggrandizement. The book was a milestone, and remains his most memorable intellectual contribution to the freedom struggle. And it did not surprise too many people that he had earned himself this distinction: When still in his teens at Elphinstone College (then, Institution) in Mumbai, Naoroji was labelled by a professor, a little sentimentally, “The Promise of India”. Personally, though, he didn’t let such things go to his head. “Prosperity has not elated me and I hope adversity will not (depress) me,” he wrote to a friend, “so long as I can feel I am living a life of duty.”
By the time Naoroji died, aged 93, he had enjoyed a most fascinating career. This included a stint as chief minister to a maharaja of Baroda who was accused of trying to murder the British resident at court with arsenic and crushed diamonds; luckily, Naoroji had already resigned by the time of the scandal. He had run newspapers, participated in great public debates on India’s future, and, significantly, set on its eventful course the Congress party that would serve as the vehicle of Indian nationalism in the years to come.
And so it was that when he died, among the richly deserved tributes paid was one reminding everybody that while the man himself had departed, the idea he stood for would be enshrined forever in the destiny of the country he loved.