N.G. Chandavarkar

President: 1855-1923 (Lucknow, 1899)

Narayan Ganesh Chandavarkar was born in Honawar in the North Kanara District of the Bombay Presidency on December 2, 1855. Before he took the degree in Law in 1881, he served as a Dakshina Fellow in the Elphinstone College for some time.

Shortly before the Indian National Congress was founded in 1885, N. G. Chandavarkar went to England as a member of the three-man delegation, which was sent to educate public opinion about India on the eve of the General Elections in England. After a very successful and prosperous career as a pleader.

Chandavarkar was elevated to the bench of the Bombay High Court in 1901. When the new reformed councils under the Act of 1919 came into existence in 1921, Narayan Chandavarkar was nominated as the first non-official President of the Bombay Legislative Council. This post he filled with dignity till the last day of his life.

His visit to England in 1885 carved out for Chandavarkar a political career, and he threw himself whole-heartedly into the work of the Indian National Congress which was founded in Bombay in 1885 on December 28, the day on which he and the other delegates returned to India.

Fifteen years later, in 1900, he was elected President of the annual session of the Congress held in Lahore. Soon after he was elected President of the Congress, Chandavarkar was appointed Judge of the Bombay High Court, and then he retired from politics.

He re-entered the political field in 1914 after his return from Indore where he had served as Prime Minister. At that time the Congress divided into two camps and, four years later, in 1918, the differences resulted in the foundation of the All-India Moderates Conference of which, along with Surendranath Banerjea and Dinshaw Wacha, Chandavarkar became the leader and guide. In 1920 he presided over the public meeting held in Bombay to protest against the report of the Hunter Committee on the Jallianwala Bagh atrocities which was appointed by the Government of India.

After the Chairman's speech, Mahatma Gandhi moved the principal resolution. Later he listened to Chandavarkar's warning and accepted his advice when he called off the Civil Disobedience campaign in 1921. When Ranade founded the Indian National Social Conference in 1885, Chandavarkar became one of his chief lieutenants.

In 1901, when Ranade died, his mantle of the general secretaryship fell on Chandavarkar's shoulders. For two decades he worked to widen the scope of the Conference. A number of new organisations sprang up in Bombay during the ten or twelve years which followed his temporary retirement from politics in 1901.

With every one of these, he was associated as founder-president and as guide and counsellor. The organisation to which Chandavarkar turned for spiritual light and strength was the Prarthana Samaj, of which he was the President for twenty - three years, from 1901 to the last day of his life.

“The average English labourer is not known to be more provident than the Indian ryot, who has further, this natural advantage in his favour that he requires less food, fewer necessaries of life by way of clothing.

If he spends on marriages more than he ought to, the benefit of such mild extravagance goes to other ryots of his class and goes not without return. What is spent on marriages is mostly in the shape of ornaments - and ornaments serve as a resource to fall back upon in times of distress.”

From the Presidential Address - Sir N. G. Chandavarkar I.N.C. Session, 1900, Lahore