Both the Indian Congress Party and the African National Congress are mass parties and are currently in a position of political hegemony in their respective countries. The Indian Congress has enjoyed this position almost without interruption since Indian independence in 1947. It was defeated in the elections of 1977 under the leadership of Indira Gandhi who, however, returned to power three years later. When she was assassinated her son Rajiv governed until his own assassination in 1989. In more recent years, the Congress was in opposition for eight years from 1996 to 2004, when it returned to power under the leadership of Rajiv's Italian widow Sonia. Being a foreigner, however, Sonia did not become Prime Minister, leaving the role to M. Singh. On the contrary, the ANC rule is more recent and dates back to the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994.
There are points of contact and difference as far as the tactics of the two parties to achieve their respective main goals (independence for India, the end of apartheid in South African society) were concerned. With the return of Mahatma Gandhi in India in 1915, the Indian Congress espoused the Satyagraha, a philosophy that stressed non-violent resistance against the oppressor. The concept behind this philosophy is that the means are inseparable from their ends. It is therefore unacceptable to use violence to obtain a fairer and more just society. The Satyagraha influenced the leader of the ANC Nelson Mandela. However, the ANC also had a military wing, known as "The Spear of the Nation", which was formed in the 1960s in the face of continuous violence and persecution at the hands of white South Africans. Many ANC members agreed that a certain degree of violence was necessary to end apartheid.
Both parties fought against caste and class divisions. The ANC's idea of a rainbow nation, one formed by different ethnicities, including the previous supporters of apartheid, social classes, sexual orientations, was one of the biggest hopes for the twenty-first century. However, because the two parties have enjoyed political hegemony in their countries, they have been criticised for fostering nepotism and corruption as well as for taking measures restricting personal freedoms (see Indira Gandhi's special emergency measures in the 1970s and the recent Protection of State Information Bill in South Africa). The ANC itself has also been criticized for having abandoned its rainbow ideals in favor of an increasing racism against non-blacks.