Nationalism had taken an organised and assertive tone in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A debate over the priority of social or political reform began to take centre-stage. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) prioritised political over social reform, and caused the Indian Social Conference to be held outside the Congress session in 1893. Gopal krishna Gokhale (1866- 1915), however, thought that both social and political reform must go together.
The ascendancy of extremists in politics, and of those who resisted any state or legislative intervention in social matters, gradually brought a separation between social and political reform. The massive opposition to the Age of Consent bill (1893) and the removal of the Social Conference from the Congress sessions indicated that social change and reform had become secondary to the nationalist cause. The emergence of Mahatma Gandhi brought together the social and political question once again.