The idea of Home Rule League was initially floated by Mrs. Annie Basant . Several factors came to her aid. As the President of the Theosophical Society she could moblize an organisation of thousand members to her cause. Her contacts with some notable Madras politicians such as Sir Subramania Ayer, C.P. Ramaswami Ayer, G.A.Natesan etc enabled her to broad base her movement. She owned two Madras news papers, New India and Commonweal which she pressed into service for disseminating her message across Madras Presidency. Having founded the Young Men's Association of Madras, she had the experience of working with the student as well. Thus members of the Theosophical society, Madras Politicians, and the students joined together to spread the message of Home Rule initially in Madras Presidency and later on in other provinces also.It also drew in its fold huge landed propreitors like the Kumara Maharaja of Vizianagar, Raja of Ramnad, The Zamorin of Calicut and banking and financial interests like the Muslim Badsha family and Calivalla brothers. Also by taking the issues of labour problems she expanded his movement to other sectors of people. Besant's League spread over 200 branches in different parts of India.
While Basant was building up the movement from her Madras base, Tilak was working in the same direction from Maharashtra. Tilak's league was confined to Maharashtra and Karnatak, but was probably more organized and disciplined than the former. Starting in April 1916, it had a membership of 14,000 in April 1917, and 32,000 in early 1918.The entire organizational network was controlled by Tilak and Kelkar from Poona.
The Leagues organized group meetings in cities, sold and distributed pamphlets and carried on lecture tours on a far wider scale than ever before. According to one estimate, in its first year Tilak's league sold 47,000 copies of 6 Marathi and 2 English pamphlets while Basant's League had brought out 300,000 copies of 26 English tracts by Sept 1916.
Home Rule League also spread in United province with the help of the leaders like Sapru, Matilal Nehru and others.
But it failed to take any deep root in Indian Soil, many like Jawaharlal was dissatisfied with it. .