He combined his moral grandeur with his political genius in a unique manner. Gandhi was a miracle.

 

Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary falls on 2.10.2019. Was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a politician among saints or a saint among the politicians? To me he was both. He combined his moral grandeur with his political genius in a unique manner. In fact, Gandhi was a miracle. The greatest Indian since the Buddha.

Ten thousand plus books have been written on various aspects of his life. Most are admiring. Among the less admiring ones, few are almost abusive. The outstanding, favourably critical essay on Gandhi was written by George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four. “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to apply to them are not…in judging a man like Gandhi one seems instinctively to apply high standards, so that some of virtues have passed almost unnoticed.”

Orwell believed that “even Gandhi’s worst enemies would admit that he was an interesting and unusual man who enriched the World simply by being alive”.

George Orwell concludes his essay thus, “But if, by 1945, there had grown up in Britain a large body of opinion sympathetic to Indian Independence, how far was this due to Gandhi’s influence.” Orwell also wrote that if Indo-British became cordial and friendly, would that be because, “Gandhi by keeping up his struggle obstinately and without hatred, disinfected the political airs that one even thinks of asking such questions indicates his stature…”?

When Gandhi, aged 50, took over the leadership of the Congress, Indians were lying prostrate. He asked them to stand up and hold their heads high. Let me quote a most compelling and moving passage from Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India.

“And then Gandhi came. He was like a powerful current of fresh air that made us stretch ourselves and take deep breaths, like beam of light that pierced the darkness and removed the scales from our eyes; like whirlwind that upset many things, but most of all the working of people’s minds. He did not emerge from the top; he seemed to emerge from the millions of, speaking their language…”

This is neither the occasion nor the time to enumerate the shortcomings of the Mahatma. He himself spoke and wrote about these. He confessed to a “Himalayan blunder he had committed”.

My final word is. No Gandhi. No independent India.

 

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Every political party has its lunatic fringe. On 30 January, Gandhiji’s death anniversary, a most shameful act was committed—the re-enactment of the Mahatma’s assassination by the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha in Uttar Pradesh. The group was led by Dr Pooja Shakun Pandey, aiming a toy pistol at Gandhiji picture. How low some loathsome people can sink!

 

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The passing away of George Fernandes at the age of 88 has evoked national grief. Rightly so. He was born in a Christian family. His father wanted him to be a priest. That was not to be. George arrived in Bombay aged 20. In no time he became an inspiring trade union leader, defying law and authority. He got elected to the Lok Sabha while in jail, where he was handcuffed. In the 1967 Lok Sabha elections, he defeated S.K. Patil, the all-powerful Congress boss of Bombay.

His life’s work was remarkable. He had a nationwide following, a leading socialist who rubbed shoulders with Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia, Karpoori Thakur. Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav were his chelas.

He was a competent Cabinet minister, who changed sides more than once. What was attractive about him was his fearlessness, his austere life style and love of books. My first encounter with him was not a happy one. He had come to London as minister soon after the end of Emergency. I was then in the dog house with the Morarji Desai government. Subsequent meetings were cordial, verging on warmth. His memory will endure.

 

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The announcement that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will take over as general secretary in-charge of east UP to lead the party in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections has created much excitement in the Congress. Will she make a difference? She could. She is a star of high voltage. She is good looking, a superb communicator. Speaks fluent Hindi. People see in her a jhalak of her grandmother. These are not insignificant assets. Is she perfect? No. If she were she would not succeed as a practicing politician. It is her naturalness that attracts voters.

 

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