The Congress was an instrument that Gandhi adapted to mass struggle, but under his dictatorial rule.
More than a century ago, two Indians met in London. The older one had come from South Africa to fight the case for the rights of Indians living there. The younger one was an intense person dedicated to overthrowing British rule in India as fast as he could. They had a long argument about the future of India. The young man was a keen student of Mazzini and Garibaldi who had achieved independence and unification for Italy. He was to translate a biography of Mazzini in Marathi. The young man wanted India to emulate Europe, to industrialise and modernise. The older man was horrified. He wanted India to reject modernity, machinery, Western medicine and urbanisation. When they parted, the older man on his return trip to South Africa wrote his first book arguing for India to reject modern machinery. The book was called Hind Swaraj.
Over the next 40 years, the paths of the two diverged. The older man became Father of the Nation and was credited with having achieved India’s independence. The younger man spent years in solitary confinement, and then some more in jail and then retired into writing and propagating. From a moderniser and Westerniser, he turned back to the glories of Hindu past. He was implicated in the assassination of the older man. His fame is furtive and divisive. The older man’s fame is global and inclusive.
Gandhi and Savarkar argued about the path an independent India should take in those early days in 1909. Gandhi wanted India to be a country of village republics, with handicrafts and a minimal government. India worships him, but has firmly rejected his recommended path. Nehru, his best disciple, was of the same view as Savarkar. He wanted modernisation and industrialisation for India. In sending the Mangalayan on its way, India has yet again rejected the Gandhian path and chosen the Westernisation model of Nehru and Savarkar. Savarkar is no longer identified with modernity but with Hindutva. Yet, his ambitions for India were just as growth oriented as anyone else’s.
The Congress was an instrument that Gandhi adapted to mass struggle, but under his dictatorial rule. Congressmen followed him, but were never Gandhians. They welcomed Gandhi’s leadership until Independence. Then they passed him by and made the Congress into an instrument for ruling India and did not