DVG's Election from Kolar and its Aftermath

This article is part 29 of 30 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

Like all honest and pragmatic observers and commentators of public life, DVG’s pre-Independence critiques of the Congress Party included the criticism of Mohandas Gandhi as we have seen in the earlier chapters[1]. Under Gandhi’s leadership, it became a quasi-monopolistic political enterprise that could admit only one dictator at the top notwithstanding how noble or moral or well-intentioned the dictator was. Indeed, we learn this truth straight from the horse’s mouth. This is what the official history[2] of the Congress Party says about Gandhi’s complete takeover in the Ahmedabad Session, 1921:

Gandhiji was appointed as the sole executive authority of the Congress and invested with full powers of the AICC. Chairs and benches for delegates were eliminated and Khadi tents made their appearance for first time.

Commenting precisely on this alarming development, DVG wrote[3] in his Vruttapatrike how “After Gandhiji took the stage, this culture of free and open disagreement and debates vanished…unless the nation adopted [an] unquestioning mentality, we would not get freedom from the British… from then onwards, people were prohibited from taking his name without the mandatory honorific of “Mahatma.”

DVG was equally strident in condemning Gandhi’s spearheading role that culminated in the barbaric genocide of thousands of innocent Hindus in Malabar at the hands of the Moplah Muslims. He noted with growing alarm in the issues of the Karnataka at the deadly consequences that would ensue even as Gandhi mollycoddled the fanatical Ali Brothers with unseemly haste in his quest for the chimeraesque Hindu-Muslim unity. These editorials and commentaries are truly a collector’s treasure for a conscientious historian and scholar.

More than three decades later, one of India’s fine historical scholars, R.C. Majumdar provided a similar but more acerbic assessment[4] about the Gandhi-led Congress Party in his career-ending classic, History of the Freedom Movement in India:

To [Gandhi] the Congress was a humanitarian association…for the moral and spiritual regeneration of the world.

Unlike Gandhi who lived in a world of his own making, his closest aides had no illusions about realpolitik. Even as they sensed that independence was well within sight, they quietly abandoned the very ideals of non-violence and Satyagraha that Gandhi held so dear. So much so that by the beginning of 1946, Gandhi was completely isolated by his own followers who shrewdly put him on a pedestal, i.e. out of harm’s way.

Thus, when we read what DVG wrote in a classic commentary titled India’s Political Dilemma in 1941, we marvel once again how farsighted[5] he was:

An influential section of the Nationalist Press and many public men of note have…been pleading that the Congress ought not to convert itself into an esoteric body upholding a set of ethical or spiritual abstractions. Politics is a secular department of life and purposes and processes there should be pragmatic rather than transcendental. Politics being a practical art is not fit to serve as a laboratory for conceptual ethics; and to insist on absolute standards there…would be like going into a popular restaurant and looking for the disciplines of a hospital…The issue of non-violence or violence is irrelevant today…There are a great number of people in the country today, who, while not differing…from the Congress as regards the political objective are unable to accept the non-practical parts of its creed…such as Satyagraha and Charaka spinning.   

R.C. Majumdar wrote almost the exact same assessment in the early or mid-1950s. It is simultaneously a profound travesty and an unambiguous proof of the ugly trajectory that the Congress Party took after independence that both DVG and R.C. Majumdar have all but been forgotten today.

Indeed, DVG had a firsthand taste of what the Congress Party could do to someone of his stature just a year after Independence. In 1948, the Mysore Government decided to elect members to the new Constituent Assembly. Accordingly, Kengal Hanumantaiah approached DVG and insisted on enlisting his services. After much persuasion, DVG agreed and was elected unopposed from the Kolar constituency on the Congress ticket. Now he was the proverbial “insider” or “party person.” That was the beginning of his troubles which first came in the form of something called the “Congress Pledge.” It was a revised version of the same pledge that he had rebutted in a letter to the aforementioned arrogant member of the Mysore Congress Board just ten years ago.  Next was a far deadlier demand: to raise funds for the Congress kitty. A furious DVG responded, “Forget me giving money to the party, if you can spare some for me, please donate it to the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.” And so, it spiraled downward till the inevitable finally occurred. It didn’t take long for DVG to fully understand the fact that idealism existed merely as lip service and jockeying for power and position had become the order of the day. His words once again, had no value in the Constituent Assembly.[6] In his characteristic self-deprecatory humility, DVG said that in a democratic set up, Dharma signifies the voice of the majority and that he respected this Dharma. However, he could also not act against the voice of his conscience and support anything that violated it. By mid-1948, DVG resigned from the Mysore Constituent Assembly. This is the unflattering portrait[7] of the Congress Party he paints:

Congress politics is far too turbid. The like(s) of me are wanted there to provide screens to others to make safe places for them. I don’t see a single man of idealism among them. They cry ‘God’ and seek Mammon…The bosses want office and power and therefore they don’t want to offend certain groups…however just be the cause…for…opposing those…groups. And they don’t care what the qualities needed for a particular office are…. People in positions of responsibility have felt disgusted and thought of drastic steps.  

Needless, this is a preface to the sordid, seventy-year-long tale of how the Congress Party systematically, cynically pushed out decency in public life by expelling decent, honest and men of integrity and character.

Elsewhere in India, similar voices of dissent, alarm, and criticism emerged. The following is one such voice emerging directly from the bowels of the Congress Party. It is a letter[8] written by Konda Venkatappaiah, a veteran Andhra Pradesh Congress Unit member to Mohandas Gandhi a few days before his assassination:

Swaraj was the only absorbing passion which goaded men and women to follow your leadership. But now that the goal has been reached all moral restrictions have lost their power on most of the fighters in the great struggle. . . .the situation is growing more intolerable every day. The people have begun to say that the British government was much better.

To its eternal discredit, the Congress Party never referred to the letter and pretended it didn’t exist. More criticism followed from within the Party from no less than a paper than the Harijan, now edited by Gandhi’s disciple, K.G. Mashruwala. In the 3 October 1948 edition, he deplored how the Congress Party members were using[9] “political service as a short cut to scholarship.”

Needless, as the political and social conscience-keeper, DVG supplemented these criticisms with unfailing regularity in the annals of Public Affairs beginning with a long form essay series titled Congress and Parties from the April 1949 issue onwards. He followed this up with a similar but more caustic series titled The Congress Ailing from the July 1949 issue onwards.

To be continued      

Notes


[1] See Chapter 4: Notion of Ramarajya

[2] https://www.inc.in/en/inc-timeline/1915-1925. Last accessed on 10 October 2020. Emphasis added.

[3] For a fuller discussion on this point, see Chapter 4: Notion of Ramarajya.

[4] R.C. Majumdar: History of the Freedom Movement in India: Vol III, Firma KLM, Calcutta, p xxi

[5] Quoted in Virakta Rashtraka: D.R. Venkataramanan, Navakarnataka, Bangalore, 2019, p 205

[6] Then known in its shortened form as “Consembly.”

[7] Quoted in Virakta Rashtraka: D.R. Venkataramanan, Navakarnataka, Bangalore, 2019, p 215. Emphasis added.

[8] Quoted in: THE PEOPLE SAY CONGRESS WORSE THAN THE BRITISH: March, April 1948, Bombay. Emphasis added.

[9] The other relevant excerpt from Mashruwala’s stinging criticism may also be noted: “it seems to be a doubtful method of consolidating one’s party through the power which a governing party necessarily possesses in the State. It sets a bad example for other parties to follow when any of them come into power. In a democratic form of government this might happen at any time… in the course of time the very heat of coercion might enable some of these parties to grow strong enough to overthrow the Congress party. Such a new party in power will follow the example of Congress party by rewarding all those who might have suffered under the Congress regime, and in this way the country will always have the kind of government which thrives on nepotism… By rewarding those who suffered out of patriotic sentiment we are transferring them from the list of patriots to that of mercenaries or farsighted businessmen.” Emphasis added.

 

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Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

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