Overall Assessment of DVG's Career in Public Life and a New Beginning

This article is part 26 of 57 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

DVG’s final exit from public life occurred in four broad stages, in a manner of speaking. The first was the aftermath of the Ganapati clashes, which publicly showed the dangerous chinks in the Mysore State’s administration. It also didn’t help that Diwan Mirza Ismail’s studied silence and inaction only added to the perception that the administrative machinery was powerless to punish a mere mob of Muslim hooligans.

The second was the growing decline in the standards of legislative debate due to a variety of reasons including but not limited to the appointment of favourites, incompetence, and factionalism. One of DVG’s final debates in the Council related to the Public Security Bill that the Mysore Government introduced on 23 January 1940. DVG vehemently opposed it on the grounds that it was detrimental to individual freedom and freedom of expression and that it would transform Mysore into a police state. A close reading of the full text of the debate[1] clearly reveals the fact that very few Members apart from DVG had given it such deep and comprehensive thought. As the debate intensified, the Speaker began to repeatedly provoke DVG using a mixture of condescension, hostility, mockery, and haste. This is what an exasperated and wounded DVG said:

If the House thinks that I do not deserve its magnanimity, it is a matter of deep regret for me…At any rate, the matter of this [Bill] is something that is very dear to my heart. And now I have a feeling that this House has not provided me a fair opportunity and that this House has not treated me with dignity. This is the first time that this feeling has emerged within me…I had never witnessed such things before…Indeed, this House has become the witness for the worrying precedent of multiple Members speaking at the same time and yelling at each other…Perhaps, this will be my last ever session here. I am sorry that I had to attend this session and I regret that I will have to leave it with such a feeling.        

The third was DVG’s growing alarm at the intensity, senselessness, frequency and violence of agitations. By the early -to-mid 1930s, it was clear that violence as a favoured method for achieving the desired outcome was fast becoming the order of the day. Most of these agitations were demands-of-the-moment which had no national vision or integrative intent or the welfare of the people in mind. DVG himself provides one of the most definitive critiques of the dangers of agitational politics. The backdrop is the 1926 Binny Mills Strike in Bangalore. In its immediate aftermath, the Government ordered a general clampdown in order to prevent its spread to other places. Public meetings were banned, and there was police patrolling everywhere. In this context, DVG recounts an incident. He was in his lawyer friend’s home when another lawyer visited him. This man was a ferocious opponent of the clampdown. When DVG suggested the method of persuasion and reasoning, the lawyer shot back, “It is not our method to beg before Government officials, even if he is a City Magistrate. We must forcibly snatch our rights at any cost! Only this method awakens the people in the real sense, and agitation is the best vehicle for this awakening.” Commenting on this[2] and similar fervor, DVG says:

Our Sastras say, “Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah.” If we protect Dharma, Dharma protects us. However, if we cripple Dharma and still expect it to protect us, how will it have the strength to do so? If people preserve the decorum, system, and dignity of the Government, the Government might perhaps safeguard justice among the people. But if people themselves revolt against the Government, what Government can function?... The path of persuasion and consensus is the path of wisdom. It involves a careful analysis of cause and consequence. It is a quest for justice in the true sense, and therefore it always involves enormous patience. Wisdom does not accrue in haste and through the impatience of agitations.  

As we have noted several times elsewhere, even this warning went unheeded with predictable consequences. By the 1980s, India became a nation of professional agitationists, and renting professional agitationists became a flourishing subterranean economy in which middlemen made fortunes.

Indeed, a common criticism levelled against DVG by some of his contemporaries in public life was that he was too much of an idealist and a pacifist. This is only partially true because DVG’s pacifism was the pacifism leading to the kind of wisdom required for solid nation-building. DVG’s pacifism was the pacifism of Vidyaranya Swami who inspired and helped build the splendid Vijayanagara Empire by appealing to the innate goodness even among dissenting or independent chieftains, commanders, Rajas, heads of different Hindu Dharmic sects, business leaders and so on. Indeed, Vidyaranya Swami busily engaged himself in this gentle persuasion and calm discussion for nearly twenty-five years. The noble precedent of bloodless transfer of power from the Hoysala Empire to the Sangama Brothers was the outcome of gentle persuasion and goodwill which he initiated. This was DVG’s method.

The fourth stage was his increasing disillusionment with the Indian National Congress, which had acquired a subtle dictatorial streak by the mid-1930s. On 28 November 1937, the Secretary of the Mysore Congress Board wrote a letter to DVG warning him of “consequences.” DVG’s crime? Exactly a month ago, DVG had signed an open letter published by some eminent persons, which the Congress took umbrage to. The sheer arrogance of the Secretary was breathtaking. A paraphrased version is given below.

The Congress Party finds your signature highly objectionable. It is in violation of your pledge that you will be loyal to the Congress at all times. Therefore, you must show cause as to your objectionable action. Additionally, according to the Board’s decision, you must resign from your Council membership immediately.

On 1 December 1937, DVG hit back in his characteristic style. He said that he had never taken any such pledge of loyalty to the Congress. He also questioned the Congress Secretary’s haughty assumption and schooled him in some home truths: DVG was in the forefront of the demand for Responsible Government in the Maharaja’s State decades before the Congress even had a presence here. The Congress would have his support to the limited extent that its goal of Responsible Government aligned with his in thought, word, and deed. And then DVG delivered[3] the knockout blow:

May I say it is the Congress Board that has since changed? It seems to me that the Board of today is not…the same as the Board…seven months ago. I could not then detect in it any indications of the methodology now in vogue. While I subscribe to the Congress…objective of Responsible Government, I cannot accept its recent methods of work.

For the first time, DVG had a firsthand experience of the chokehold a political party has over even its non-members. This realization was also accompanied by a whiff of the state of things to ensue. Thereafter, as we noted earlier, DVG became a mere witness from afar. When occasion demanded it, he also became one of the most trenchant and fiery critics of the Congress Party after India attained independence.


[1] Raghavendra Patil: Pratibhavanta Samsadiya Patu: DVG, Karnataka Legislative Library Committee Bangalore 2009, pp 157-169

[2]D.R. Venkataramanan: Virakta Rashtraka Navakarnataka, Bangalore, 2019, pp 194-5

[3] Raghavendra Patil: Pratibhavanta Samsadiya Patu: DVG, Karnataka Legislative Library Committee Bangalore 2009, pp 112. Emphasis added.





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.

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