Vākyajño vākyakuśalaḥ maunamupāgamat: The Twilight Years of the Titan

This article is part 33 of 57 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

The distilled essence of all of DVG’s brilliant critiques of the Indian political atmosphere since Independence and specifically, the trajectory of the Congress Party until its fateful split in 1969 is the fact that by 1970, he had already been convinced that the Congress was a force for the evil. In his innumerable indictments, DVG observes how the Congress Party and Government had become indistinguishable, the chief reason for the chaos both at the national level and in the states. The party and the Government had no place for people who were not up for sale and majority of ministers lacked the qualification, aptitude, training and discipline to “sit at the desk and glue their eyes to the paper.” This discipline was how the politician trained his soul. Instead, the Congress Party and Government busied itself in uprooting everything in the past that was noble and virtuous under the mindless excuse that they were erasing all vestiges of the British. DVG concludes[1] this indictment with a touch of original genius:

Vishwamitra embarked on an endeavor to build a new heaven and create a new Indra. In recent history, only two belong to this class of people. The first are the Communists of Russia. The second are our Congress leaders.  

In their zeal to Russianize India, the Congress leaders forgot the glaring irony this blind aping of Communist Russia was another reflection of the deep hold British colonization had on their psyches. In their tearing arrogance, these leaders forgot to ask public opinion vis a vis their project of Russianization. DVG puts this arrogance[2] in perspective:

But what is public opinion?...What is the real picture we get when we examine public opinion and subject the Congress claim of being a democratic party and government to test? What we have is not the power of the people but the power of political parties. Neither is it merely the power of parties but the power of one party, and the power of only one leader of that party.

The combined consequence of all this in DVG’s words[3]: “no person in India is content today apart from the coolie.”  

In 1973, DVG published the revised edition of his classic political treatises (later) combined into a single volume as Rajyashastra, Rajyanga. Reminiscing on the state of the Indian nation in 1973, he notes:

According to some, the condition of our people today is far worse than what it was under British rule.

The year 1973 is an interesting timeline: Devaraj Urs, the blue-eyed lieutenant of Indira Gandhi had established his firm authority as the Chief Minister of Karnataka. He is also remembered for and credited with officializing corruption in the political life of Karnataka. It is unnecessary to recount the dark trajectory of events in the state ever since.

Two years later, when the nightmarish climax of the Emergency came, DVG recorded his protest in his inimitable fashion in the July 1975 issue of Public Affairs. It was a Sanskrit verse pregnant with meaning and profound in its implication:  

Vākyajño vākyakuśalaḥ maunamupāgamat             

The one who was well-versed in the fine art of speech took refuge in silence.

On 7 October 1975, DVG passed away. His earthly departure was the final end of an era of courage, truthfulness and decency in public life and the beginning of a demonic era from which Independent India is yet to fully free herself. He was perhaps the last of those luminaries and savants the anchor of whose soul was firmly moored in the Sanatana ethos whose wellspring he unfailingly relied upon to meet contemporary political and social challenges. With DVG’s mortal death, Bharatavarsha had lost yet another vital civilizational link that could effortlessly delineate her timeless genius to the confused mass that democratic India had become. And democratic and Independent India had lost an invaluable social, spiritual and moral guide.

No one who had known DVG for any length of time could recover from the news of his death. People he had mentored, guided, and built abiding friendships with were inconsolable. Tributes and condolences poured in from people from all walks of life: the Chief Minister, politicians, editors, journalists, litterateurs, musicians, educationists, judges, and Vedic Pandits. The October-November 1975 issue of Public Affairs was dedicated to his commemoration. Selected excerpts from these tributes follow. Emphases have been added.

By his innate feeling of a call to duty to the motherland and enthused by the lives of Ram Mohun Roy, Vivekananda, Dadabhai Naoroji and Dewan Rangacharlu he lived a life of dedication to great ideals and lived a purposeful life…He made it his duty to cleanse the minds of his fellow countrymen both individual and collective and uplift their miseries to the great and the good in life. He assiduously tried to find out the good and made it known to his fellowmen and tried to see it realised. It is no wonder he found journalism a convenient vehicle to express his thoughts.


His learning was as extensive as his intellect was massive and his retentive power extraordinary. Though his schooling stopped with his failing in the matriculation examination, by that time he had read Gibbon 's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire several times.


Authority to him in the State was not unrelated to the holder of it. So, his insistence was on the maintenance of high moral standards of public men. Similarly, the public good was not something elusive for him. Every detail which made the life of the citizen happy was an item of good for him.


It was his firm conviction that when power is passing into the hands of the people, one safeguard against error and confusion in public policy is in the influence of a body of independent-minded citizens who untrammeled by party attachments and class loyalties, would keep a critical watch over the country's affairs and inform the public from time to time.


When he received congratulatory letters from friends on the conferment of Padma Bhushan on him, he replied that the grass growing in a meadow does not ask for any praise for looking so beautifully green and for having pleased the looker on.


I would not be wrong in saying that our education began afresh when we came in contact with him. Beginning with referring to a dictionary, punctuating a sentence, arranging chairs for a meeting welcoming the lecturer, up to the teaching of the Upanishads, the instruction spread over all aspects of life. No detail was missed. I may describe it as an attitude of thoroughness in thought as well as in action. He detested lethargy, procrastination, haphazardness, and perfunctoriness, as also deceit and hypocrisy. So it is no wonder that he partial to scholarship and efficiency and straightforwardness. All this drill and punctiliousness formed part of his philosophy of life and it is no exaggeration to say we have become new men under his influence. [D.R. Venkataramanan]


In the course of his public life, DVG never minced matter and whenever any action of Government offended public good, DVG was loud and clear in his indictment of that action. He was incorruptible and he never thought of utilising his position and influence as a public man to further his interests. [K.S. Ramaswami]


Fifteen years of hard and selfless service had…made Gundappa into a man of grit and incorruptible independence… Gundappa never looked for the appreciation of the work he was doing, by Government. He was a politician but belonged to no party. If he had joined the Congress in the earlier years, he could perhaps have been a minister in one of the administrations later. ln literature also he was indifferent to acceptance by the crowd, though maintaining high quality… Born poor, receiving no formal education beyond the secondary stage, and entering public life when he was about twenty years old, Gundappa worked hard and with a will to make something of life; and ended making it a great thing. [Masti Venkatesha Iyengar]


[1] D.V. Gundappa. Rajyashastra, Rajyanga, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 5, Government of Karnataka, pp 634-5. Emphasis added.

[2] D.V. Gundappa. Rajyashastra, Rajyanga, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 5, Government of Karnataka, pp 638. Emphasis added.

[3] D.V. Gundappa. Rajyashastra, Rajyanga, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 5, Government of Karnataka, p 628

[1] Held from January 19-23, 1955.

[2] D.V. Gundappa. Avadi Congress, Public Affairs, January-February 1955, pp 1-2. Emphasis added.

[3] Philip Spratt: Foreword to Genesis And Growth Of Nehruism: Volume I: Commitment to Communism, Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, 1963. Emphasis added.

[4] D.V. Gundappa. Careerism and Corruption, Public Affairs, January 1964, p 3.

[5] D.F. Karaka: Betrayal in India, Victor Gollancz, 1950, London

[6] D.V. Gundappa. Democracy and Muck-raking, Public Affairs, November 1969, p 233.

[7] D.V. Gundappa. "Congress A and B." Public Affairs, January 1970, p 1. Emphasis added.

[8] Syndicate comprised the anti-Indira Gandhi group comprising S.Nijalingappa, Kamaraj, S.K. Patil and other top Congress leaders. “Indicate” refers to the Indira Gandhi faction.

[9] For an informed study of the so-called Young Turks, see: J.C. Johari. "Young Turks and the Radicalisation of Congress Leadership." The Indian Journal of Political Science 34, no. 2 (1973): pp 173-98.

[10] D.V. Gundappa. "Congress A and B." Public Affairs, January 1970, pp 1-2.

[11] Especially noteworthy is Sri M.R. Pai’s detailed, fine and brutally truthful essay titled Reconstruction of Indian Politics written in combative prose that DVG published in the January 1970 issue of Public Affairs.




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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