Six Most Damaging Mistakes of Mahatma Gandhi
There is no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi was the biggest figure in the Indian Independence movement and we all owe him a gigantic debt. But he also may have made a few mistakes and here’s looking at some of them…
1. Chasing Netaji away: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the Mahatma disagreed on the use of force against the British. Despite that Bose was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1938. That led to a confrontation and ultimately differences with Jawaharlal Nehru too. In the 1939 elections, Netaji was ill and the Mahatma used this opportunity to push his candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. However Netaji came on a stretcher and defeated the Mahatma’s candidate. The writing was on the wall. The leadership of the nation had passed from the Mahatma to Netaji. However instead of accepting it gracefully, the Mahatma camp played intense politics and forced Netaji to resign from the Congress.
2. Installing Nehru as Prime Minister: In terms of charisma, Netaji was probably the most able to lead the nation. He was the most popular too as his 1938-39 stint showed. In hindsight if you read the writings of the leaders at that time, then C Rajagopalachari probably had the greatest vision. In the vote for PM, Sardar Vallabhai Patel came first and JB Kriplani came second. The truth is that without the Mahatma, Nehru was nowhere in the picture. Nehru laid the economic foundations for a country that went bankrupt in 1991 and India was forced into liberalisation. So much for vision! Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw has gone on record saying that Nehru was totally indecisive on Kashmir and it was Patel who made the push for us to secure it. China was making all plans to annex Aksai Chin and Nehru wore blinkers. When war broke out, Nehru refused to use the IAF which many experts said was far superior the China’s Air Force. When we finally lost it, Nehru had the gall to say that nothing grew there prompting an opposition leader to point out that nothing grew on Nehru’s head too! He also formed something called the Non Aligned Movement which was hypocritical because we were firmly aligned with the USSR. Again Nehru backed the wrong horse when it collapsed in 1991 and we had a huge lot of problems relating to defence supplies and spares. Neither was he popular within his party. Apart from Nehru and Patel, there were 10 members in the Cabinet and 6 quit. So much for consensus! That move also laid the foundations for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which in fact can be called the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty because it was put in place by the Mahatma! In hindsight, Nehru was probably the worst choice for PM!
3. Not dissolving the Congress: The Mahatma had a clear policy of “my way or the highway” and got his way on almost everything. So when he said that the Congress should be dissolved, why didn’t he push for it? Was he merely playing lip service? The Congress wasn’t dissolved and full charge was given to Nehru. All the great Congress leaders rebelled one by one. That severely weakened our leadership at the top and today after 66 years we still don’t have a proper Opposition to the Congress and a healthy multi-party system at the Centre. (If the NDA doesn’t come to power in 2014, it may as well become extinct.) The correct thing to do would have been to dissolve the Congress and go in for a multi-party democracy which only the Mahatma had the clout to do and he failed in that aspect.
4. A socialist dictatorship? Founding fathers have a way of imprinting their personalities on their nation. Like a dynamic general called George Washington refused to serve more than two terms as US President and retired. Accounts say that some suggested he be crowned king and he refused point blank. Since then the Americans shun dictatorships and their political parties are among the most democratic in the world. The Mahatma by contrast was dictatorial in his approach and brooked no opposition. He frequently went on fasts if he did not get his way. He installed Nehru who was also dictatorial in the way he ran the party. Till date, Indian political parties are run by and large in a dictatorial manner. Think Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi, the Abdullahs Even part of the appeal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is that he appears to be dictatorial.
The Mahatma advocated such an impractical form of austerity and socialism that we were virtually a pseudo-communist country. Any government that is run on low salaries will invariably breed corruption.
5. Not allowing us to be tough with Pakistan: Pakistan asked for Independence. We didn’t want such a move. Pakistan attacked Kashmir even though neither the British nor the monarch (Maharaja Hari Singh) nor the popular leader (Sheikh Abdullah) wanted to be with them. India had a trump card to force Pakistan out of Kashmir. India held Rs 55 crores in terms of assets and liabilities that it had to give Pakistan. We held it back to force Pakistan out of Kashmir and that move may have worked. However the Mahatma went on a fast unto death for that money to be released to Pakistan! India lost a golden opportunity and since then not only is the Kashmir dispute still alive, but there have been multiple wars and the loss of tens of thousands of lives. So much for peace and non-violence!
6. Expensive poverty: While the Mahatma had the image of a scantily clad man who lived an extremely simple life, it was only on the surface. There is a famous quote of one of his disciples that says something to the effect of: It costs us a fortune to keep Gandhi poor! He accepted a lot of donations from rich industrialists with GD Birla being the most famous of them and while it is true that he travelled, what is not discussed is that the whole compartment used to be reserved just for him! His humble farm was also costly to maintain. There are even allegations that due to that he did not vigorously take up a petition by Birla workers complaining about the bad conditions that they had to work in. Is that the first case of politics-business conflict of interest in India? The country is full of it today.
The Mahatma was also infamous for once commenting over earthquake deaths that God was punishing sinners! There have also been many issues raised over the Mahatma’s sex life with the latest being raised in a book called Gandhi: Naked Ambition by Jad Adams. But these two points concern his personal life while the above mentioned six have changed the fate of India in more ways than one can imagine.
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.
परोपकाराय फलन्ति वृक्षा: परोपकाराय वहन्ति नद्यः।
परोपकाराय दुहन्ति गावः परोपकाराय इदं शरीरम्।।
( hari krishnamurthy K. HARIHARAN)"
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