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Gokhale, the not-so-acclaimed Guru of Mahatma Gandhi.

Updated on July 27, 2009

Gopal Krishna Gokhale  was one of the sholar-statesmen of India and he struggled to uplift the Indian masses. We can undoubtedly call him the pioneer among the architects of modern India. If we browse through the pages of history of mankind, we can always find that there is a discernible cycle in every sphere. New systems will take the place of old ones, "remoulding the world to the heart's desire", to use the words of Omar Khayyam.

The French Revolution produced a Mirabeau and a Danton, The American Revolution, a Jefferson and a Hamilton after Washington and England, a Cromwell. In India, one Mahadev Govind Ranade, a political economist trained Gokhale. Gokhale, in turn, was revered by Mahatma Gandhi as his guru. Both Ranade and Gokhale had the purity of motive and were dedicated to the cause of the country. They worked for the political and social regeneration of the people.

Gokhale's mission was to be "the master of the possible", which means he wanted to utilize the existing organs of legislation to achieve the immediate objectives and to go from one step to the next. He came out with a remarkable catena of exposures of the defects of the British rule in Idia. Through his budget speeches, the financial errors of the British administration were exposed and constructive proposals adumbrated.

In 1915, taking the suggestion of Lord Willingdon in the right spirit, Gokhale came out with a "political testament", which paved the way for the Montagu-Chemsford reforms but as always, the British government, being slow in realizing the logic of events, did not adopt the reforms. "Nothing in excess" and "Know thyself and maintain self-discipline" are the two maxims Gokhale always used to quote. These two maxims are relevant even now and will never become obsolete.

Gokhale's labours in the Educational sphere, in the work of Fergusson College, his contribution to the Welby Commission and his persuasive tour of England make him an accredited leader of non-official Indian opinion. His passionate love of the Motherland, his ineradicable belief in reconciliation and wise compromise clearly show that he was the prime factor in the growth of Indian political and economic thought. As Lord Rosebery said, it is true that "men of vision live on a mount Sinai of their own and when they come down to earth, they come with the decrees and terrors of the Almighty Himself." How truly these words describe Gokhale.


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