Political in our day-to-day understanding is an all comprehensive term. Mostly it
has bee used to mean State Politics that includes structure and functioning of
a State as well as its correlation with other states. Politics used as a
Science of state or an academic discipline which is not competent to change
the image of politics, which is understood as an activity centering round
power and very often devoid of simples.
Etymologically, politics comes from the Greek root 'polis'. It implies
the principles and applications that guided the governance of the Greek
city-states. It should be remembered tat State was a holistic conception
to the ancient Greeks, which covered every public activity of the citizens.
In many Indian languages, politics has been called Rajniti. In
one sense, it meant the principle of administration of the King or ruler.
Politics of Gandhi
Coming to the political thought of Gandhi, we have to remember certain dispositions of
Gandhi.First of all, Gandhi was not a system builder in an academic
sense.He was not a political philosopher.For all his sayings
were pouring from his deep feelings and sincere realization of the truth.
Without going into disputes, it can be agreed that he was not committed to any
exclusive school of thought. His speech and pen had generally come from
responses from particular situation. Gandhi even at the fag end of
his life spoke of himself that he had never ceased to grow and therefore, he
had been learning from "Experiment with Truth". as he named his autobiography.
Thus Gandhi had revised his opinions from time to time though his conceptual
framework remained the same. He had not altered from his basics.
Gandhi's political thought stems
from different traditions, Eastern and Western. Though he had inherited many
traditions he had not agreed in to with any one of them. He had picked up
many traditional concepts from his immediate predecessors as well as from
ancient texts. Gandhi did never claim to be an original thinker. But when we
look into all his sayings we find a conceptual framework, common to a
philosopher. Moreover, when we find that his theoretical formulations and
practical pursuits are identical, we have every reason to accept him as a
philosopher in the Indian sense. But unlike other philosophers and political
scientists of both the East and the West, only he could emerge not only as the
man of destiny of the nation but also as the man of the millennium.
Many political Scientists
thought that Gandhi was a combinations of a prophet and a politician of the
highest caliber. So he had combined within himself aspects of the Philosopher
and politician. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a great admirer and critic
of Gandhi, once said that Gandhi had to play the roles of a world teacher as
well as the Supreme leader of the Indian National Liberation Movement. In a
tone of criticism he further said, often his former role that is the role of a
world teacher became so prominent that he had to compromise with his other
role. One may or may not agree with Netaji Bose but it appears that in the
context of national liberation movement there is truth in it. But when we go
into the depth of Gandhi's Philosophy, we feel that there is no dichotomy in
Gandhi's perception. It can be said that Gandhi considered politics as an
instrument for the uplift of mankind in social, economic, moral and spiritual
spheres. Gandhi himself admitted to his South African friend that his bent of
mind was religious and not political. Romain Rolland in his biography of
Gandhi written in 1924, had remarked that if Tilak would not have died Gandhi
might have chosen a religious life rather than a political. TO Gandhi politics
itself was his religion. He was opposed to politicizing religion. He was for
spiritualizing religion but he was essentially a worldly man and never sought
this own salvation secluded from the world. For him politics had encircled him
like the coil of a snake. He must wrestle with the snake, there is no respite.
He could have thought of avoiding politics, if without politics food and
work could be provided to the hungry unemployed people of India. He strongly
felt hat without involving himself in politics it is not possible to remove
socio-economic exploitation and political subjugation and thereby moral
degradation of the people of Indian unless he involved himself in politics.
In this perspective we have to understand Gandhi's confrontation with the coil of a snake. No matter how much
tough, the task might be, we have to come out from it by wrestling with the
snake. This can be successfully performed if we can alleviate the present
state of politics to Dharmic politics. By Dharmic, Gandhi meant that it should
be remove from corrupting influences and sectarianism. This politics
should be the privilege of all. Gandhi was not prepared to accept any
fixed dogma or mechanical way for either of politics or religion.
Gandhi had a vision of transforming the socially and morally degenerated and separated individuals
in a manner where individuals can enjoy their freedom in a spirit altruism. To
understand Gandhi's politics it is also necessary to understand Gandhi's
concern for the cleavage between state and civil society. The community life
is fast diminishing and civil society could not formulate any mechanism to control it.
Gandhi was concerned since his days of Hind Swaraj that the Western civilization had been hedonistic, in the
sense of self-pleasure centred, pragmatic in the sense of immediate material
benefit and individualistic in the sense of egocentric in the sense of
sovereign individual oriented. He found British parliament had become a
sterile women, where naked display of self interest or party interest (or
power only) had been manifested. He blamed disease lying with the western
civilization itself. Gandhi found that the whole business of politics had been
running to a wrong path on a hoax.
As we knew Gandhi was a God-oriented man. But to him Truth is God and as in other spheres of life,
politics should also be a search after truth and this search must be
understood by Gandhi, is for raising general conscience of the people. Every
individual must be free from pangs of hunger must prevent exploitation and
oppression. He would then be in a position to work for hi sown development
through the performances of duties. A universal morality would emerge which
would create an atmosphere for healthy political life. We should accept
self-transformation as a continuous process. Gandhi was emphatic in saying
that politics bereft of religion is a death trap which kills the soul. By
spiritualization of politics, Gandhi meant something larger than our day to
day life but not excluding world of day to day experiences. A community of
persons on the process of self-realization be able to resist the corrupting
influences of existing interests.
According to Gandhi this is not just a philosophical dream far from realities of political life. Many great
philosophers right from Plato could not reconcile the dichotomy between
reality and ideal. From Gandhian point of view, we should into distrust the
capability of commoner to rise above passion and self-interest and we can
evolve a modus operandi by which a new kind of politics might emerge as Gandhi envisioned.
Equality is not only a cardinal
principle of Gandhian thought but it is one of the most aspired concepts of
most other writers on social and political thought. But if we analyze the
concept we would be faced with the differences on the outlook of these
writers. We are accustomed to use the term to mean equality of characteristics
and also equality of treatment. Leaving aside the former, the criteria of
equality have been used in so many senses as (a) impartiality (b) equal share
to all (c) equal share to equals (d) proportional equality (e) unequal shares
corresponding to relevant differences.