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ARTICLES > POLITICS > Political Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi : A Brief Outline

 

Political Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi : A Brief Outline

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.


Gandhian Equality

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.