Violence and politics are inseparable. Mahatma Gandhi turned this equation on its head. He led India to Independence following the principle of non-violence. This became a unique story in the history of mankind. Gandhi is revered across the world for spiritualising politics. He walked the talk, which is so rare in politics.
The person who played a major role in putting Gandhi at the forefront of India’s freedom struggle was Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a great politician, social reformer, orator and economist of his times. Gokhale was among the founders of the Indian National Congress and was a moderate leader.
Gokhale was a mentor and guide to Gandhi. It is interesting to read how Gandhi reflects on his association with Gokhale in his autobiography, My Experiments With Truth, where Gandhi has dedicated considerable space to his mentor.
Recalling his first meeting with Gokhale in Pune on October 12, 1896, Gandhi writes: “I found him (Gokhale) on the Fergusson College grounds. He gave me an affectionate welcome, and his manner immediately won my heart. This was my first meeting with him, and yet it seemed as though we were renewing an old friendship.”
Incidentally, Gandhi wanted to hold a meeting with leaders in Pune of ‘all opinions’ to win support for his work in South Africa, among them was Lokmanya Tilak. He further describes his first meeting with Gokhale: “Gokhale closely examined me, as a schoolmaster would examine a candidate seeking admission to a school. He told me whom to approach and how to approach them. He asked to have a look at my speech. He showed me over the college, assured me that he was always at my disposal.”
Saying that Gokhale occupied in his heart a unique place, Gandhi writes about the annual Congress session at Calcutta, which he attended along with Gokhale. He says, “From the very first day of my stay with him, Gokhale made me feel completely at home. He treated me as though I were his younger brother.”
He writes about the impression Gokhale made on him: “To see Gokhale at work was as much a joy as an education. He never wasted a minute. His private relations and friendships were all for public good. All his talks had reference only to the good of the country and were absolutely free from any trace of untruth or insincerity.”
Gandhi says, in his book, that Gokhale had assured him of financial support for his proposed ashram in Gujarat, which took a lot of load off the former’s mind. He met Gokhale on February 13, 1915. Six days later, Gokhale passed away. Paying a tribute to Gokhale, Gandhi said, “Though Gokhale was an agnostic, there was a thread of religiosity in his work. His loyalty towards the nation was unprecedented and selfless. He was fearless.” Later, Gandhi wrote a book on Gokhale in Gujarati titled ‘Dharmatma Gokhale’.