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Do Gandhians participate in electoral politics?

Do Gandhians participate in electoral politics?

To the question of whether those who claimed to follow Gandhi had any special role or duty in the ensuing elections has often had mixed reactions from scholars and politicians with the changing times in Indian politics. Many believe that Government had no faith in Gandhian values or in Gandhian concepts of development or in a non-violent society and is taking the country on the path to ruin. One should not only wish that the Government disappeared; but also work to see that the electorate could seize the opportunity and remove the Government by voting against it or by voting for the opposition.


Five fallacies or myths that doesn’t allow us to come out with a clear idea on this critical question are as follows:


1.        Politics: An impression that Gandhi was against participation in politics, and wanted his followers (Satyagrahis) to shun politics.

Truth:  No one who has read Gandhi's writings in the original can find a shred of evidence to support such a view. Quite to the contrary, to the very end Gandhi insisted that politics was inescapable, unavoidable and essential to a seeker after Truth. His attitude towards politics can well be construed through  his 'perception of God; his perception of Truth; his conception of Dharma.


2.        Satyagraha: To suggest that Gandhi's concepts of Satyagraha and the methods of struggle that he employed were meant only to be used against the foreign ruler, or in a non-democratic society. The situation today is different from what obtained in the days of Gandhi as the country is free and no longer fighting a foreign government and today the government is democratically elected; so had Gandhi was alive today, he himself would revise the methods of Satyagraha.

Truth: Satyagraha is soul-force or truth-force or "Dharma Bal", and soul-force does not discriminate between a foreigner and a fellow-citizen. Gandhi saw Satyagraha as a force or weapon that could be used to correct any individual, group or nation; used by any individual - child or adult. Satyagraha is a combination of assistance and  resistance. Satyagrahi assist the evil-doer to see what is wrong in his ways through nonviolent Non-cooperation and nonviolent resistance in the form of physical Direct action.


3.        Consensus: A satyagrahi always work and seek for a social consensus on his perception of truth.. In order to make truth prevail, he works for a consensus yet sticking to the underlying truth for which he needs acceptance from others.

Truth: A satyagrahi when is convinced of a certain truth or a certain course of action, he never waits for consensus. In fact, he cannot absolve himself of the responsibility to act in defense of his perception of truth on the ground  that he is waiting for others to accept it. It is morally indefensible  for him to continue to acquiesce and cooperate or refrain from action.


4.        Elections: Gandhians should not take part in electoral politics, since they are revolutionaries, and believe in revolutionary means of action. Strategically, they are willing to resort to extra-constitutional methods to achieve his goals.

Truth: Electoral politics is meant to capture and use the existing power structure; revolutionary politics is meant to alter the existing power structure. One’s readiness to take to extra-constitutional action does not mean unwillingness to use venues of constitutional action or confining himself to it. For the Gandhian revolutionary, therefore power itself, is secondary; it is the ability to control power that is primary.


5.        Means: Overlooking the rights and wrongs of an issue merely because both contending parties are using means that are unacceptable to a Satyagrahi. He refrains from participating in the actual physical combat on either side.

Truth: His nonviolent means entitles him to condemn both parties and take a stance of neutrality or equidistance based on the roots of the issue, if not physically interfere in the middle of the parties concerned. Scrutinising the motives of two warring parties, a satyagrahi could find one to be in the right and the other in the wrong;whose cause is just, deserves the moral help and support..

Source: Late Sh. Ravindra Varma, Ex-Chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapith

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