Emergence of Gandhi

Situations led to the Emergence of Gandhi in India:

  • The nationalist movement in India before the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from South Africa in 1915 has been described as "a movement representing the classes" as opposed to the masses. It means participation by a limited group of Western-educated professionals belonged to specific castes and communities and living primarily in the three presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.
  • Lowered caste lived in Bihar, Orissa, the Central Provinces and Berar as well as in the United Provinces and Gujarat showed reluctance to join Congress politics. The colonial government, therefore, could take comfort in the fact that Congress was being run as a closed shop by "a microscopic minority".
  • Both the groups (Moderates and Extremists) had lost credibility as they had failed to achieve their stated goals.

The Emergence of Gandhi as a leader:

  • Gandhi as a newcomer to Indian politics was not tainted by the failures of any of these groups. He did not have a vested interest in the political status quo and therefore more prepared to welcome a shift of power from the Western-educated elites to the hands of the masses.
  • Gandhi had a clear vision of the pluralist nature of Indian society but was dedicated to the ideal of a united India. For the younger generation of Indians, frustrated by the eternal squabbles between the moderates and extremists, he offered something refreshingly new. In an age of moral vacuum and physical despondency, he promised a political programme that was also spiritually noble.
  • Gandhi succeeded in uniting both the moderates and extremists on a common political platform.
  • In the divided and contestable space of Indian politics, he could effectively claim for himself a centrist position, because he alienated neither and tactically combined the goal of the moderates with the means of the extremists.
  • His method of satyagraha looked similar to passive resistance of extremist and his path of non-violence gave ease to Moderates and propertied class.
  • In the muslim rift between Aligarh old guards and young Muslims, Gandhi sided with young Muslims by supporting the Khilafat issue and thus for the first time united The Hindus with Muslims in a combined battle against British.
  • His simple attire, use of colloquial Hindi, reference to the popular analogy of Ramrajya made him connected to the common people.

Is Gandhi’s politics was entirely new for Indians?

  • The mass movement organised by Tilak in Maharashtra in the 1890s, the activities of the Punjab extremists and above all the Swadeshi movement in Bengal in 1905-8 had already foreshadowed the coming of agitational politics in India.
  • Mass mobilisation by the Home Rule Leagues of Tilak and Annie Besant prepared the ground for the success of Gandhi's initial satyagraha movements.
  • Many of the local leaders of Gandhi's early satyagrahas came from Home Rule League background and they used organisational networks created by the Leagues.
  • Hence, there are signs of a similar type of politics. However, Gandhi’s path of non-violence as a means to satyagraha was entirely new.

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