How the Gandhis have failed Gandhi

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 30, 2013 13:32 hrs

Unfinished business tends to endure. As it does with the Indian National Congress.

The party leadership has recently concluded what it described as a brainstorming session [Chintan Shivir]. The outcome is a declaration that vexes in its absence of specifics.

The Jaipur Declaration of the Congress ought to dismay its friends. It does nothing for the party. It is almost alarming that they slaved over this.

They might be better served by simply rereading Mahatma Gandhi's last brief to them.

A day before his assassination, Gandhi gave the Congress a template to live by. If the party intends to attract voters, all it needs to do is check where it stands on what Gandhi said.

On 29 January 1948, Gandhi said the Congress had outlived its use – as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine – after India attained political independence. This holds even today.

Gandhi said India had still to attain social, moral and economic independence in terms of its 7,00,000 villages as distinguished from its cities and towns. This is true even today.

He said civil and military power would struggle for ascendency as India progresses towards its democratic goal, and it must be kept out of unhealthy competition with political parties and communal bodies. This is true even today.

For these and other similar reasons, Gandhi said, the All India Congress Committee must resolve to disband the existing Congress organisation and 'flower' into a Lok Sevak Sangh. This the Congress has not done.

Gandhi listed a few rules for the Lok Sevak Sangh.

Every panchayat of five adult men or women being villagers or village-minded shall form a unit. Two such contiguous panchayats shall form a working party under a leader elected from among themselves. This was done briefly.

When there are 100 such panchayats, 50 first-grade leaders shall elect from among themselves a second-grade leader and so on, the first-grade leaders meanwhile working under the second-grade leader. This happens rarely, if ever.

Parallel groups of panchayats shall continue to be formed till they cover the whole of India, each succeeding group of panchayats electing a second-grade leader after the manner of the first. This happens only in theory.

All second-grade leaders shall serve jointly for the whole of India and severally for their respective areas. This holds on paper.

The second-grade leaders may elect, whenever they deem necessary, from among themselves a chief who will, during pleasure, regulate and command all the groups. This happens.

It should be noted that this body of servants derive their authority or power from service ungrudgingly and wisely done to their master, the whole of India. 

The master is not India now. It is the party leadership.

Every worker shall be a habitual wearer of khadi made from self-spun yarn or certified by the All India Spinners Association (AISA) and must be a teetotaller. This has been junked.

If a Hindu, he must have abjured untouchability in any shape or form in his own person or in his family and must be a believer in the ideal of inter-communal unity, equal respect and regard for all religions and equality of opportunity and status for all irrespective of race, creed or sex. This happens, but not enough.

Every worker shall come in personal contact with every villager within his jurisdiction. This doesn't hold now.

He shall enrol and train workers from amongst the villagers and keep a register of all these. This is attempted.

He shall keep a record of his work from day to day. They don't.

He shall organise the villages so as to make them self-contained and self-supporting through their agriculture and handicrafts. They try this.

He shall educate the village folk in sanitation and hygiene and take all measures for prevention of ill health and disease among them. This is ignored.

He shall organise the education of the village folk from birth to death along the lines of Nayee Talim, in accordance with the policy laid down by the Hindustani Talimi Sangh. This is no longer considered valid.

He shall see that those whose names are missing on the statutory voters roll are duly entered therein. This is overdone.

He shall encourage those who have not yet acquired the legal qualification, to acquire it for getting the right of franchise. The government does this more than the party.

For the above purposes and others to be added from time to time, he shall train and fit himself in accordance with the rules laid down by the Sangh for the due performance of duty. This is barely done.

The [Lok Sevak] Sangh shall affiliate the following autonomous bodies: 
1. All India Spinners Association 
2. All India Village Industries Association 
3. Hindustani Talimi Sangh 
4. Harijan Sevak Sangh 
5. Goseva Sangh. 

This is split along political lines. There are Muslim, Hindu and secular takers for some of these.

The Sangh shall raise finances for the fulfillment of its mission from among the villagers and others, special stress being laid on collection of poor man's pice. This has been deemed undoable.

The Congress doesn't need more declarations. It has plenty of intent from the past.

Also by the author:

Alcohol, rape and the Supreme Court

Schools for parents, a woman Deputy PM: A 2013 manifesto for India

Delhi gang-rape case offers us insights into attitude of our youth

Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at

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