Putting words in the Mahatma’s mouth
Bibek Debroy takes apart Manmohan Singh’s invocation of Gandhi in his recent address to the nation.
“As I share with you the priorities of our government, I am reminded of the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji had said that his mission in life was “to wipe every tear from every eye.” Think of the poorest person you have ever seen, Gandhiji would say, “and ask if your next act will be of any use to him.” That message of Bapu resonates in our ears as we settle down to the business of government.” [Manmohan Singh/FE]
Debroy argues that Gandhi never actually said either of those things, nor did he ever imply these to be directive principles of state policy; rather this was his advice on how individuals should carry themselves. Interestingly, the reference to wiping tears from every eye actually comes from the Bible’s Book of Revelation and was used by Nehru in his ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech.
More generally, the Gandhi’s greatest success was in espousing a political philosophy based on high morals but in simple, easy-to-understand, do-it-yourself packages. Gandhian thought and action are as relevant in today’s world as they were a half-century ago, specifically where people strive for democracy and self-determination against oppressive rule. Gandhi was probably the greatest anti-terrorist ever. But Gandhi’s economics was rejected even by Nehru as being unimplementable in the real world. Again that is as true today as it was a half-century ago.