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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 39, September 17, 2011

Rahul Gandhi Needs to Learn from Mahatma Gandhi’s Precepts

Friday 23 September 2011, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh


Last fortnight, despite countrywide popular support for Anna Hazare’s Jana Lokpal demand, some MPs of the ruling coalition started saying that Parliament is supreme, that parliamentary procedures cannot be shortened or expedited to meet emergencies and that trying to do this would mean undermining the democratic process. According to newspaper reports, “Rahul Gandhi underscored the supremacy of Parliament over street campaigns.” To liken post-independence India’s largest national upsurge, which was unprecedented in its scale, to just “street campaigns”!! Only a closed mind could say this.

Such people tend to forget that the very word “democracy” means the system of governance by the “demos”, that is, the people. The people are supreme. Parliament is one of their tools. The tool could not be superior to the people.

Only those who had a vested interest in perpetuating their power base through corrupt means, tried to deny that the whole population was up in arms against corruption. Only one Mayawati, one Laloo Yadav, one Udit Raj and one Shahi Imam, who were afraid of being swept away like straw before a hurricane, were saying that they were not in support of Anna. This did not detract from its all-enbracing character. If they persist in their self-obsessed rantings, they will find themselves disowned by the Dalits and the Muslims, themselves on the issue of Parliament vis-à-vis people’s voice.

Since our Parliament had, in a large measure, adopted the model of the. British Parliament, which is known in the world as the Mother of Parliaments, let us concentrate on seeing what Mahatma Gandhi said about the UK Parliament specifically and about parliaments generally in his Hind Swaraj, Chapter V:

It is like a sterile woman …… If has not, of its own accord, done a single good thing ….. Without outside pressure it can do nothing ….. The parliament, being elected by the people and, must work under public pressure. That is its quality.

The best men are supposed to be elected by the people …….. But, as a matter of fact, it is generally acknowledged that the members are hypocritical and selfish. Each thinks of his own interest.

When the greatest questions are debated, the members have been seen to stretch themselves and to doze. Sometimes the members talk away until the listeners are disgusted. Carlyle has called it “the talking shop of the world”. Members vote for their party without a thought. Their so-called discipline binds them to it. If any member, by way of exception, gives an independent vote, he is considered a renegade.

I have nothing against Prime Ministers, but what I have seen leads me to think that they cannot be really patriotic. If they are to be considered honest because they do not take what are generally known as bribes, let them be so considered, but they are open to subtler influences. In order to gain their ends, they certainly bribe people with honours. I do not hesitate to say that they have neither real honesty, nor a living conscience. (Emphasis added).

The author is one of the country’s earliest environ-mentalists and a social philosopher. He can be contacted at and

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