History. Lets see.... Gandhi lives on, if only for a few more years
given his age. History branches out for sixty five years.
can suggest an alternate sequence of events, there are a few facts that
are relevant and necessary to explain this question. These are events
pertaining to the final five months of Gandhi's life, and some of his
opinions from that time frame:
Gandhi went back to spinning yarn
after India was granted freedom. He stayed grounded and acknowledged
that freedom was the first of the many baby steps that our country had
to take. This was his first indication that he was moving away from main
stream politics and wanted to concentrate on social problems of society.
When others were celebrating the "Tryst with Destiny" speech, Gandhi was fasting in Calcutta on Independence Day. That is the reason why people will not find the face of the Indian Independence struggle/
Father of the Nation in any of the videos filmed on August 15th 1947.
He was urging for peace between the religious groups in Bengal, which
had recently been partitioned into India and East Pakistan(Bangladesh).
Horace Alexander was with him.
He was also aware that his supporters had moved away from selfless principles of the Swaraj movement into power mongering territory. Quoting Stanley Wolpert, from Wikipedia:
plan to carve up British India was never approved of or accepted by
Gandhi...who realized too late that his closest comrades and disciples
were more interested in power than principle, and that his own vision
had long been clouded by the illusion that the struggle he led for
India's freedom was a nonviolent one
Gandhi had resigned from the Congress once in 1934 and made a come back in 1936 because he believed Independence was a higher priority than social causes
Lord Mountbatten continued as a Governor General and Gandhi did meet him from time to time, but he never attended any of the parties that were hosted by Mountbatten
Gandhi was against building any kind of mass ideology around his personality. He was against erecting any statues for him
was not elected to the post of party president. He was simply nominated
to the post by Gandhi because of his diplomacy and negotiation skills
was also of the opinion that the titans of the freedom movement should
continue their fight.... for equality, self help, social justice and
helping those who had no representation
Ideologically Gandhi had no organized stand
(in black and white related to communism or capitalism or socialism)
other than the fact that it was right thinking. Though he was familiar
with works of Tolstoy and Thoreau, his real inspiration was The Bhagvad
Gita. Real life experiences from what he saw first hand forged most of
His ideology can be described as part capitalism minus centralization and part communism minus violence with socialism as the major contributor, as it promoted equality - which Gandhi had fought for all his life
His stand was that India should be a agrarian economy, with elements of Sarvodaya(local governance, local economy, local production and consumption). Gandhian economics is a vast subject and I will skip it.
Gandhiji wanted to help Pakistan as well. Remember that problems were present on both sides of the border. To quote him:
When my work here is finished I shall go to Pakistan
He wanted to form the Lok Seva Sangh,
a organization dedicated to improving the condition of the socially
backward and distance himself from politics. If possible, he wanted to
persuade most of the Congress membership to join his new task and quit
Congress. He had not yet decided whether the Congress should be
dissolved or was it to function on a lesser scale. This was because if
the Congress was to be dissolved, then it would lead to a major
political vacuum and he was afraid of extreme
He wrote a piece on Harijan called as "Congress Position"
in which he suggested that Indian National Congress should have a part
in the role in National politics, but without the bureaucracy. I am
quoting a part of his writing. This was on 27 Jan '48, three days before
The Indian National Congress which is
the oldest national political organization and which has after many
battles, fought her non violent way to freedom, cannot be allowed to
die. It can only die with the nation. A living organism ever grows or it
dies. The congress has won political freedom, but it has yet to win economic freedom.
28 Jan '48, Gandhi was nominated by six different people for the Nobel
Peace Prize. This was his fifth nomination and he was almost certain to
win it in '48. The peace prize cannot be given posthumously unless the
person was already selected by the committee, which is the reason he was
not given the award
On 29 Jan '48, one day before he was killed, he wrote another piece in which he was against the Congress as a political body
split into two India having attained political independence, the
Congress in its present shape and form ie as a propaganda vehicle and
parliamentary machine has outlived its use....For those and other
similar reasons, the All India Congress Committee resolves to disband the existing Congress organization and flower it into a Lok Seva Sangh...
So to summarize, he had the opinion that Congress had outlived its use,
he wanted to work for social causes (food!!, equality), he wanted to
help Pakistan, he was against the use of his image in politics, he
wanted an agrarian economy, he wanted social welfare schemes, he wanted
us to remember his ideas, not erect monuments and most importantly he
was thinking of disbanding Congress. This was the Gandhi during his
These are events that happened immediately after he died:
Gandhi had no organizational affiliations, no formal title in the political circles and no will when he died
leadership banned RSS and many other political parties for nearly a
year and Bapu's death resulted in 200 thousand arrests,mostly members of
Congress was a mish-mash of people from a
wide spectrum of political affiliations including capitalists,
communists, socialists, students, and everything else that can be
mentioned. The only thing holding them together till '47 was that they
had to gain independence
After the common goal (Independence)
was achieved, they would have gone their separate ways and formed a
myriad of political parties, but Gandhi's assassination made many of
them stick together a little longer.
Even though Gandhi was against capital punishment, Godse was hanged (Gandhi's two sons appealed that it would be his wish to not hang Godse)
His death cemented the Congress as a national political party
Quoting from Wikipedia for better explanation:
Yasmin Khan argues that Gandhi's death and funeral helped consolidate
the authority of the new Indian state. With Nehru and Patel in charge,
the government made sure everyone knew the guilty party was not a
Muslim. Congress tightly controlled the epic public displays of grief
over a two-week period - the funeral, mortuary rituals and distribution
of the martyr's ashes - as millions participated and hundreds of
millions watched. The goal was to assert the power of the government
and legitimize the Congress Party's control.
Gandhi's death and
funeral linked the distant state with the Indian people and made more
understand the need to suppress religious parties during the transition
to independence for the Indian people.
Assumptions that we can make based on conditions at that time:
He was 78, was relatively healthy when
he died. He was frail and weak from fasting, and suffered from fatigue,
but he was on a good diet and there was no major disease that he
suffered from (that I am aware of) that could have resulted in death
Assume that he was active for another 5 years and that no other attempt
is made on his life(Godse had attempted once before and there were 3
more attempts - no one including Gandhi took his security seriously).
There was no way that he was going to retire, as he was determined to
die serving his country anyway
Some changes many not be
as drastic, in some others, definitely so. The changes that can be
inferred from the many facts and the few assumptions above, in no
particular order are:
Political and business scene:
This is a typical poster of the Indian National Congress today:
Gandhi had gone ahead with his plans for a Lok Seva Sangh (People
Service Group) and distanced himself from the Congress politically as he
was planning to a day before he died, this poster would be a joke or meme today
as a party has ruled for 55 years out of the 65 years in the central
government, this will not be the scenario if the previous argument is
There would be parties other than Congress and BJP as
the major contenders in the National scene. Parties from other political
spectrums would have sprung up.
Caste based politics would be much less prevalent
Socialism would have gained overall, whether globalisation started in 90s or earlier or later depends on many factors
As I pointed out before, Gandhi was not against capitalism (and by implcation globalisation) per se - he was against exploitation. By extension of his own principle of coexistence, we can argue that capitalism, sarvodaya and rural economy can co exist if everything is regulated and decentralized.
The effects sixty years later would be speculative at best, but Congress stands to lose, that much is certain.
India - Pakistan relations:
was holding talks with Horace Alexander and Rajaji about the First
India - Pakistan war that broke out in October '47. A cease fire was
declared in two months, but it is still the matter of hostility between
Inida-Pak even today. Strategically the POK- COK - IOK regions are
inhospitable and hold little value.
As I pointed out, relation
between the two countries were not yet a complete failure, as many
leaders like Gaffar Khan (Pakistani citizen who was awarded Bharath
ratna) held him in high regard and he would have been welcome in
Pakistan as well. Gaffar Khan said many years later, of India:
Gandhism is dead. Gandhi is completely forgotten. It is Buddha all over again
Gandhi was being considered as a serious candidate for the Nobel Peace prize in the year '48. It is almost certain that he would have received the honor if he was alive.
effects that this might have had in the fragile set up between the two
countries is positive and significant. Think about it - a current Nobel
Peace prize winner to negotiate peace talks
True, Gandhi could
not stop the partition, but he could have pulled some kind of treaty /
settlement after the initial power balance was stablilised
Gandhism movement and Sarvodaya:
wouldn't be far fetched to say that the mass Gandhian movement died
with Gandhi. It exists in some form or the other, but limited to a few
people who follow mundane details like kadhi and leave out the bigger
principles. Simply put modern Gandhian movement has not kept up with the
If he died of a natural causes a few years later, Gandhian movement would been significantly different
standards for calling someone a "Gandhian" has dropped to pathetic
levels. Apparently today everyone from those those who publicly support
capital punishment to those who bear fire arms are termed "Gandhian".
These would have changed for the better if Gandhi had a clear role in
national movement for a few more years.
After Gandhi was
assassinated, his spiritual successor, Vinoba Bhave (who was alive till
'83) was nowhere close to the effect that Gandhi had. Other than a land
donation scheme of parched useless land to landless people(the effects
of which are debatable) there was very little that he actually did in
terms of religious harmony (he wrote interpretations of various
religious works though) and social upliftment. Bhave openly supported
Indira Gandhi's government and the emergency (which Gandhi would have
gone on a fast to object given what effects against democracy it had)
and excessively tried to imitate Gandhi
abandoned the more important principles like helping the people without
representation. For instance, Gandhi wanted to bring access to
education and make certain communities self reliant. Bhave did not work
towards this. We still have plenty of tribal groups(70 at last count)
left to fend for themselves in several parts of the country against big
name mining companies. Brikesh Singh from Green peace is living on a
tree to raise awareness about protecting tigers from mining companies,
but there is no major NGOs raising awareness about these people. Strange
and Maoists movements started (and have popular support) because
certain groups feel that they were left out during development efforts.
These reason for these movements to spring up would have been mitigated
if inclusive development had targeted these isolated groups.
If Gandhi was alive for a little longer, the Gandhian movement would have major impact on these areas
of the religious problems that Gandhi set out to solve still exist in
the same form. Examples: The North-eastern India religious clash problem
(which he was trying to solve on Independence day no less), rioting in
Ayodhya and Gujrat etc
This can open up a can of worms, so I am leaving it closed.
Farming and agriculture:
envisioned a future where India would be a major farming producer in
the world, with Indian farmers being viewed in a positive light.
his credit, Nehru introduced great agrarian reforms, but they were
still controlled by the rural elite and never trickled down to the
Farmer suicides in most southern states will not be as prevalent today if farming was given the importance it deserves
to popular belief, farming in states other than Punjab, UP and Haryana
is very difficult despite free electricity schemes.
Framing of constitution: No changes here. It was in line with his principles.
was a visionary and everyday that he was alive did indeed have an
effect on the history of India. He was not a politician, he was not the
typical humanitarian aid worker, he was not an expert on international
law or an economist. In fact he cannot be put into any one category at
all, and that is what makes him special. He has his fair share of
detractors and critics, but they have the luxury of analysing and
tearing apart decisions that he made decades ago in some of the toughest
situations a human being can face.
Thus it can be argued with evidence that India would be much different, for the better
if Gandhi had lived on for a few more years. To sum it up, when he
died, we gave him titles, we have put his picture on every currency note
and his name on everything imaginable, but we have not fulfilled most
of his ideals.
Disclaimer: I do not wish to speculate on the
possible negative effects that Gandhi would have had if he were alive
longer, simply because it would be an insult to his memory. There are
enough discussions online about his character flaws. Some of them are
indeed true, but aren't flaws a part of everyone? Before the
discussions in the comment section, you can read my case for Netaji
here: India: Who was a better leader between Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose?