Ramachandra Guha has just published “Gandhi Before India“, a new work chronicling the life of Mohandas Gandhi before he became the Mahatma. Interview in WSJ:
WSJ: What do you think Mahatma Gandhi would have made of Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s main opposition party?
Mr. Guha: I don’t want to say what Gandhi would have made of Modi, after all he died 65 years ago. But clearly Modi departs from the Gandhian mode of politics in many ways.
The obvious departure is that under Modi’s regime thousands of Muslims were butchered and hundreds of thousands still languish in conditions of poverty and insecurity.
Gandhi died for the cause of Muslim-Hindu harmony. You could argue that his attempts to keep India united failed, but he recognized this. He spent his last years fasting and taking on the might of Hindu fundamentalism and it was a Hindu fundamentalist from the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization] who killed him.
Modi is true to the RSS view of Hindu supremacy and in that sense he’s clearly not a Gandhian. But the question is that of personality. Gandhi was an open-minded questing person, always curious about other people’s views, always conscious of his own fallibilities.
Whereas Modi is a megalomaniac; It’s all ‘me, I, myself.’ This is a man who in terms of his authoritarian personality is as far removed from Gandhi as any Indian could be and any Gujarati could be, since he’s also Gujarati.
Of course I don’t want to single out Modi. There are other politicians who dissemble, who lie, who are secretive, Indian politicians who are hypocritical including the Congress party, which violates Gandhi’s teachings on an almost daily basis. More: