Gopal Krishan Gokhale was one of the most outstanding leaders of the modern era. He was a great patriot and a born leader. He served his country with selfless devotion and characteristic humility.
Moti Lai Nehru rightly said of him, “He never aspired to anything but to be the humblest servant of the motherland.” He was fired with great idealism and nobility. Dr. Radha Krishan aptly said, “When the comforts of the world were in Gokhale’s reach and could be his, he left them and gave his great talents to the service of the country. Menare great not by what they acquire but what they renounce.” His brilliance, his idealism, his nobility, his dedication and his patriotism will ever be a source of inspiration for the generations to come.
Gopal Krishan Gokhale was born on 9th March, 1866 in a poor brahmin family at village Kotluk in Ratnagiri district. His father’s name was Krishnarao Gokhale. His mother though illiterate, was strong- willed and deeply religious.
She made a great impact on Gokhale’s life. His father died when he was only thirteen years old. He had to face to lot of difficulties in his childhood. He passed his matriculation examination in 1881 and graduated in 1884. He joined the Deccan Education Society and started teaching at Fergusson College, Poona. He served the Society most selflessly for nearly two decades and retired as principal in 1902.
He devoted all his talents and energies to public service. He was elected as a member of Bombay Legislative Council. Later on he became the President of the Congress in 1905. He paid many visits to England and pleaded most frequently with the British Government to redress the grievances of the people of India. He founded the ‘Servants of India Society’, with the main objective of grooming young men for public service.
This society rendered a great service to the nation. He was taken into Central Legislative Council in 1902 where he made his mark as a parliamentarian and delivered some of the finest speeches ever made on the floor of the house. He fervently espoused the Indian causes in the Central Legislative Council.
He was a great disciple of Justice Ranade, whom he initially met in an unusual way. Some academic function was to be celebrated in New English School where the young Gokhale was put on duty to check gate crashing. A person presented himself at the gate without a ticket. Gokhale concluded that he was there exactly to prevent such intruders to get entry to the function.
He bluntly told the visitor that there was no entrance without a ticket. The visitor was none else than Justice Ranade. A colleague set the matter right. Justice Ranade, far from being angry with the young man, appreciated his conscientious performance of duty. Later on Gokhale became his pupil and held him in great reverence. He respected him so much that he never seated himself while in conversation with his guru. Gokhale worked very hard and attained diversified knowledge.
He had a brilliant intellect, a sharp memory and an analytical bent of mind. His talent, hard work and Justice Ranade’s grooming brought out the best of him and soon he became one of the tallest living Indians.
In his public life Gokhale had to suffer hostile criticism from the orthodox people for his second marriage, his support of the untouchable castes and his partaking of refreshments at Poona mission. The moderate group, to which he belonged was derided and jibed at. He bore it all patiently and heroically with the sustaining faith that truth was on his side. In fact his visits to England had changed his outlook and he was no more viewing things like a brahmin.
He was a brilliant speaker. He made his debutin the Central Legislative Council. He could use words most forcefully and get the desired effect. Agha khan said about him, “Gokhale was more than a statesman. He was essentially a creative artist of genius. His oratory was a work of art in words.”
Gokhale was a scholar statesman. He paid adequate attention to economic, educational, social and political problems of the country. He spiritualised politics and in fact, his spiritualisation ofpolitics was carried further by Gandhiji. Gandhiji acknowledged him as his political mentor.
He has said in his book, “The story of My Experiments with Truth’-“Sir Pherozeshah Mehta had seemed to me like the Himalayas and LokmanyaTilak like the ocean, but Gokhale was like the Ganges, one could have a refreshing bath in the holy river. The Himalaya was unsalable and one could not easily launch to its bosom.” Gokhale’s truthful and straightforward means made a great impact on Gandhiji’s mind.
Gokhale was a man of great learning and culture. He was an admirer of British rule. He had faith in British liberalism. He was a practical minded statesman. He had firm faith in constitutional methods and western education. He was an idol of Moti Lal Nehru and Gandhiji considered him to be the most perfect man in political field. In fact, he was a pathfinder for Gandhiji. He paved the way for Gandhiji to walk on. He was a practical idealist.
He was assuming enormous responsibilities as member of Legislative Council, as head of the Servants of India Society, as president of the Congress and as a member of a Public Service Commission, etc. All these took their toll. His health was failing and at last on February 19, 1915, the great political leader and an accomplished orator passed away, when his reputation was at its zenith. All the leaders of India paid him lofty tributes. Lala Lajpat Rai described Gokhale’s patriotism of the purest type and Lokmanya Tilak called him ‘the Diamond of India, the Jewel of Maharashtra and the Prince of Workers’.
Gokhale would be long remembered for his eloquence, his patriotism and for his love for humanity at large.