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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. November 4, 1907

Difficulties at Nagpur

The difficulties experienced at Nagpur in bringing about the compromise which at one time seemed on the point of being effected, do not strike a mind outside the whirlpool of local excitement and controversy as either obvious or insurmountable; yet it is evident that so much importance is being attached to them as to seriously imperil the chance of a Congress session being held at all this year. It is imperative that some decision should be arrived at in the course of the next few days either one way or the other. Both sides lay the blame of the failure to arrive at an agreement on its opponents. The Nationalists say that the Moderate Party will not accept any reasonable terms and the Moderates charge the Nationalists with backing out of the compromise on the question of the money subscribed to the Rashtriya Mandali. It appears that the Nationalists are willing to co-operate if Srijut Surendranath Banerji be nominated as President in lieu of Mr. Tilak. The reasons for this proposal and its rejection are not far to seek. Sj. Surendranath is recognised all over India as the acknowledged leader of one of the two great parties in Bengal, a man with a great name and a great following in the country and, what is more important from the Nationalist standpoint, one who, whatever vagaries his ideas or1 policy may lead him into, is believed to be a thoroughgoing Boycotter and Swadeshist and in no sense a Government man. Dr. Rash Behari Ghose, on the other hand, is a dark horse in politics. All that the rest of India knows of him is that he is a distinguished jurist, the Chairman of last year's Reception Committee and a Legislative Councillor. None of these titles to distinction is sufficient to justify his being suddenly put forward as President of the National Congress; for the time has passed away, not to return, when appointment to the Legislative Councils, provincial or imperial, was sufficient to raise a successful man of intellectual distinction or social influence, not before politically notable, to the position of a leader or at least a sort of Congress grandee entitled to the respect of the common herd. A seat on the Legislative Council is nowadays an obstacle and not a help to leadership, a cause of distrust and not of trust: the man to whom the bureaucracy lends ear is not one whom the people can trust and follow, and one who consents to sit in a Council where he is not listened to and can command no influence, has not the self-respect and backbone which are necessary to a popular leader in days of stress and struggle. To us Nationalists a seat on the Council is not merely an obstacle but an absolute bar to popular leadership, for it means that the man has one foot in the enemy's camp and one in the people's. It is easy to understand therefore why the Nagpur Nationalists are opposed to the idea of Dr. Ghose's Presidentship, specially as his political views are not understood nor has he, like Mr. Gokhale, a record of past services and self-sacrifice to set against the disqualification of a seat on the Legislative Council. Nor is it difficult to understand why the Moderates of Nagpur have shied at the idea of Srijut Surendranath's Presidentship. The Moderatism of Western India is much more Loyalist than Moderate, unlike that of Bengal, where except in the case of a small minority Moderatism wears loyalty more or less loosely as a sort of cloak or garment of respectability than as an essential part of its politics. This tendency is exaggerated in places like the Central Provinces where before the Nationalist upheaval the pulse of political life beat dull and slow. For a Moderate of the Nagpur Rai Bahadur type to be asked to take Surendranath as a substitute for Tilak, is as if they were asked to exchange Satan for Beelzebub; both are to them, as to the Englishman, devils of Extremism, one only less objectionable than the other.

But the rights of this question are so simple that there is no excuse for allowing the Congress to break up over it. If the Moderates want Dr. Rash Behari Ghose or any other Loyalist or Legislative Councillor as President, they must be satisfied with their three-fourths majority on the Reception Committee and pay the bulk of the expenses of the session. If they desire a larger co-operation on the part of the Nationalists, they should meet them halfway by accepting the nomination of Surendranath or any other President acceptable to both parties as a compromise. And if they will take neither course, they should leave it to the Nationalists to arrange for the holding of the Congress with Mr. Tilak as President. But for them to insist on the Rashtriya Mandali funds, raised on the clear understanding that they should only be devoted to Congress purposes if Mr. Tilak were nominated President, being given into their hands to hold a Congress with a Loyalist President in the chair is a preposterously childish and unreasoning obstinacy. We cannot understand how the Rashtriya Mandali could take this step even if they wished, since it would be a distinct contravention of the condition on which the money was given and a misuse of public money. Yet it is because the Rashtriya Mandali will not comply with this unreasonable demand that the Moderates of Nagpur seem to have given the coup de grâce to the Nagpur session. The plea of the fear of schoolboy rowdyism is plainly disingenuous, for these gentlemen were willing to face that terrible danger provided the Nationalists paid in their funds to the Reception Committee and accepted their nominee as President; these therefore are the real points on which the Moderate Party is unwilling to compromise and the plea of rowdyism is only a convenient if undignified excuse to cover an untenable position. For our part, we do not think the question of the Presidentship need be made a cause of final cleavage. Dr. Rash Behari Ghose is pledged, like most public men in Bengal, to Swadeshi and Boycott and this is still the most important issue before the Congress. If therefore the Loyalists can still be got to listen to reason in the matter of the Rashtriya Mandali funds, we think the Nationalists might give way on this point to avoid a national scandal. If, on the other hand, the Rai Sahebs and Rai Bahadurs are obdurate, it is time for Nationalists all over the country to consult together as to the course they will follow in the two possible contingencies of no session being held or of the Moderate Party deciding to hold the Congress in another province. The situation in the country is a critical one and it is our action with regard both to the bureaucracy and the Congress at this juncture that will chiefly determine the course of the future.


Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: of