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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 11, 1908

Constitution-making

Schemes for the constitution of the Congress are now being drawn up in various quarters but we fear that some important and indeed essential points are being lost sight of by the framers. A constitution may be drawn up with one of two motives, either to suit the convenience of a party or to assure the orderly and harmonious procedure of a representative assembly in which conflicting opinions are to be allowed free entrance. In the former case the country at large is not interested in the result, for a party organisation1 is free to make the arrangements most suitable to itself. But if the Congress is to be a Congress of all opinions and not of one section only, the Constitution must be so drafted as to remove the causes of quarrel which led up to the Surat fiasco. One of these was the conflict between authority and freedom in the proceedings of the session. The Moderates stand for official authority, the Nationalists for the freedom of debate and the rights of the delegate as a popular representative. The conflict between the Chairman of the Reception Committee and Mr. Tilak was on the issue whether the authority of the President or Chairman is absolute and autocratic or whether the individual delegate has a right to be heard according to the rules observed in all free assemblies and to appeal to the full assembly if his right is unjustly denied. The Moderates desire to establish a sort of official oligarchy in the Congress; the leaders officially recognised in previous years, must be implicitly obeyed; the voice of the President is to be absolute and final irrespective of the validity of his decision or the rights of free discussion. The Nationalists contend that the President is a servant of the Congress and not its master: his function is to administer the rules of debate and not to make his own will and pleasure the law. There can be no doubt which attitude is in consonance with the practice of free peoples, the spirit of modern politics and the principles of democracy. Mr. Tilak has established his position by his articles in the Kesari and Maratha2 with the most crushing completeness and there is no possible answer to the array of authorities, precedents and sound argument which he has marshalled in those pieces of perfect political reasoning unrivalled in their force and clearness of exposition. Whoever wishes to draft a constitution for the Congress must take this great issue into consideration and lay down clearly, first the powers of the President and their limits, secondly the proper procedure with regard to the Subjects Committee, and thirdly, the rights of the delegates in full Congress as against the President and the Subjects Committee. We propose to take up this question of the constitution and deal with it at length, for it is a subject of immense importance and it is essential that those who handle it should try to grasp the principles involved. We wish to take the Congress seriously as a body which may and ought to form a seed out of which the future Indian Parliament must grow, and not a sham representative assembly meant for passing exigencies the constitution of which can be settled offhand.

 

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: organization

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2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Mahratta

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