A Wild Conjecture (or ‘What would Gandhi Do?’)

I have often wondered if there is a way to confirm whether or not someone was (is) genuinely good for India, or just inconsequential window dressing, or positively harmful. I have a tentative test. The test has to be tested. Exceptions prove the rule, they say. That is, exceptions test the test. So I am looking not just for instances that confirm the hypothesis but also those exceptions that test the soundness of the hypothesis. But first the hypothesis or what can be termed as a wild paranoid conjecture.

Hypothesis: Someone who is genuinely good for India will not be endorsed by those foreign nations and institutions whose interests are at least to some degree at odds with Indian interests.

Conversely, one should be very wary of someone whom foreigners, whose interests are to some degree at odd with India’s interests, praise.

As a test case I will try out Mohandas K Gandhi. I strongly dislike the man. There’s something about him that I cannot quite stomach. I know it puts me in the minority. The man is held up as a demigod, a superhuman, a genuinely great soul, a man of principles, a man who could not do any wrong, a man who everyone should emulate as much as humanly possible. But I think that all things considered he was not good for India.

I also believe that eventually history will judge him more accurately than what the current fashion is. But for now the myth is too embedded in the Indian psyche that he was the man who liberated India. That myth was created well before India’s political independence from the British and every effort has been made by the ruling political class to strengthen it ever since. It makes sense to do so because that is what keeps them in power. There is a transference of virtue (mythical though it may be) from Mohandas K Gandhi to the name Gandhi and then to anyone with the last name Gandhi.

Now I will consider how Gandhi is endorsed by other nations and institutions.

The British in the 1940’s clearly found him acceptable. They found Gandhi to be useful. He kept the natives in check and prevented them from harming British interests. When the British needed something done, all they had to do was go persuade Gandhi. For example, the British needed an army to fight their battles. They asked Gandhi and Gandhi told the Indians to fight for the British.

It was routine. The British told Gandhi what they wanted. Then Gandhi would turn around and order the natives. The natives would immediately fall in line. At times, the natives would require a bit more persuasion. Gandhi would threaten them with violence — albeit directed at himself.

He would threaten to kill himself through starvation. It was a cunning device. Blackadder would approve. Gandhi knew that people don’t like violence. He knew that following his self-assassination, there would be violence by some section of the people. He knew that the larger non-violent people would not want that violence. So he used the potential violence reaction of the small violent section of the population to control the much larger non-violent section of the population.

Violence is the ultimate weapon when it is dressed up in the holy vestments of pious non-violence. Gandhi used the weapon effectively in a role that could be described as that of a great general in the British army which kept the natives under control.

The powers decorate great generals who have served the powers’ interest with dedication, efficiency and effectiveness.

I leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to see the evidence of how highly Gandhi is praised by the British today.

Now let me turn to the US. The US is a great democracy and a great nation. All great nations would like to continue to be great. Rational self-interest dictates that great powers don’t want competition from others, regardless of how friendly the competition is. Undoubtedly the US could genuinely want to see an India which is politically stable (so that US firms can do business in India), not desperately poor (so that the US does not have to worry about sending aid — however little — as it has done at times in the past), moderately economically successful (so that it can continue to produce cheap services for Americans to buy and thus afford to buy American stuff ), has a large army (so that it has to buy military hardware from US weapons manufacturers), etc.

That bit is easy to understand and indeed it is rational for the US to want all the above. But it is not in the US’s interest to see that India is really successful in the sense that India becomes a rival to the US in the great big game of military power and the thirst for global resources such as energy. A moderately economically successful India is good for the US; a very economically successful India with over a billion people would not be good for the US with only 300 million people. And the worst thing would be for India to be economically success AND militarily powerful.

So what’s the US to do? Prop up the terrorist state of Pakistan as the dagger in India’s ribs. Keeping the Pakistani dog at bay (pardon the mixing of metaphors) keeps India distracted to fully engage in economic development. Mind you, keeping India poor does not actually need all that much help from the Pakistanis. India’s government is the greatest enemy of India’s economy. But every bit helps and the terrorist state of Pakistan is a “frontline ally” of the US.

Every now and then, the Pakistanis — inside and outside India — kill a hundred or so Indians in jihadi terrorism. (Is the adjective superfluous?) Aside from the loss of lives, the pain and suffering of ordinary people, and the disruption of daily lives, it causes economic harm. A lot of energies are wasted in security and much of that is entirely pointless and stupid. The leaders don’t suffer at all. They just get more security and the ordinary folks pay for it. And since the leaders don’t suffer the bombs or at the polling booth, they are quite happy with the state of affairs. Every time the Islamic terrorists strike, the Blue Turban makes his boiler-plate inane statements and that is that.

Following every act of Islamic terrorism, there is talk that India will not tolerate another strike against India and the next time this happens, India will retaliate against Pakistan. Talk is cheap. The next attack happens, and the same line is trotted out — India will not tolerate another strike against India . . . It is copy-paste talk, just like I copied and pasted that line from the previous sentence.

The US does not want India to act to neutralize or even neuter the Pakistani dog. The Pakistani dog keeps up a steady incessant barking, and then from time to time, encouraged by some internal compulsion, bites India. India wakes up and is about to deliver a kick to the dog when the US turns up and says, “Don’t kick my dog. He’s a good dog. The dog is helping US against the Taliban and Islamic extremists.”

The US’s claim is unbelievable. The US trained the Taliban, it armed the Islamic extremists through the intermediary Pakistan, and helps Al Qaeda leaders to escape before it bombs their mountain hideouts. It is common knowledge that Pakistan is Terror Central and yet the US give billions in military aid to Pakistan.

The gutless, spineless, cojones-less (pardon my Spanish) leadership of India reacts predictably with their cut-and-paste cheap talk. Then the cycle repeats. This time it was Pune. They call it 13/2. As I had predicted, in a few years, all dates of the calendar will be taken: from 1/1 to 31/12. They will have to add the year as well, so that we can distinguish between 13/2/2010 and 13/2/2012. After that we will have to add the city name, so that we can distinguish between 17/4/2015 Pune from 17/4/2015 Bangalore (or whatever Bangalore’s new new name will be by then.)

Damn, I am drifting from my main topic. Back to Gandhi and the US.

The US find Gandhi useful. It uses Gandhi to lecture India.

“How could you India! How could you ever think of arming yourself! India is the land of Gandhi. India must stand for NON-VIOLENCE!!

“What would Gandhi do? WWGD!! Just ask yourself, WWDGD?

“He would listen to what we say: don’t get nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are OK for us to have. But this is what Gandhi would do — he would say it is fine for the US to have nuclear weapons but not for India. Just like Gandhi said that it is fine for others to massacre Hindus but it is not right for Hindus to retaliate. How can you, you Indians, you proud inheritors of Gandhi’s legacy, how could you do this?

“You are betraying Gandhi’s memory. What a wonderful great man he was, what a great man! And look at you guys — you want all those things that Gandhi did not want. You want wealth. Gandhi said you should live in poverty and in poor villages. You want to retaliate against those who kill you. Gandhi said, to show the other cheek. And when you are done with the other cheek, do drop your pants and you have two more cheeks for your enemy. Don’t you know that Gandhi parroted repeated what Jesus said about loving your enemies?

“Are you going to betray Gandhi and Jeebus by not loving Pakistan? What about the Wagah Candle Vigilantes? Won’t someone please think of the candle makers? Oh the humanity!!”

Now I got a little carried away there. I was enjoying it too much. In any case, do look up how generous and plentiful the praise is that is heaped upon Gandhi by the representatives of the US government. They constantly say that Gandhi is the man and India should follow his principles — the oh-so-marvelous principles of non-violence. But curiously these same representatives of the US government don’t think that they should follow non-violence. For the US, the policy is this:

First we shoot and then we may ask questions. Someone bombed the US. OK, let’s go bomb Afghanistan. And Afghanistan is reduced to rubble, let’s destroy Iraq and hand it over to the mullahs and see that it regresses to 7th century Arabia.

I am not making this up. Read this:

Washington, Oct 16 (IANS) The US Congress has passed a resolution congratulating the visionary leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, which enhanced the rapidly deepening friendship between the United States and India.

Unanimously passed by the US House of Representatives Thursday, the resolution also acknowledges and commends the Indian leader’s “unique and lasting role in the establishment of the state of India and its democratic institutions, which will be revered for generations to come.”

With American lawmakers describing Gandhi as a “man of all times and places”, Democrat member Eni Faleomavaega introduced the resolution recognising the 140th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.

“While much has been said about the great works of Gandhi’s life, it is important that we never forget that without Gandhi, the fates of what is now the world’s largest democracy, India, and the oldest democracy, the United States, would likely be far different,” he said

“Though his life was cut tragically short by an assassin’s bullet, his legacy is seen in the over 1.5 billion people who inhabit the free and independent countries of the Indian subcontinent and by our own embrace of the principles of non-violent political action, unity and religious tolerance within the United States,” Faleomavaega said.

This post is long enough. So I will cease and desist, as they say. But let me leave you with this thought. Foreigners have different interests — often starkly divergent interests — from us. It is natural and expected. They have a right to their self-interest just as much as we have a right to ours. We have to recognize that fact and make appropriate allowances for it. I would not expect foreigners to accommodate India’s interests at a cost to their own interests. That is why no body likes to be ruled by foreigners. India did get rid of the British. They were foreigners. Their allegiance was to Britain and rightly so.

There are foreigners in India. Just note whom these foreigners choose to praise among Indian leaders. If too much praise is being heaped on some by foreigners, ask yourself if perhaps these leaders are not in some sense promoting the foreigners’ interests at the expense of Indian interests. If some Indian leader is being maligned too much, ask yourself if perhaps this leader is perhaps too much in India’s interests.

This is a wild conjecture. A paranoid wild conjecture. Not all paranoid wild conjectures are wrong, though. This could be correct.

21 thoughts on “A Wild Conjecture (or ‘What would Gandhi Do?’)

  1. I wonder what is the way FORWARD in your opinion? Say we had/having a bleak/corrupted leadership. Can you suggest some progressive ideas? Can we discuss on more topics going forward? Is it too much to ask?

    -Sriram

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    1. Sriram wrote:

      I wonder what is the way FORWARD in your opinion? Say we had/having a bleak/corrupted leadership. Can you suggest some progressive ideas? Can we discuss on more topics going forward? Is it too much to ask?

      Allow me to add to what Madhav wrote in reply.

      Yes, we can discuss more topics going forward. I have pointed out in a previous post that our greatest weapon is knowledge.

      Our weapon is knowledge. Our challenge is to wield our weapon with ruthless efficiency. We have to bring out into the open all that the government has hidden from public view.

      Those in power are people who have committed humongous crimes against India and Indians. Indians need to know that and understand that their greatest enemy has been — and still is — the bunch that has controlled India since 1947. India’s potential and promise has been systematically destroyed by a ruthless bunch of self-serving power hungry myopic imbeciles. The government control of the channels of information has presented a totally whitewashed, sanitized and fictional portrait of these imbeciles. The control of the education system, the control of radio and TV, the control of research institutions — all have been to one end only: brainwash the people into believing the totally false.

      But all things must pass. With the loss of control over the flow of information, the apparatus that has been so successful up till now in concealing the truth is finally on its last legs. That machine is broken and with it has broken the power of the government to manipulate the masses into submission.

      India is a democracy. Democracy is not just voting but rather voting by an informed public. Indians have to become informed for democracy to be meaningful in India. Otherwise it is a sham that just makes things worse.

      The idea is therefore to create a movement that will make the people aware. I call it public education. I am hoping that others similarly interested will help out.

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  2. Pakistan does not endorse gandhi because doing that does not suit their political agenda. If pakistan were to endorse gandhi they would have to do that a great risk of offending a vast majority of Pakistanis. Plus endorsing gandhi does not make any kind of political sense in the pakistani senario.

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  3. I am currently reading this book called Eclipse of the hindu nation: Gandhi and his freedom struggle by Radha Rajan. She makes the same argument that Gandhi was bad for India and continues to be. All I can say is that we the Indian people have been taken for a BIG ride right from the word go. I think it is necessary for us to know these alternate viewpoints to make a correct assessment of the man(I personally agree he was not such a noble person as he was made out to be).
    @sriram
    I think for the way forward we have to know our history. Most of our problems are because of the present so called leaders. They didn’t fall from the heavens. They are the logical consequence of what happened in the 30s and 40s. Proper cure requires correct diagnosis.

    Our current history books I believe are not entirely bias free and it is important to address this. In the words of RATM:
    “Who controls the past controls the present and who controls the present controls the future.”

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Madhav.

      As I have mentioned before on this blog, I am not very familiar with history. (I am a very slow reader and don’t get to read many books.) My conjectures or hypotheses — that’s all they are — are a consequence of what I see around me. Gandhi is called the “Father of the Nation.” I take that seriously. That bit is meant to indicate that Gandhi is what made India. OK, so if India is so pathetic, surely Gandhi could not have been all that good.

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  4. Like all other Indians, I went through a lot of brainwashing about Gandhi’s great deeds. But I could eventually come out of this spell and realize that he was bad for India. But the man still intrigues me; why did he do the things that he did? was he intentionally harming India, if so what was he planning to gain by doing that? or was he deluded and honestly think he was ‘saving the drowning fish’?

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    1. Srinivas:

      My conviction is that people are generally not evil by intent. Very few people wake up in the morning and say, “I am doing to do something evil today.” Everyone actually believes that he is doing whatever he should be doing and that it will benefit him and all those whom he cares for. Big social reformers believe that they are doing it for the society that they value. The Islamic bomber says he is doing it because Allah told him to and Allah knows best. Only psychotic people harm others for the basic thrill of it. The others who do harm do so without intending to. They are like monkeys saving fish from drowning, as you mentioned.

      I believe that one has to have a great sense of what one’s destiny is and believe that one is here to make a huge difference to be able to move masses of people. In other words, one has to have a great deal of vanity. Vanity does have its side-effects. One starts believing that one is infallible, that one cannot make mistakes.

      I find Gandhi curious in this respect. He admits to his past mistakes very readily in his autobiography. By showing that he has come clean, he says that he now is done with all his errors and now onwards he is completely on the right path and can never stray. It is as if he had a stock of mistakes to make; he made them; he realized his errors; and now he is all good. That ego of his got fed by the adoring millions. He started believing his press agents. He was, I think, certifiably crazy.

      Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your views on Gandhi’s intent, Atanu.
    When I said Gandhi “intentionally harming India”, I didn’t mean he was doing it for the pleasure of it; I meant it in the sense that he might have put his interests ahead of the nation’s, hence knew that it was bad for India. I agree that normal people won’t harm others for the fun of it. But I think there are a lot of people who would be willing to put others in harm’s way if that helps them gain what they want.

    Your view that Gandhi had no idea that he was hurting India, seems reasonable. However there are certain instances which suggest that may not be entirely true. For example, did Gandhi believe that Nehru was the best leader India could have at that time? IMO, Gandhi was good at people skills; otherwise how could he have manipulated millions of people to toe his line. For that reason, I believe he must have been able to see that Nehru was probably not the best of the leaders.

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    1. Srinivas:

      It makes sense to conjecture that Gandhi was as self-serving as the rest of us are. We all do what is in our best interests. That does not mean that we don’t behave altruistically. We do whatever we think is best for those who are near and dear to us. What varies from one individual to another is the definition of what is considered “near and dear.” To one, it could be just his immediate family; to another it could be his community; to yet another it could be the nation. Serving those whom we consider near and dear could be termed “self-serving” to the extent that one considers those to be part of one’s self.

      I think that Gandhi was by and large a well-meaning person. He was not intensionally evil even when he was being biased for or against someone. I would conjecture that he was blind to the faults of those he liked, not unlike the rest of us. We do let our sweetheart to get away with murder; the others we judge more objectively. Too bad that Nehru was Gandhi’s sweetheart and not a more mature individual. Things might have turned out differently for India if Gandhi was not so infatuated with Nehru.

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  6. I agree with your hypothesis. However, the example of Gandhi does not (dis)prove your hypothesis. Because it does not follow, from the premise that those good for India will not be endorsed by competing nations, the inference that those bad for India will be endorsed for that reason (alone).

    I rather think Gandhi gets adulation from American/European politicians because he is a Third World saint. Paying tributes to him establishes their progressive/liberal credentials. Their knowledge of Gandhi is superficial. Perhaps Attenborough’s “Gandhi” is all they know about him.

    An example that better supports your hypothesis is the example of Narendra Modi.

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  7. I dint get the author’s point.. Did he mean to say that we are foolish enough to buy whatever shit Americans sell us in the name of Gandhi?!
    Gandhi was a brilliant man, a fantabulous leader.. but he is past. He might have done somethings we do not happen to agree to, or he might not have been as wise and as good a man as this author is… but I’m sorry, that’s no reason to hate him (I have to use the word ‘hate’ because of the tone I feel the blog-post is written in). Newton’s theory does not literally apply to modern (and more correct) physics (sorry if I am wrong), but it does not mean that Newton was not a great scientist!
    As far as the author saying that Americans try to sell us shit in the name of Gandhi… may be they do.. but it’s certainly not Gandhi’s fault if we buy it.. and it certainly makes us pieces of shit if we hate Gandhi for any of it.

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  8. Rahul:

    You write, “I dint get the author’s point.” That’s correct. You did not.

    I have clearly spelled out the point: that foreigners sometimes praise those people who are not very good for the country and sometimes they malign those people who are good for the country.

    I don’t know how I can put it in plainer terms.

    Once you have made up your mind that “Gandhi was a brilliant man, a fantabulous leader”, then nothing less than a FANTABULOUS argument can change your mind.

    I am afraid we are totally out of “fantabulous” arguments. Just plain old common sense will not suffice in your case. Sorry.

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  9. Sorry if I pulled some strings there.. and I am sorry that my comment was rude. I do not agree to your assumption that Gandhi was not good for the country (and I still say that I will be a pussy if I start hating Gandhi, or any other man for that matter, if some foreigner is trying to use his name for my loss.. whether or not I fall prey to his tactics), but let’s not dispute on that.
    Would just like to say that if nothing else, Gandhi deserves respect (just like you do, actually more than you do, and I am sorry the comment I put was not upto the standards). You want to criticise somebody, criticise them.. but try avoiding going via the derogatory way.

    Thanks.

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    1. Hi Rahul:

      You wrote, “Sorry if I pulled some strings there. . . ” I guess you mean “yanked your chain” (did something to irritate someone) and not “pulled some strings” (manipulated things for achieving some end.) Be that as it may, the substantial disagreement we have is about whether Gandhi was good for India. My position is that he was extremely harmful. You disagree and that is fine.

      Does Gandhi deserve respect? Sure he does. And he deserves criticism for what he has done, not just praise for what he is reputed to have been. Give a man a reputation for being an early riser, and he can safely sleep till noon. That’s the old rascal Mark Twain. Gandhi’s reputation precedes whatever one knows about Gandhi. The government controlled education system just does not allow any criticism of Gandhi. You are not unlike the hundreds of millions who revere Gandi — without actually knowing much about the man. Much of what we know comes from Attenborough’s Gandhi.

      Gandhi was not a very pleasant person to his family. He was dictatorial — to the extent that one of his sons in a fit of rebellion against what Gandhi stood for converted to Islam. Gandhi was hated more by his son than people like me who have never actually met Gandhi are capable of. Bet you did not know that.

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  10. Hello Rahul,

    >>Sorry if I pulled some strings there.

    You did not pull strings.

    But after this:

    >>whatever shit Americans sell us

    and this:

    >>Americans try to sell us shit

    and this:

    >>it certainly makes us pieces of shit

    you certainly forgot to pull the chain.

    >>still say that I will be a pussy if I start hating Gandhi, or any other man for that matter, if some foreigner is trying to use his name for my loss.. whether or not I fall prey to his tactics

    Atanu wanted you to get the impression that he dislikes Gandhi because the Yanks are falling over each other to pay tributes. You fell for his trick. So you are still a pussy.

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  11. The main contribution of Gandhi was that he engendered a nonviolent freedom struggle, as opposed to a violent one.

    A violent freedom struggle would still have won independence, but the bigger problem is what happens to the fighters after independence. They would have guns and a bloodthirsty attitude, and would not give up the killing easily. They would turn on each other.

    I would surmise that if it were a violent struggle, after independence South Indians would turn against the North Indians, Bengalis against the UPites etc. India would not remain a single state, but would be divided into about 4 nations.

    So, without Gandhi, India as we know it would not exist. Even though I do not agree with his economic policies, that in my view is a very major contribution and worthy of all the adulation he gets.

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  12. Hi Oldtimer, sorry man I couldn’t understand if you are making fun of my English, or trying to let me know that I was wrong to use the lines you highlighted or both. If its any of the above, you are right (I suck at the language and the words should not have been used).. But you were probably not right in your reason to call me a pussy (if you were serious in the reasoning).. If I did fall for the trick, whatever that is, I would be a fool, not a pussy.

    Atanu, I found myself a little baffled after reading the first red-colored-not-the-normal-font paragraph of your post. And believe me, it has nothing at all to do with me being a Gandhi fan or not. Its a very simple problem I have with a man who is trying dishonor another man, and thus not behaving in a manner I believe an honorable man should behave. I got the very same feeling when you mentioned how Gandhi was to his family and what his son did, in your last comment addressed to me.

    People are free to have their views. Probably my views about Gandhi have totally been created because of what the education system has ever taught me. May be he was not that good a man, may be he was actually a bad man. But in my understanding of how a honorable person should behave, I should not be dishonoring the man.
    So basically, my problem was always with you, not with your views.

    Its a great thing that you are such a thinker, that you hold such independent views, that you do your own research before blindly believing on something being taught to us by the education system (or any other entity).. but none of these very nice to have qualities that you possess give you the liberty to, and I have to repeat the word again, disrespect another man.
    And add to that the fact that your post is doing this to somebody who is not even alive anymore, and hence can’t even defend the shattering this post brings to their honor. Also, you also might want to spare a thought about your fellow countrymen like me (not exactly me, but for the image I have acquired here and for the purpose of the argument, let’s say its me) who might get hurt when you dishonor M.K.Gandhi.

    I am sure there exist ways to do criticism without letting a feel of your own personal emotions remain in your piece of work, and hence let the reader develop her own feelings and conclusions. How different this article has remained in its presentation (not the content) from how the education system presents to us about Gandhi?

    If you do not agree to the fact that your post does dishonor Gandhi, then I won’t like to argue anymore. Just take this as an honest feedback, that one of the readers of this post felt that the post was little disrespecting.
    And if you did mean to do it, I would certainly like to hear more from you.

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  13. I like a few ideas/events attributed to Gandhi. May be the ideas were not truly Gandhi’s, but that does not matter. I like break-the-rule-and-take-punishment-for-it idea. I like his advocacy of self-development along with freedom struggle (i.e no nothing-else-except-freedom-here-and-now). I like what has been portrayed in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.

    I do not like a few ideas/events attributed to Gandhi. I do not like the general-strike called by him, it was unethical. I do not like his fielding a proxy candidate (Sitaramaiah) against Subhas Chandra Bose. It was a huge insult to Sitaramaiah and his authority (in case he won).

    I remain intrigued by him. Any article (including this blogpost) which honestly discusses Gandhi is extremely interesting for me.

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