Spot the Faux Gandhian

Was Ram Guha incorrect in saying that Manmohan and Sonia Gandhi are fake Gandhians?

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi’s fate will be like that of Buddha. We will reject him. But Asia will embrace him. 

Gopal Gandhi, one of our most distinguished governors and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson uttered those words to renowned historian Ramchandra Guha in the backdrop of the Ayodhya movement and the increasing communal tensions in the country at the time. Guha recently revealed this in a talk which he delivered three days ago in Kolkata titled “What kind of Asian was Gandhi?”. 

Gopal Gandhi does have a point. People of my generation who were better acquainted with Gandhi’s moral authority and the manner in which he exercised it, now tend to watch the deviation from the principles he espoused with a deep sense of dismay. It would not be inappropriate to suggest that the apostasy from Gandhism in contemporary India is well-nigh comprehensive. Which is unfortunate. 

For the current young generation, a narration of Gandhi’s extraordinary powers only evokes wonder and amazement. From getting the best minds of the country to give up their vocation and join him for the greater cause viz the country’s freedom from foreign yoke, to his lifelong battles against the centuries-old stratified social injustices, to his constant efforts to self-examine his actions and to unhesitatingly atone whenever necessary, to his ability to utilise his moral authority through fasting to halt the deadliest possible Hindu/Muslim carnage.

Hence, it is striking to note that all the four acknowledged Gandhians who won the Nobel Peace Prize were non-Indians. Gandhi himself never won the award, but the Nobel Committee has publicly acknowledged that it erred. 

Gandhi like all great teachers in the modern era never ever subscribed to ostracisation of any human being no matter how strongly he disagreed with him or her. He had the unique capacity to observe something very redeeming and lovable in every human being he came in contact with. I presume it was the latter quality Guha had in mind when he stated – “Not to mince words about it, both Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi are really nakli (fake) Gandhians compared to Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi epitomises morality and courage. Dr Singh really in many ways is lacking in courage.”

He also added-Ms Suu Kyi never uses her family background to dominate”, he said. “On the other hand, Mrs Gandhi owes everything to her family background.” 

The other Gandhians identified by Guha happen to be Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, and Chinese peace activist Liu Xiaobo. (To this list I would personally add Nelson Mandela who has demonstrated the total absence of rancour against those who imprisoned him for 28 years – a truly Gandhian attribute). 

Guha’s concluding remarks were – 

“In recent years, Chinese are rediscovering Gandhi. At the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, some of the activists wore caps that had two names inscribed on them: Gorbachev and Gandhi. Even now, Chinese dissidents are profoundly influenced by Gandhi. If Quinn was the first Gandhian, Xiaobo is the latest. Gandhi speaks to Asia of today in various ways – to countries under authoritarian rules, religious intolerance and environmental degradation. Yet, it is in India that we are forgetting Gandhi!”

What is incomprehensible is the degree of journalistic apathy this remarkable address by one of our most respected intellectuals was greeted with. The Times of India did cover it partially as did The Statesman, but I did not find any reference to the event in any of the other newspapers I perused.

The entire political class is guilty of hypocrisy of the worst kind in invoking Gandhi’s name, but completely overlooking his ideals. His own state witnessed one of the worst communal riots of independent India, and I am left wondering how the Mahatma would have dealt with a tragedy like that. The truth is that the present lot of politicians without any exception would find themselves extremely uncomfortable espousing any consistent ideal let alone a Gandhian ideal. 

They tend to remind me of the British statesman David Lloyd-George who had once remarked – 

“I am a man of very strong principles – but my first and foremost principle is expediency!” 

While Lloyd-George had said that in jest, it would appear that the Indian politicians have taken this dictum to heart.The only other political figure to have left as enduring a legacy as Gandhi in the last 250 years, in my view was Thomas Jefferson. I shall cite one of his gems – 

“I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and of retiring with hands clean as they are empty.” 

How many of our present day politicians in India would subscribe to that ideal is anyone’s guess. The sad inference that can be deduced here is that while the Americans have taken it upon themselves to keep Jefferson alive through his legacy, we as Indians have displayed an appalling disdain towards the legacy that Gandhi bequeathed upon us. 

A blatant example of our disdain is repeatedly displayed when we subscribe to the vote-bank politics that each and every party is guilty of. The tendency subverts the fundamental dynamism associated with democratic principles. The Danish aphorist Mogens Jahlberg hit the nail on the head when he said – 

“In democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism it’s your count that votes.” 

It is this transition from feudalism to democracy that our freedom fighters had hoped to affect and Gandhism was the tool they had hoped to employ. As I move rapidly towards my senior citizenhood, I often wonder if we have already missed the boat. 

To that end I warmly compliment Ram Guha on his excellent oration with apposite prophecies. 

To conclude I wonder if I can place a request to the journalist community as I feel they are being less than factual when they describe the present lot of Indopoliticians as “leaders”. 

My dictionary describes leader as – a person who rules, guides, or inspires others; head 

Clearly the present lot of politicians does not. 

And my dictionary describes “misleader” as – one who gives false or misleading information to lead or guide in the wrong direction 

Perhaps it is about time we alter the terminology employed for our politicians.

Contact Ashok


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  • Prof. Pillai

    There are many things on which I do not agree with Guha, but here I must completely agree, and as for no mention in the MSM media,no guesses on the reason…you do not get Rajya Sabha nominations by dissing the powere that be. Well written article.

    • Aparna

      I understand. But what I would like to know is why are the likes of Rajdeep and his Mrs after the awards( Padmashri like ) and the Rajya Sabha seat? Do they gain monetarily? I mean I really want to know, is it greed or fame? Dont they already have fame enough? If it is greed for money, shouldnt they simply switch from journalism to a more profitable business? The basic tenet of Gita is “Do your duty and dont expect the benefits”. They seem to step away from doing the duty and expect the benefits.

      • Satyam Sharma

        “Whats in it (sucking up to the all-powerful Nehru-Maino dynasty, propagandizing Congress agenda through editorial bias and blatant misreporting through lies and falsehoods) for mainstream media businessmen?”

        1. Read up on how NDTV, CNN-IBN, Hindustan Times and Indian Express received crores worth of contracts (without any open tendering or bidding process whatsoever) through the discretion of Suresh Kalmadi and Lalit Bhanot during the Commonwealth Games scam.

        2. How did Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose (CNN-IBN) manage to get an unsecured loan of Rs. 5 crores from the govt-owned PSU Syndicate Bank? The 2G SC judgement clearly mentions that, with sufficient supporting evidence of wrongdoing, an unsecured loan is essentially a quid pro quo bribe.

        3. How did Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy (NDTV) manage to subvert foreign exchange and foreign investment norms, as also undertake in “loan chicanery” (the exact term used by M. J. Akbar in The Sunday Guardian) with ICICI Bank, to indulge in a corporate fraud of the very kind that they accused Nitin Gadkari’s Purti Group of?

  • ritesh

    I love reading Guha, and I revere Gandhi, but I think the author of this article is making a bit too much of the comparison.

    Gandhi was great, but saying that catering to vote bank politics is not Gandhian is far from truth. Remember the Khilafat movement? Gandhi’s vociferous support to it was driven less by any moralistic concerns towards an atrophied dynasty, than by blatant vote bank concerns.

    • He Who Must Not Be Named

      Zounds! You are wrong! Gandhi differs from contemporary politicians and their electoral calculi at so many levels. Mahatma Gandhi could not have ‘vote-bank politics’; there was no democracy. Although I disagree with the Mahatma in his Khilafat movement, I can not believe he pursued it for a non-existent vote-bank. He did it to forge a new narrative in the Hindu-Muslism dialogue. Moreover, the Mahatma had never any ambitions for replacing the British with himself unlike the politicians of to-day. To compare Gandhiji to contemporary politicians based on your blindingly myopic parameters is like seeing the world through a pigeon-hole, whilst one is drunk and ‘high’. The story of Gandhi is much more and more complex than a brief Khilafat movement. Also, the movement was no Rubicon, so don’t even go there.

      Ghandianism is not so much what Gandhi did as much what he espoused. And unlike most of humanity, including most of us, his deeds and his values hold one of the stronger correlations.


  • Arvind

    Is Guha really qualified to speak about Gandhi? He has enormous hatred in his heart fro people who do not conform to his ideology. Isnt Gandhian philosophy is love for everybody?

    • He Who Must Not Be Named

      Could you expound a bit please? I am rather interested.

  • Tarun

    I’m sorry, but if we are to talk about Gandhi, I would like to know why we leave out his bizarre sexual behvaiour, his awful parenting skills and his horrifying economic policies which have helped decimate our country? First & Last, Gandhi was a man – a extremely flawed one at that. He did his part, no doubt in helping India become free. But ;et us not forget the sacrifice of the millions who suffered at the hands of the British for espousing his non-violent policy. They are the true heroes.

    • Impi

      Gandhi struggled a lot with sexuality and dalit emancipation because of
      his deeply Hindu upbringing. He eventually did change but he had to go
      through that process of self-discovery in public. India simply did not
      have the wherewithal to fight the British after 1857. Gandhi travelled
      all over the country and infused new strength into everyone. Mustn’t
      expect the guy to have all the answers!

  • amita sahaya

    Excellent article Ashok, and thought provoking as usual.

  • Satyam Sharma

    This is a stunning revelation! I have previously gotten into several scraps with this “Dr.” Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad and he did indeed come across as an unintelligent, overly verbose and low-on-facts-but-high-on-opinion pompous name-dropping ass. (All his comments almost invariably always mentioned some 30-40 countries that he had allegedly visited and how he supposedly shared late night candlelight dinners with Presidents and Dictators, LOL!) But I had no idea that he was an outright FRAUD! NL must fire him immediately!

    • Gerald Oppenheim

      I was sufficiently irked on visiting this site and perusing the article to write this note. I can confirm that I was born and brought up in Sydney Australia where I was trained medically then emigrated to Israel and am now settled in the Birkenhead,UK. I was in Australia when the unseemly brawl between two colleague A.Prasad and David Copolov took place and know the facts first hand. The ‘immigrant’ Prasad was subjected to the most unethical torture and left the country distressed when David Copolov accused him of stating that majority of schizophrenics were born in June -a proposition so absurd that nobody ever could accept it.He then asked his best friend and PhD supervisor John Funder to look into that to which Prasad objected for obvious reasons. He was then abused in most unseemly fashion and threatened .But the fact remained-there was not even the most preliminary draft in existence of the said study which made an effective nonsense of the whole accusation. Then these two resorted to another ploy-questioning his DSc which they said was purchased from a mail-order firm- it was from St.Andrews one of the oldest universities in the UK. Prasad had left but the persecution continued. Every two years his employers and newspapers kept on receiving unsettling documents anonymously. And I suspect the latest is yet another ploy in the same direction. Sam Topolov the name is remarkably similar to David Copolov. And I do not mind revealing that on the 3rd of January I myself wrote to the Premier of Victoria with cast iron evidence of David Copolov’s plagiarism for which he is facing an enquiry-can be confirmed through the Premier’s Office in Melbourne. The salient question is why was all this information passed under legislative immunity-obviously to avoid libel! The highly respected site Goodreads has another link:

      And here is the link which exposes David Copolov on whom reliance is being placed:

      Please look at this portion:

      Professor David Copolov (Pro Vice Chancellor and Director of the program) summed up the program by saying: “It is not what lies ahead of us, nor what lies behind us; it is what lies within us that is important for the future”.

      This is crude plagiarism from a Pro VC- the quotation comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes which I have pointed out to the Premier.

      But regardless of the facts,is the language that the correspondent uses acceptable! Saddens me!

      Would be worthwhile if Copolov was contacted and asked if he would be prepared to repeat all that garbage openly and without the shield of legislative immunity! I personally was deeply disgusted at this treatment and left Australia-some of my family perished in the holocaust and I simply cannot bear this form of oppression!

      For those interested in details I am open to be contacted!