Hailed by Mahatma Gandhi as his conscience keeper, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (1878–1972; better known as Rajaji) epitomized the practical wisdom, religious tolerance, and statesmanship that Gandhi brought to the nationalist movement. He articulated how Gandhi’s ideas and practices could be reconciled with the needs and aspirations of a modern nation-state. His political and philosophical positions were argued in a manner, and with an ideological orientation, strikingly different from that of Jawaharlal Nehru.
And yet Rajaji remains virtually unknown today.
Vasanthi Srinivasan presents Rajaji’s vision as that of a theocentric liberal. She argues that he tried to temper majoritarian democracy with statesmanship, a free economy with civic virtue, realistic patriotism with genuine internationalism, and secularism with a religiosity derived from the Hindu epics.
Examining his political ideas and actions alongside his literary works, as well as in relation to statesmen-ideologues such as Nehru and Periyar, she shows how Rajaji steered clear of ideological dogma and charted an ethic of responsibility.
This book will interest general readers as much as scholars of Gandhi, political theory, and Indian politics.
Vasanthi Srinivasan is a Reader in Political Science at the University of Hyderabad. She has taught at the College of Humanities, Carleton University, Canada. She has been a Commonwealth Scholar as well as the recipient of a New India Foundation fellowship.
‘Vasanthi Srinivasan has brought to this analysis a remarkable set of tools, Western and Indian, and does not allow her warmth for Rajaji to silence disappointment with several of his positions. This work will be widely appreciated and will also set off useful debates.’
‘ ... Vasanthi Srinivasan’s able placing of Rajaji in a variety of different contexts—the economic arguments of his time, religious debates, and the deep question of justice for India’s womens and dalits—[suggests that] his views and actions demand more complex characterization. He was by turns, subversive, conservative, and radical. Through a series of fascinating studies of his writings as well as his practice, Dr Srinivasan elicits for us the fundamental coherence of Rajaji’s intellect and action. And she ably shows how, throughout, he sought to be a practitioner of that classically most prized and elusive of all political virtues—prudence, practical wisdom ... This is a book that anyone interested in our intellectual and political history will be eagerly grateful for. It is also a book full of insights, oblique and explicit, about our current political predicament.’
‘Dr Srinivasan’s study is a tour-de-force, exhibiting all the signs of a mature thinker who is confident of her intellectual and spiritual bearings, and who also exhibits a rich generosity of spirit without loss of critical judgement. In today’s world, where an excess of confidence in technology and atavistic returns to primordial roots pass as political sophistication, it is refreshing to be reminded of a politics grounded in statesmanship, practical judgement, and spiritual discernment. Rajagopalachari emerges from this study as an adept ruler of the first rank, with exceptional command of the political, moral, and spiritual resources needed to institute and sustain order.’