Gopal Krishna Gokhale - Encyclopedia

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"GOPAL KRISHNA GOKHALE (1866-1915), Indian constitutional leader, was born at Kolhapur in 1866 of a humble Chitpavan Brahman family. Graduating in arts at the Elphinstone College, Bombay, in 1884, he joined as professor of history and political economy the group of teachers at the Fergusson College, Poona, pledged to serve for 20 years on a merely nominal salary. He remained on the staff, finally as principal, until 1902. Becoming actively identified with the National Congress movement, he was for some years the joint secretary and in 1905 president at the Benares session. After two years on the Bombay Legislature, he was elected in 1902 to represent the non-official members thereof in the Viceregal Legislature. His persuasive eloquence, close reasoning, accurate knowledge of the subjects discussed, and instincts of statesmanship won him the Indian leadership, and Lord Curzon recognized his earnest patriotism by nominating him for the C.I.E. (1904). A few months before his death he declined promotion to knighthood of the order. Consulting him freely in reference to his projected constitutional reforms, Lord Morley wrote of him to the Viceroy as appreciating executive responsibility and having an eye for the tactics of common sense (Recollections, vol. ii., p. 181). He was fiercely assailed by the extremist section, which never succeeded in his lifetime in capturing the Congress machinery. In 1905 he founded his Servants of India Society, whose members take vows of poverty and lifelong service of their country in a religious spirit. Under the leadership of his successor, Mr. Srinivasa Sastri, the society is exerting a powerful influence in social and economic amelioration. In the enlarged Viceregal Legislature elected in 1910 Gokhale promoted measures for compulsory education on a basis of local option, but did not survive to see this principle introduced from 1918 onwards in most of the provinces. Though his last years were clouded by illness, he was a powerful member of the Indian Public Services Commission 1912-5. His death at Poona Feb. 19 1915 was a severe blow to the constitutional party at a critical moment in India's political history. His last political testament, entrusted on his deathbed to the Aga Khan, was published in Aug. 1917 and outlined plans of reform based on the principle of provincial autonomy, so substantially recognized in the Government of India Act 1919.

Gokhale's speeches down to 1908 were published in Madras and there are many small memoirs, but no authoritative life has been written. (F. H. BR.)

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