What is the contribution of Gopal Krishna Gokhale?

Gopal Krishna Gokhale was one of the early leaders in Maharashtra who had dedicated his entire life in the service of the people. He was influenced by English liberals like J.S. Mill and John Morley. He was deeply influenced by the work of Dadabhai Naoroji, M.G. Ranade and Firozshah Mehta. He was the great pupil of M.G. Ranade. He was born in Chiplun in Ratnagiri. He had studied at the Elphinstone College. He was a professor in Fergusson College. He became the member of Deccan Education Society. Tilak and Gokhale clashed over the policy matter and Tilak resigned his life membership of the society.

His Attitude towards the Politics

Gokhale made critical analysis of the political situation in India. He criticized British policy of maintaining a ratio of 1 : 2 between British forces and Indian forces. Gokhale entered the Bombay Legislative Council. During his tenure he worked hard to solve the problem of famine, land revenue and agricultural discontent. He also acted as a member of Pune Municipal Corporation. He introduced a practice of printing the rule which were passed in meeting. He reached the peak of his career when he was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1981. His entrance in the council opened a new chapter in his life. His budgetary analysis earned great praise even from opponents. He took pride in the service of the common people. He always pointed out that the expenditure on welfare schemes would make people to resist the famines.

Gokhale and the Indian Expenditure Commission

The British government appointed Indian expenditure under Lord Welby to enquire about financial administration in 1896. Welby commission was appointed to inquire into the administration and management of the military and civil expenditure. The commission was appointed by parliament for its own guidance and for it own jurisdiction. Gokhale took great pains to bring to light all the facts. He shed light on the revenue problems and economic exploitation of the people. He made several suggestions to the commission for improving the Indian budget. He also suggested that legislative council of Madras, Bombay and Bengal and other provinces should send one representative to the British parliament. It consisted of all seasoned statesmen including Wedderburn, Caine and Dadabhai Naoroji. Gokhale was chief witness before the commission. Gokhale was brilliant in his work. He was praised by Wedderburn.

In Bombay Legislative Council

Gokhale was elected in legislative assembly. He took special interest in the problems of famine, land alienation bill and the working of the Municipal Corporations. Maharashtra experienced a series of calamities in those years. Famine and plague took a great toll of human lives. The people were suffering from the repression of government officials. Gokhale remarkably made analysis of the problem in the legislative council.

The Imperial Legislative Council

Gokhale’s role in Imperial Legislative Council was full of enthusiasm and hope. Between 1902 and 1911 he made eleven speeches on the Budget and thirty six other speeches of importance. In his fight against bureaucracy, Gokhale’s approach was constitutional. His first speech on the Indian budget was remarkable for its large vision and facts. It shed light on the injustice of the British toward the Indians. It brought out his deep concern over the growing poverty of the people. In his budget speeches Gokhale made suggestions regarding the improvement in irrigation sector. He generally confined himself to the economic aspect of national life. His role in the Imperial Legislative Council was historic.

Gokhale and Congress

Gokhale was great pupil of M.G. Ranade. He had great influence of Ranade through his life and work. He was the president of the congress at Banaras in 1905. He defined ultimate goal of congress as self government within the British Empire. Like other moderate leaders he believed in British sense of justice. He was of view that India needed British rule at that time. His goal was to achieve self government. He had firm faith in constitutional agitation. Through this method he wanted to make people aware of the political movement. According to him good governance should be progressive and it must take care of the opinion of local self governing bodies. He regarded state as an instrument to bring necessary social reform.

Social Reforms

Like all the moderate leaders, Gokhale favoured struggle for social reforms. He championed the cause of depressed classes. He rightly pointed out that in western countries society is based on class distinction and class can easily be changed. However in India, it was the mark of birth. It is harmful for the development of the country. He raised his voice against social evil of untouchability and caste distinction in Dharwad Social Conference. However like Ranade, he could not involve himself in social reform movement actively.


Gokhale was a primary teacher in earlier life. Having come to politics from education, he was interested in primary education. In his speeches, he often urged the Government to improve the condition of the people and offer them educational opportunities. He made several useful recommendations to improve the state of affairs. According to him two things of the budget of the educational expenditure should be given by the government and rest by the local bodies.

The Plague and Famine Administration (1897)

In 1896, Mumbai and Pune saw the rise of plague. The schools and colleges were closed down. W.C. Rand was the plague commissioner. He committed many atrocities on the people in the name of preventing the spread of epidemic. At that time Gokhale was in England. He received the news about this incident. He publicly criticized the brutality of the British. However, Mumbai Government challenged him to reveal the sources. Instead of revealing the sources he apologized for the charges. This incident shows his love for friends. In 1902, he was nominated as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council. He fought against the autocratic policy of Lord Curzon.

The Servants of Indian Society (1905)

Gokhale founded the servants of India society in 1905. This society was founded to train young men to devote their lives in the cause of the country and to promote national interest. Pune became the centre of all the activities. It maintained the library for the study of different subjects. Following are the vows taken by a new member joining the society:

  1. The country will always be first in his thought.
  2. In serving the country he will seek no personal advantage for himself.
  3. He will regard all Indians as brothers and will work for the advancement of all without distinction of caste and creed.
  4. He will lead a pure personal life.
  5. He will always keep in view the aims and objectives of the society and watch over its interest with the utmost zeal. Its membership dedicated to the nationalist cause. Its members were trained and equipped for some form of service of motherland. The society published three papers, ‘The servants of India’, ‘Dnyan Prakash’ and ‘Hitwad’.

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