MAHATMA GANDHI'S PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Mahatma Gandhi begins his presidential address to the Belgaum National Congress with the statement that from September 1920 the Congress has been principally an institution for developing strength from within. "It has ceased to function by means of resolutions addressed to the Government for redress of grievances. It did so because it ceased to believe in the beneficial character of the existing system of Government. At the same time it was realised that the existence of the system depended upon the co-operation, whether conscious or unconscious, and, whether voluntary or forced, of the people. With the view therefore of mending or ending the system it was decided to try to begin withdrawing voluntary co-operation from the top." This was the genesis of the five-fold boycott, namely, of Government titles, law-courts, educational institutions, legislative bodies and foreign cloth. Mahatma Gandhi adds that though not a single boycott was anywhere near completion, every one of them had undoubtedly the effect of diminishing the prestige of the particular institution boycotted. This however, is only a negative result and it cannot be said that the object of " developing strength from within" has been advanced thereby, if, indeed, it has not developed some sort of weakness. But even this slight claim of Mahatmaji's is not supported by his own description on the next page of the state of the boycotts at the present time. "Whilst individuals hold firmly to their belief in non-co-operation," he says, "these boycotts cannot be worked as part of the National programme, unless the Congress is prepared to do without the classes directly affected. But I hold it to be just as impracticable to keep these classes out of the Congress as it would be now to keep the non-co-operators out." But "these classes" are themselves the non-co-operators who have given up the boycotts and among them are such leaders of Non-Co-operation as Mr. C. R. Das. Pandit Motilal Nehru, Mr. Gangadhar Rao Deshpande, Mr. Vithalbhai Patel, Mr. Srinivasa Iyengar, Mr. Prakasam and others. It is these leaders who have revolted against the Non-Co-operation programme. 

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