While the Tribune and the Mahratta welcome the resolution of the Nagpur Congress Committee urging the necessity of revising the programme of the Indian National Congress, we are surprised to see Mr. V. J. Patel and others protesting against the scheme which has been drawn up, it is understood, by an Indian administrator who has studied the introduction and working of responsible Government in one important Dominion which he visited more than once for the purpose. It is, we think, proposed that the scheme should be first circulated for opinion to several Indian leaders, that it should be revised in the light of the suggestions that they may make, that the revised scheme should be placed before a Convention of representatives of all political schools, and that, if the Convention agrees, a Dominion Status League may be formed for the sole, special purpose of bringing about the adoption of the scheme in place of the present Reforms scheme. Mr. Patel's argument is if the scheme is consistent with the Congress programme, it is superfluous; if it goes beyond it, it is mischievous; so in either case, it is useless. In the same breath, he says that the Congress is open to all schools of political thought and that all should join it and work within it. If Mr. Patel's attitude to the mere announcement that a scheme is in preparation to work out the details of full Dominion status, represents the position of the Congress, it is idle to insist, as he does, that it is open to all schools of political thought to work within it. It can only mean that the Congress, so far from being a broad national movement, is a narrow cult where the Khaddar cap, so easy to put on, counts for everything, and the Gandhi heart, so difficult to acquire, is nothing. No group of politicians can be allowed to acquire vested interests in a national movement. The result, it is plain to us is bound to be that the Congress will within the next year or two disintegrate into several small groups without any coherent purpose.
The full Congress programme formulated at Ahmedabad last December left a good deal to Mahatma Gandhi who, it was assumed, would be always available to infuse life and spirit into the dry bones of the several clauses. The most important parts of this programme have been rendered obsolete by the course of events but so long as they are not expressly repealed, it is open to any literalist in the Congress to point the finger of scorn at a fellow-Congressman who has children attending recognised schools where spinning is not a part of the curriculum, who has not given up the profession for which his training and talents are most suited, or whose Swadeshism includes mill made as well as hand-woven cloth. The Bardoli programme as amended at Delhi labours under the same disadvantage. It is not every one that can bend the bow of Ulysses and a programme which was safe and sure in the Mahatma's hands may not be so in less mighty ones. It is, therefore, necessary as a first step towards assuring those who are opposed to non-co-operation that there is a recognised place for them within the Congress, that the dead branches of the Ahmedabad programme should be lopped off and that the constructive parts of it should be so revised as to be sufficiently expressive in themselves now that unfortunately the Mahatma is not available for constant reference as to their precise meaning and purport. Constant repetition of the Mahatma's name does not make one an intelligent worker in the true spirit of the Mahatma. We strongly deprecate the tendency to represent the Congress as a semi-religious cult founded by the Mahatma from which the slightest departure should be expiated in political purgatory. This kind of thing is a positive hindrance in the way of awakening the masses to true political consciousness.
The most intelligent opinion the Congress and outside is agreed that full responsible government is the solution of our national problems. Mr. Patel says, let us have the promise first of full responsible government and then there will be no difficulty in drawing up a scheme. But that is not the right view to take about the matter. We should first show how and in what manner and in what period of time, the present system can be converted into a full responsible one with the least delay and dislocation. A definite scheme is also necessary to instruct the people as to their own duties and responsibilities under self government. The object of the proposal of a Dominion Status League outside the Congress and other political organisations, is to carry propaganda work both in the country and in Great Britain. Owing to the adoption of the policy of Non-Co-operation by the majority of Congressmen, the Congress is precluded from undertaking work which is essential to carry conviction to the British Government that the grant of full responsible government to India is prudent as well as practicable. Further there are many Liberals and others who are prepared to work for full responsible government but who are not prepared to join the Congress. The League, of one is started, will merely be the application of the principle of division of labour to political work.
The Congress as the oldest political movement in the country, rich in tradition, should not be allowed to fall to pieces. A strong effort should be made, in which all should join hands, to place the movement on a broad national footing. Mahatma Gandhi perceived this clearly and, since the Bardoli meeting, he has been most anxious to bring it about. If this is made impossible by the intolerance of those who find themselves in control of the Congress machinery of opinion in the country which believes as little in Non-Co-operation as in Diarchy for which India has had to pay dearly.