Today That Day - 25-Nov-1924-Why did Vithalbhai resign?

Lord Reading in Bombay

The Viceroy’s visit to Bombay has been an unsensational event except for the storm in the Corporation tea-pot raised over the declining by the President Mr. V. J. Patel (Vithalbhai Patel) of the official invitation to be present at certain ceremonial functions connected with it. Mr. Patel was Non-Co-operator when he was elected President the Non-Co-operation creed is that of public functions in honour of official personages. We say public functions, because Mr. Patel or any other Non-Co-Operation leader can have no objection to meet the Viceroy if His Excellency desires him to do so. Mahatma Gandhi called on Lord Reading at Shimla in connection with a speech of Maulana Mahomed Ali, Mr. C. R. Das met Lord Lytton early this year regarding the letter’s offer of Ministerships and Mr. M. R. Jayakar, the leader of the Swarajists in the Bombay Legislative Council, was one of those who had an interview with Lord Reading on the day of His Excellency’s arrival in Bombay. In all these cases, the distinction was clearly recognised between a private and personal interview at the expressed desire of the Viceroy, and of attendance at ceremonial functions which are legitimate occasions for a demonstration of popular approval or disapproval of any particular policy of His Excellency’s government. Only a few days ago, representatives of all political parties in India meet in Bombay, and with one dissentient in the person of Dr. Besant, strongly protested against the passing of the Bengal Ordinance. No one, therefore, had the right to expect that Mr. Patel should, in spite of his Non-Co-operation principles and the recent All-India protest assist in a ceremonial function to do honour to the author of the Bengal Ordinance. A majority of the Corporation, however, could not appreciate his reasoning and passed a resolution that the President of that body should attend at such functions. Mr. Jehangir Petit shrewdly foresaw the danger of making the conduct of the President subservient to the will of majority in such a matter. Mr. Patel has promptly resigned the Presidentship and he states expressly in his letter of resignation that he has done so in order to create a precedent. We think that Mr. Patel would have created a better precedent if he had kept to this post. There is a limit to the rights of a majority. The members of the Corporation knew well what Mr. Patel’s political principles were when they elected him their President. A majority which insists that a man can retain its confidence only by sacrificing his principles, is not helping to maintain a high standard of public life. If, as seems probable, Mr. Patel stands for re-election as President, and is elected, the action of the majority will become ridiculous.

Ref : Indian Social Reformer

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