'Mahatma wanted to bury the INC once and for all'

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'Mahatma wanted to bury the INC once and for all'

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 | Kumar Chellappan | CHENNAI

Had Mahatma Gandhi been alive today, he would have joined hands with Baba Ramdev and toured India in protest against rampant corruption and mismanagement of the affairs in the country,” says Venkat Ram Kalyanam, the one and only living witness to the assassination of the Father of the Nation on  January 30, 1948.

92-year-old Kalyanam surprises one with his sharp memory. He was just three feet away from Mahatma Gandhi when Nathuram Godse shot at the former from close quarters. Reacting to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s declaration at Tiruchirappallli in Tamil Nadu last Thursday that Gandhi wanted the disbandment of the Indian National Congress immediately after the Independence, Kalyanam said the Mahatma wanted to bury the party once and forever.

“Gandhi had asked all the top Congress leaders to dissolve the party and form a new organisation to serve the people. He told them that the task of INC was to fight for the freedom and liberation of India from the shackles of the British which was achieved by latter handing over power to the Indians,” said Kalyanam.

Now the question was how to govern the country. For that to happen, Gandhi suggested the formation of a society to serve the people of the country,” said Kalyanam.

Quoting from notes dictated to him by Gandhi, Kalyanam said the society was to have  named lok Sevak Sangh which the Mahatma conceived as a one of its kind organization in the world. “Gandhi said that India was a poor country  and hence we cannot afford to pay high salaries to government servants. He wanted all inequalities to go . according to Gandhiji, ours was a country of paradoxes. Rich are too rich while the poor are too poor. He had suggested that the salaries and allowances of government servants and representatives of legislatures and parliament should be fixed as Rs.500/-. The Mahatma also demanded that governors and the ambassadors of the country set an example by leading simple life. He had suggested a set of dos and don’ts for the country’s governance,” said Kalyanam.

Gandhi was heart-broken within months of the freedom because of the  complaints pouring in from all over the country about wide-spread corruption in the Congress-ruled States as well as the Centre. “Every day Gandhi used to get more than fifty letters from freedom fighters and concerned citizens. Most of the letters were about rampant corruption and favoritism being practiced by the  Congress ministers and  leaders. Gandhi was disappointed and disheartened over the development. Though he told about this to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, it fell on deaf ears,” reminiscences Kalyanam.

One of the major reasons for the indifference of Nehru towards the charges of corruption was the distancing of Sardar Patel from the former. “Patel, who was more closer to Gandhi had become a persona none grata  in Nehru’s close circle and hence the latter missed chances of getting sound advice,” said Kalyanam.

Towards the end of 1947, a hurt Gandhi made up his mind and dictated a note to Kalyanam which he describes as the last testament of the Father of the Nation.”I am not responsible for what is happening in this country. I have repeatedly said that I have neither any part nor any say in many things that are going on in the country today. The plain matter of fact is that I am no longer the current coin, I fancied I once was. My voice is in the wilderness. My writ runs no more. Time was when whatever I said the masses followed. Today , mine is a lone voice. I now say things which do not go home. I know that I am a back number . Yet, I go on saying what I believe to be true,” Gandhi had dictated  these words to Kalyanam which is described as the last major note  issued by the Mahatma.

Kalyanam said over the years, Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal,  private secretaries of the Mahatma, had assumed the roles of advisors. “Please do not compare me with them. They were titans who advised him on matters concerning the nation and the society. After 1944, he used me to take down dictation, type letters and fix-up appointments,” said Kalyanam who followed Gandhi like a shadow 24X7.

Kalyanam also said Gandhi would never have celebrated or observed his birth-days. “Birth-days were like any other day for him. He spent his time praying, doing manual work , reading, replying to hundreds of letters which he received and meditation,” said Kalyanam who too inherited the passion for manual work from his former boss.

The balcony of his house in KB Dasan Road, a stone’s throw away from the imposing DMK headquarters in Teynampet  has a beautiful garden tendered by Kalyanam himself. “I get up at 4 every morning for rearing this garden. All vegetables used  in the house are grown by me in this kitchen,” said Kalyanam.

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