C Rajagopalachari, born on December 10, 1878, was a luminary in Indian politics, from participating in the freedom struggle – he was jailed for over two years in Vellore for joining the non-cooperation movement – to serving as the last Governor General of India and establishing the only liberal party in independent India, the Swatantra Party, in response to Nehruvian socialism. A man of principled politics, Rajaji, as he was popularly known, was affectionately described as “conscience keeper” by Mahatma Gandhi and shared a warm relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru despite ideological differences. The following essay was written by Rajaji on March 25, 1967, soon after the Swatantra Party emerged as the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha election – its most striking achievement in an uneven career. In it, Rajaji presents the party’s mandate and considerations on political responsibility. More of his essays and speeches can be accessed at Indian Liberals, an open, multi-lingual digital archive committed to preserving liberal voices in the Indian public sphere.
Well considered and carefully measured State intervention may help the liberation of national energy instead of hampering it. It may be of great use in preventing abuse and exploitation. But subject only to this, free enterprise, liberated from the Permit Licence Raj and the immoral consequences flowing from it, must ultimately prevail and be accepted by all parties to put democracy and progress on their feet. The individual is the working reality of the nation, not the machine called the State, which has and should serve its purpose; but can never be a substitute for the individual. Prison labour has never been found to be good in quality, although it has its value in keeping the prison in order. Statist industrialisation is a form of prison labour. Let us liberate the genius and the enthusiasm of the individual by the natural incentive of a good share in the yield that comes from his own intelligence and labour.
Let the government run such public services as it may efficiently run in the general interest but it should not be made a government monopoly and be protected against competition by efficient private entrepreneurs. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that industrialisation is not an end in itself but is only a means to the end, of finding gainful employment for the mass of the people. The conditions required for such employment on a vast scale should be kept in mind when launching out on a programme of industrialisation based on the investment of thousands of crores of rupees. This has not so far been done. Resources have been grossly misinvested and hence caused the universal stress and resentment expressed in the recent elections. Excessive taxation has not helped but only hindered progress.
State undertakings should be denationalised and taxes reduced so as to help expansion and multiplication of free industries; and this will produce a vast scope for employment for people discharged from government service by reason of doing away with many departments which can be wound up in order to reduce government spending. The trespasses on States’ jurisdiction should be terminated. It is thus only the vicious circle of inflation can be cut and prices brought down. Government spending must be brought down by retrenchment and reorganisation as well as by improved diplomacy which could make healthy play on armament expenditure. These are the steps called for by the inflation which has passed the tolerance limit.
It is a libel when spoken and a gross fallacy when it confounds thinking, to look upon the Swatantra Party as a rich man’s party. The unavoidable necessity for capital in the production of wealth must be recognised; but it does not mean favoring the capitalists against national interests or against the poor man’s just claims. The Swatantra Party’s basic principle is the recognition of the natural laws governing men’s energy and production of any kind. Men have to work in all directions in order to make the nation prosperous. Men work better under self-regarding motives and under competition than under compulsion. There may be response to temporary emotions during a war or a violent revolution, but that is not a sustained phenomenon. We must fall back on human nature and help everyone to have an adequate and even a large share in the profits of labour and of organisation. In the long run this liberality pays, not the opposite policy of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Excessive taxation does not help the nation. It is suicidal in its effect.
Swatantra stands for sanity and the education of the electorate in every respect on right lines without caring for popularity and immediate results based on the propagation of untruth. Whether or not the Swatantra Party tries to find a commanding or other place in the Central or other Cabinets, the party’s mission is to educate the nation in correct, sane politics and economics. This mission can be performed by a group of a thousand men and women or by a whole party of tens of thousands of ardent politicians actively engaged in winning office and responsibility. Whether we are granted power and office by the electorate or whether we are not so invested, we want the politics and economics of the nation to run in the right direction. Our standing mission is the education of the public. The misguiding of the electorate in order to get power should never be our line. The 1967 elections have happily paved clearly the way for India’s return to freedom and sanity, freedom of the individual’s genius and exertion and the autonomy of the States under the wise and overall guidance of a central government which does not seek to extinguish local autonomy and become a Leviathan.