Gopal Krishna Gokhale

Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915) was an Indian nationalist leader. President of the Indian National Congress, he also served in the Imperial Legislative Council and founded the famed Servants of India Society.

On May 9, 1866, Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born in the Ratnagiri District of the Bombay Presidency into a poor but eminently respectable Chitapavan Brahmin family. At age 18 he secured a bachelor's degree from Elphinstone College and joined the illustrious Deccan Education Society. At 22 Gokhale became secretary of the famous Sarvajanik Sabha, the leading political organization of Bombay. He also became a professor at Fergusson College and, in 1891, secretary of the Deccan Education Society.

In 1895 Gokhale was chosen secretary to the Indian National Congress. In the same year he was elected to the senate of Bombay University. He was 29 years old. From 1898 to 1906 Gokhale was a member of the Poona Municipality and served as its president in 1902 and 1905. Under his leadership the municipal government was effectively reformed and democratized. In 1899 he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council, in which he played a prominent role until his election to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1902.

In the Imperial Legislative Council, Gokhale demonstrated a breadth of knowledge as well as a painstaking mastery of all relevant details on pending legislation, which soon marked him as the most distinguished member of the Council. He was particularly noted for his impressive participation in the annual debate upon the budget.

The year 1905 saw Gokhale at the apex of his career. He was elected president of the Indian National Congress, and he founded the prestigious Servants of India Society, dedicated to advancement of the nation's welfare and to the "spiritualization" of politics. In the same year he was sent by the Congress on a special mission to England to air India's constitutional demands before British leaders. While there he had several important interviews with Lord Morley, secretary of state for India. In 1908 Gokhale was again deputed to visit England in connection with the impending Morley-Minto constitutional reforms of the government of India.

In 1912 Gokhale visited South Africa, where he met Mohandas Gandhi in connection with Gandhi's campaign for rights for Indians. Gokhale also met with Gen. Jan Smuts to assist in securing a satisfactory agreement regarding the position of Indians. His involvement in so wide a range of public and legislative bodies and his strenuous commitment to the advancement of education had, however, worn him out, and he died in Poona on Feb. 15, 1915.


Further Reading on Gopal Krishna Gokhale

The Speeches and Writings of Gokhale were edited by R. P. Patwardhan, D. G. Karve, and D. V. Ambekar (2 vols., 1962-1966). The best volume in English on Gokhale is D. B. Mathur, Gokhale: A Political Biography (1966). A brief study is T. R. Deogirikar, Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1964). There is an interesting collection of articles on Gokhale in Gopal Krishna Gokhale: A Centenary Tribute (1966), published by the Maharashtra Information Centre. See also Stanley A. Wolpert, Tilak and Gokhale: A Revolution and Reform in the Making of Modern India (1962).

Additional Biography Sources

Nanda, Bal Ram, Gokhale: the Indian moderates and the British raj, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977.

Wolpert, Stanley A., Tilak and Gokhale: revolution and reform in the making of modern India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989.