Gandhi’s Conscience Keeper

C.Rajagopalachari and Indian Politics

by Dr. Vasanthi Srinivasan

Dr. Vasanthi Srinivasan

New India Foundation



The idea of conscience involves some degree of sincerity with which one examines the moral credentials of his or her wants, omissions and commissions. Psychologists say feelings of remorse, shame, dismay, torment or guilt are major elements of a `functioning conscience’. Simply put, it is an individual’s system of moral values, the sense of right and wrong in his or her conduct.

- Frontline

Images of India going to the polls in recent years have invariably tended to underscore the cynical lack of ideology and idealism on the part of leaders and opponents. The very real business of horse-trading and post-poll arithmetic has virtually obscured the possibility of ethico-moral politics—a potential that until the 1950s was a real one.

- The Book Review India


Drawing upon Rajagopalachari’s voluminous political writings, Gandhi’s Conscience Keeper: C.Rajagopalachari and Indian Politics analyses his views on democracy, free enterprise and market economy, foreign policy and social diversity. It argues that a principled statesmanship that balanced individual freedom and civic virtues lay at the root of his political vision. Courage and moderation were the hallmarks of his approach to politics. He reasoned not from abstract principles but from concrete and particular circumstances about what is feasible and would contribute to all round welfare. At the same time, he was categorical that expediency cannot be the sole criterion in judging what is feasible. Foresight about how things would turn out and a firm commitment to enhancing liberal virtues such as hard work, liberality and law abidingness have a critical role to play. Since these virtues were rooted in ethics and religion, we delve into his retellings of the Hindu epics and select Hindu doctrines to reveal a ‘theocentric liberalism’ at the heart of his political theory and action. The book explores how Rajaji tempered majoritarian democracy with statesmanship, a free economy with civic virtue, realistic patriotism with genuine internationalism and secularism with religiosity drawn from Hindu epics.

Author Profile

Dr. Vasanthi Srinivasan

Vasanthi Srinivasan is currently the Head of the Department of Political Science at the School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. She holds a Ph.D from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. She has previously taught at the College of Humanities, Ottawa, from 1998-2001 and joined the University of Hyderabad in 2001. She is the author of Gandhi’s Conscience Keeper: C.Rajagopalachari and Indian Politics (Permanent Black 2009) and Hindu Spirituality and Virtue Politics (Sage 2014). She has been a New India Foundation Fellow at CASI, University of Pennsylvania (2009) and a visiting scholar at SAAS, Yale University (2011). Her areas of interest are Political Theory, Indian Political Thought, Comparative Political Theory. She is currently working on political ideas in some Indian classics such as Pancatantra.