Gopal Krishna Gokhale was prominent leader of Indian Independence Movement. He was one of the political and social leaders during the Freedom Struggle of India. Gokhale’s political thought revolves around the socio-political issues. These were prominent part of  India Freedom Struggle which is part of UPSC mains GS paper 1.


  • Gopal Krishna Gokhale


  1. He appreciated and welcomed the British rule in India. He was essentially a liberal thinker and preferred constitutional methods for attaining the goal of self government.
  2. He supported the idea of strengthening local self government institutions. Gokhale gave more importance to national unity and considered it as the first pre-requisite for the growth and development of Indian nationalism.
  3. He also stood for the principle of racial equality and expressed strong resentment against the policy of racial discrimination being pursued by the English. He was favoring in establishing a state based on western ideas.
  4. Thus he laid emphasis on the principles of individual liberty and social equality.


  1. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born on 9 May 1866 in Kothluk village of Guhagar taluk in Ratnagiri district of Maharastra in India. His parents Krishna Rao and Valubai.
  2. Gokhale was one of the founding political leaders during the Indian Freedom Movement against the British Empire. He regarded as political Guru of Mahatma Gandhi.
  3. His education tremendously influenced the course of his future career. In addition to learning English, he was exposed to Western political thought. The most profound influence on Gokhale was exercised by Mahadev Govind Ranade.
  4. Ranade also fully realized the potentialities of Gokhale and imparted him rigorous training which greatly contributed to the latter’s success as a statesman. He was particularly impressed by the social and economic ideas of Ranade.
  5. He regarded Mahadev Govinda Ranade as his "Guru". Gokhale also worked with Ranade in a quarterly Journal, called "Sarvajanik". The Journal wrote about the public questions of the day in a frank and fearless manner.
  6. Contemporary liberal politicians in England such as Morley and others also had a considerable influence on Gokhale's political career. He also made him one of the Secretaries of the Sarvajanik Sabha of Poona, a prominent political institution of India.
  7. He became a member of Indian Legislative Council in1902. Gokhale became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1889. After Congress was split into two groups- moderates and extremist, he tried his best to unite them.
  8. He was of the view that it will be difficult to achieve independence without the unity of it. Another notable accomplishment of Gokhale was the establishment if the Servants of India Society at Poona in 1905.
  9. The core aim of it was to give politically educate and training to youth of the country. It taught the youngsters to dedicate themselves to the service of the country.
  10. Thousands of boys and girls became members of this society. It was the first secular organization in that country to devote itself to the underprivileged, rural and tribal people, emergency relief work, the increase of literacy, and other social causes.


  1. Gokhale's political thought revolves more around the socio-political issues of his times rather than any basic political concept like that of the state or nation or sovereignty.
  2. Liberalism, as is understood in the western world is essentially about the liberty of the individual.
  3. It is t he core idea and in all spheres of human activity, social interaction,  political  institutions, economic activities, culture, religion etc. The liberal ideas of Gokhale were s lightly different from the British classical liberalism.

Gokhale’s Faith in the English Conscience

  1. Like most of the liberal Indian thinkers of his time Gokhale appreciated and welcomed the British rule in India. He had trust in the English conscience. He supported the British rule for two reasons.
  2. Firstly like all the moderates, Gokhale was convinced that it was because of British Rule that the process of modernization of the Indian society had set in. Secondly, the British upheld the concept of equality before the law.
  3. They introduced the principle of representative government and guaranteed freedom of speech and press. Gokhale was convinced that if British Rule continued for sometimes, India would be modernized completely.
  4. He also believed that in keeping with their traditions, the British would fulfill their pledges and bestow on India-self government once Indians qualified for the same.
  5. Gokhale’s faith in the British sense of justice does not imply that he was their blind admirer. He bitterly criticized the policies of the British government on a number of issues.
  6. He condemned the British for keeping the Indians out of high position despite their professions of equal treatment to all. He also opposed the partitioned of Bengal.

Views on Liberalism

  1. Gokhale was essentially a liberal thinker. But his liberalism was slightly different from the classical liberalism that existed in the 18th and 19th century. As a liberal Gokhale stood for individual liberty and certain basic rights which the people should enjoy.
  2. He felt that individual liberty could be usefully allowed only when individual behave with a sense of self –restraint. To him the right of free expression and freedom of the press were essential to realize the ideal of individual liberty.
  3. He therefore, opposed the Official Secret Bill in 1904. Gokhale also  supported the right to private property and freedom of contract. In order to maintain individual liberty and essential civil rights, he proposed the establishment of the representative institution in the country.
  4. Gokhale did not demand universal franchise. For e.g. for the village Panchayat election he wanted that only such person should be enfranchised who paid a minimum land revenue.
  5. Thus Gokhale defended the right to private property, individual liberty and freedom of contract which essentially constituted the core of liberal doctrine. Gokhale also suggested the principle of special representation for the religious minority.
  6. Recognizing the communal differences between the Hindus and Muslims, he pleaded for separate representation of the Muslims.
  7. Gokhale’s ideas regarding the role of state remarkably differed from that of classical liberalism.
  8. Classical liberalism stands for a laissez-faire state. But, Gokhale wanted state intervention to regulate the economic and social life of the country.

Political Program

  1. Gokhale preferred constitutional methods for attaining the goal of self government. He argued that the chief merits of constitutional method were that it involved a minimum of disturbances in the existing arrangement and would help in winning the support of the freedom loving people of England.
  2. Gokhale’s constitutional method includes passive resistance, non payment of taxes etc. avoiding violence, rebellion and abetting of foreign invasion. Gokhale strongly favoured the idea of strengthening local self government institutions.
  3. He stood for decentralization of authority. He felt that it was through this gradual decentralization and by way of forming an Advisory District Council for advising the District administration that India could progress.
  4. By self government he never meant complete independence for India. He wanted self government only within the limits of the British Empire.
  5. Gokhale gave more importance to national unity and considered it as the first prerequisite for the growth and development of Indian nationalism. He tried to blind the people of different parts to a single unit by eliminating caste and creed considerations.
  6. He was also a strong advocate of Hindu Muslim unity and asserted that there could not be any future of India without the cooperation of these two communities. Like Gandhi, Gokhale also believed in the primacy of means.
  7. He insisted on the spiritualization of politics and wanted to use it as a means for serving the people.
  8. He laid more emphasis on building up of character andasserted that a nation must deserve liberty before it puts forward the demand for the same.
  9. Gokhale laid emphasis on the need of raising the moral and social standards of the people to fully involve them in the national movement.

Gokhale was a moderate and liberal political thinker. His political ideas were largely influenced by the liberal thinker like Bentham, Mill and Ranade. He was a liberal thinker but differed from the classical liberal thinkers in certain respects, particularly with their ideas regarding the role of the state and their insistence on laissez-faire policies. In contrast with the classical liberal thinkers Gokhale advocated a positive role for the state in developing and modernising society.

Gokhale was an ardent social reformer. He favoured legislation in order to bring about certain social changes. His attitude towards social reform was essentially humanitarian and liberal. In short, in the field of politics Gokhale laid the foundations of constitutionalism. In the field of economics he encouraged the process of capitalist development and in the field of social reforms he tried hard to enhance the dignity of the individual irrespective of his taste, race, religion, language and class. He suggest that considering  industrial  backwardness  of  India  state  should  regulate  industrial   growth   and   contribute to create   industrial   employment.   He was thus a modernizer of Indian society in every sense of the term. To read more articles on Modern India History click here