But first the historical context : I was elected in the Dec. 1976 general election from a LP platform in the Souillac / Rivière des Anguilles constituency. Out of the 18 first-time MLAs, 16 rallied around me : We pressed the flagging Government for sweeping economic changes and action. We asked for an immediate clean-up as corruption was widespread within the party. Gandhi’s problem-solving techniques revisited !
During the three-month political pilgrimage, we all exposed, without restraint, the utter horror of fraud and corruption of two LP Ministers, Daby and Badry. Out of the initial 16 faithful, thirteen betrayed and deserted me. That’s politic in politics. I lost a battle but not the war ! Nonetheless, I tabled a motion for a Commission of Inquiry on both the senior Ministers. Under public pressure, the then PM, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam appointed a sitting judge, Sir Victor Glover, to preside over it. However, the hitch was when both Ministers stuck to their posts whilst the enquiry was on. But my stubborn determination outplayed them !
Strong determination to win the corruption case
All the Opposition and Government Parliamentarians who had spoken-inside and outside the National Assembly-on the fraudulent activities of the two Ministers were summoned one by one by the presiding judge. The constant refrain of all of them was one and the same “we have only read and heard about”. So, nobody could produce any clear evidence. Much to the joys of the two charged Ministers ! And to the natural exuberance of the governing lot. Unfortunately for them, that surge of intense excitement was short-lived. I destroyed it sooner but also later when the report was made public!
It just so happened that I was the last witness. People had faith in me. Without any surprise, victims, Police officers and public functionaries (especially from the two ministries), all helped me to provide the Commission with a raging and overwhelming torrent of hard and irrefutable evidence.
After that, the outcome was a foregone conclusion : Both Ministers were found guilty of fraud and corruption on several counts. They resigned their posts. Two serial turncoats, who were with me at the initial stage, were blessed with much-awaited and coveted ministerial posts. For our part, mass education continued unabated-with daily public gatherings. Four decades-old Gandhian modus operandi was revived !
Which all led me to insist on another Commission of Inquiry on two other LP Ministers-who were part of the inner circle of the then PM. Final result of our actions : We were expelled from the LP in Sept. 1979. Sir Seewoosagur publicly regretted it bitterly though sincerely in Sept. 1982. And the rest is consigned to history now !
Cool, calm and collected in the face of danger
Now persuasion, bribery and threats : Let’s set the clock back. As soon as I started meeting knowledgeable people and government officers-to gather evidence-first the Government tried to persuade me no to go ahead. A ministerial post and all kinds of bribes were offered. No sooner had they discovered my strong determination and mettle (from another world maybe) -other than LP-that all sorts of threats began to rain in. Plot after plot was cooked up to intimidate me. Any weak person would have given in-on their terms.
Small wonder that I was made of another stock ! The word fear-in such a combination of extenuating circumstances-does not exist in my life’s dictionary. It’s a very useful pointer from Gandhi. After all, the one who sleeps on a floor-mat will never be hurt if he rolls over nonstop. And then, I always mentally expect something at its worst in order not to be deeply affected in case of any dismal failure.
Of all, a threatening but quite interesting 1978 episode is still fresh in my mind. Gandhian principles worked miracles. I bet : A walk down that memory lane will shake you all with howls of laughter at best or broad smiles at worst.
Threatening bouncers turned non-violent : It was all dense sugar-cane fields-1.5 km from Highlands to Belle Terre-in the last quarter of 1978. It was just before midnight. I was alone in my small Volkswagen car, AJ 616. After one of the sharp road bends, I discovered much to my surprise that two cars had blocked the road. Immediately after, another car crash-stopped just behind my car. There should have been some 12 people in all. I stayed cool, calm and collected. I could not be my own worst enemy there and then !
Expecting the worst, I took the first initiative : I got down and fearlessly but loudly asked for their purpose of blocking my car. All surrounded me menacingly in a thunder of high voices. I knew a lady who was among them. She was sent to bribe me before that fateful night.
Disarming bouncers bent on inflicting harm
All through, I maintained-calmly but firmly-that I would only listen to them in my house. “You can kill me if you wish” was my only repeated argument. They were all scared lest I would wake up the entire village in my defence. Finally, my word of honour convinced the lady who in turn accompanied all the 11 others to my small wood and iron-sheet house.
Once inside the verandah, I politely asked them all to give me some minutes as I was very hungry. Both my mother and sister-in-law hurriedly prepared wheat “faratas” and tea. All the 12 mercenaries were surprised when after some time I invited them all to share my meal. All through, we talked on other issues-about every one present-but not a single word on corruption cases.
Once the meal was over, I asked them about their specific aim. Their reply ? “Thank you. We have none now. We have understood who you are”. And all of them retired with heads shaking or hanging or nodding. Yes, Gandhian methods worked like a charm to disarm the 12 mercenaries sent by one of the two Ministers. Are you laughing your head off ? Or breaking into a beaming smile ?
Idi Amin Dada and his likes : Certainly there are many other instances where I have also successfully utilized and succeeded with the Gandhian approach. Notwithstanding, there are also many difficult times when I have failed. For example, you’ll never succeed when you’ll have in face of you a man-eating crocodile or a crazy Adolf Hitler or still a mad Idi Amin Dada. Will you ? And of course, there are many of their likes still in business in today’s world.
Thence, to fight similar enemies of mankind, could it be that Gandhi would have suggested a Kalashnikov and hand-grenade violent method ? Well ; your reply could be as good as mine !
Even though, those 1978 midnight vivid memories are still a great sense of pride for me. A good laugh, too ! But no crowing. And no basking in any self-reflected glory. It’s all history now ! If only we all could have followed but a negligible one tenth of Gandhi’s directions…