OWING to his excellent academic record, Gopal Krishna Gokhale had the choice of becoming a lawyer, engineer, or civil servant, but he chose to become the assistant headmaster of a high school in Poona, for he believed that imparting education was the noblest of deeds. When Tilak and his confederates formed the Deccan Education Society, Gokhale was invited to teach English, mathematics, and political economy.
After the foundation of the Indian National Congress, Gokhale was made its secretary. He was made a member of the Bombay Legislative Council in 1899, and in 1902 he succeeded Sir Pherozeshah Mehta as member of the Imperial Legislative Council. He refused a knighthood and KCIE saying that by accepting such honours he would cease to be Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
As the freedom movement gained momentum, the Moderates began to lose ground to firebrand leaders like Tilak. Differences between Gokhale and Tilak began to become more and more pronounced, but it is to their credit that they did not allow their political ideologies to come in the way of their friendship. When Tilak was arrested, a rumour was spread that the order had been passed at Gokhale's behest, Tilak refused to believe the allegations against Gokhale.
Going his own way, Gokhale with the assistance of luminaries like N. A. Dravid, A. V. Patwardhan, G. D. Deodhar, Srinivasa Sastri, Takkar Bappa, and P. Kodandarao, founded the Servants of India Society in 1905 in order to train missionaries for the service of India. "Love of the country," he laid down in the preamble to the constitution of the Society, "must so fill the heart, that all else shall appear as of little moment by its side. A fervent patriotism which rejoices at every opportunity of sacrifice for the Motherland, a dauntless heart which refuses to be turned back from its object by difficulty or danger, a deep faith in the purpose of Providence which nothing can shake - equipped with these, the worker must start on his mission and reverently seek the joy which comes of spending oneself in the service of the Motherland."
In 1912, Gokhale strongly opposed the indentured labour system. At the invitation of Gandhi, he went to South Africa to strengthen his hands. The arduous struggle with the authorities ended in success, but ruined his already failing health. Back in India, he got involved in social reform, decrying the caste system, poor education, and communalism.
When failing health finally caught up with him, he was only 49 years old. "A prince and patriot has fallen," observed Surendranath Banerjea. Tilak called him "the diamond of India", and "the gem of Maharashtra". Jinnah was unusually generous with his praise when he said: "Gokhale was a fearless critic and opponent of the measures of Government and the administration of the country but in all his actions and utterances, he was guided by reason and pure moderation. Thus he was a help to the Government and source of strength and support to the cause of the people. One of the greatest lessons that his life and work teach me is the example of what one single individual can achieve, how powerfully and materially he can help and guide the destinies of his country and his people and from whom how millions can derive true lead and inspiration."