This paper examines the benefits and the liabilities in Gandhi's exploitation of his own Gujarate regional and bania caste heritages in mobilizing political support.
From his father, a prime minister in a small, princely state in Kathiawad, Gujarat, Gandhi learned of methods of nonviolent political protest including the fast, passive resistance by sitting dharna, and organized disobedience to law. Later he employed these Kathiawadi techniques, designed for local struggles, in his national program. Recognizing the political potential of bania financiers, Gandhi chose in middle life to work in Ahmedabad, the business capital of Gujarat, and won the community's support for the Congress. In turn, Gandhi's swadeshi campaigns, proclaimed to encourage cottage industry, also stimulated Ahmedabad's textile industry. Gandhi also found organizational support in Gujarat: a nascent labor union; a press; efficient, nationalistic civic leadership; and caste-based agrarian groups chafing under British land policies.
Gandhi's innovative use of various Gujarati and bania heritages won many supporters across India, but is also alienated important groups: many Bengalis favored violence; Marxists called Gandhi a capitalist stooge; princes and landowners feared his mass-organizations; and Muslims found his Hinduism unsympathetic.