This sentence is not "subjunctive" or unreal; the past forms express tense, not modality.
In fact, this is only formally a conditional construction, employed rhetorically to express a contrast between two different reactions to Mr. Gandhi's decision.
To my mind this was not a felicitous choice. Ordinarily with this "contrastive" use, the condition clause puts forward a predication with a moderate degree of some quality, and the consequence clause puts forward a predication with a greater degree of the quality. For instance:
If John was big, George was huge. That is, if it is appropriate to characterize John's size as big then we need a much stronger term to characterize George's.
In this case, however, the condition clause expresses a much fiercer reaction (frontally attacked) than the consequence clause (was disparaging). Logically, it makes sense; but by inverting the ordinary usage the device loses its rhetorical force.