Tributes To Kamaraj
K. Kamaraj was a leader of sterling qualities. His entire life spanning a little over seven decades was dedicated to the country and its people. From a simple volunteer and worker, he rose to the highest position by not only circumstances but sincere service and sacrifice. Like Lal Bahadur Shastri, his humility, affability, sincerity integrity coupled with selflessness and devotion were unparallel.
Unlike the average politicians, he never pushed himself forward. He imbibed this great quality form his school days when “once on Vinayaka Chaturthi celebration in his school the boys were asked to contribute each about half an anna. When, after the puja, the prasadam (fried rice) was being distributed, as usual, there was clamour and rush among the boys to get their share. Kamaraj quietly stood aside until the rush was over and then he went to receive the prasadam. Very little was left for him. When he went home with it, his grandmother asked why he got so little. Kamaraj said that he did not want to rush in with others.
When Mahatma Gandhi started his non-cooperation movement (1921-22), Kamaraj was a boy. Ten years later, in 1930, he offered Satyagraha to break the Salt Law. He was arrested and sentenced to two years imprisonment. During the Quit India Movement (August 1942), Kamaraj who was 39, organized party workers in Tamil Nadu. He returned to Virudhunagar after finishing his work where a police warrant was waiting for him.
He himself informed the police sub inspector that he was ready to be arrested. Though the sub inspector, a nationalist at heart, told him be could take it easy and he could arrest him later, Kamaraj said he had finished all his work and there was no point in delaying. He was taken into custody and detained under the Defence of India Rules and sent to Vellore Jail, where already there ware a number of other leaders. For three years he was under detention without trial and released in 1945.
Kamaraj became Chief Minister of Madras state on April 13, 1957. According to Ramaswamy Venkataraman (who later became the President of India) it was Jawaharlal Nehru who insisted that Kamaraj should succeed Rajaji as Chief Minister.
Kamaraj perhaps had the smallest council of ministers in India - just eight. Whenever correspondents asked him whether there would be any changes in the cabinet, he remarked cryptically “after five years”.
With a rural background, sound common sense and a burning desire to serve the people, he introduced free education upto the secondary stage, mid-day meals for indigent school children, expanded rural communication. His tenure of a decade in office was marked by all round progress and development in Tamil Nadu in industry, power, education and community development. People describe it as the “golden age” of the state.
The Congress Working Committee met in October 1963 to consider the election of a new President to succeed D. Sanjivaiah whose term expired at the end of 1963. Nehru was in favour of Kamaraj and the Working Committee unanimously proposed his name. Kamaraj himself never even dreamt that he would land himself in the Congress Presidential chair. He never sought or aspired for it. It was the force of circumstances, and cumulative effect of events that led him on to the top. Nehru had developed a great admiration for Kamaraj for his ability as an organizer and his proven success as an administrator. It is an established fact that office never tempted Kamaraj and the service of the nation came above all other considerations.
He formulated in all sincerity and with the best of intentions, the famous Kamaraj Plan, under which senior ministers in government led by Nehru were to leave office and strengthen the Congress Organization. He was of the view that the concentration of all talents in administration had depleted the organization of strong and able men for party work and that interchange of leaders from Government to party work was one of the ways of strengthening the organization. Unfortunately, neither did the leaders after leaving the Government devote themselves to party work, nor did they remain comfortable out of office. But his Plan was novel and original and truly reflected the stuff of which Kamaraj was made.
Events following his assumption of office as the President of the Indian National Congress brought to the fore his great abilities as a statesman. When the whole world was reverberating: “After Nehru, Who?” Kamaraj lent his shoulders to stabilize the nation edifice and to affect a smooth succession. After the demise of Nehru in May 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri assumed the reins of Prime Minister. Likewise, on the unexpected demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966, Kamaraj played a key- role once again in effecting smooth succession. The country was able to prove to the world that it is a strong, stable and unshakeable democracy under the leadership of Indira Gandhi.
On October 2, 1975, he felt pain in the chest. A doctor living nearby was called but before his arrival, he was no more. In recognition of his services, the country’s highest honour Bharat Ratna was conferred on him posthumously in the same year. (Syndicate Features)
*R.K.Bhatnagar is a former press secretary to President R Venkatraman
-Asian Tribune -