K. Kamaraj

K. Kamaraj

Infobox Celebrity
name = Perunthalaivar Kamarajar

birth_date = birth date|1903|7|15|mf=y
birth_place = Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu
death_date = death date and age|1975|10|2|1903|7|15|mf=y
death_place = Chennai, Tamil Nadu
occupation = Politician, Social Worker
salary =
networth =
spouse =
children =
website =
footnotes =

Kamaraj Kumarasami, (Tamil : காமராஜ்) better known as K. Kamaraj (15 July 19032 October 1975) was an Indian politician widely considered to be the only kingmaker in Indian politics, and known for his honesty, integrity and simplicity.

He was involved in the Indian independence movement and was a close ally of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. He was instrumental in bringing to power two Prime Ministers, Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964 and Indira Gandhi in 1966. He was affectionately known as the "Gandhi of the South". In Tamil Nadu, his home state, he is still hailed for facilitating the spread of education to millions of the rural poor by introducing free education and free mid-day meals scheme in schools for the first time in the whole world during his chiefministership in 1957. He was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1976. The main airport in Chennai is today named Kamaraj airport in his honor. He was hailed as one of the greatest of politicians of all the free world by the then US vice-president Hubert Humphrey. [ [http://www.thehindu.com/2008/07/16/stories/2008071660450700.htm He raised the bar with simplicity] ] [ [http://www.tribuneindia.com/2006/20060817/edit.htm Man of the people from The pages of The Tribune October 4, 1975] ]

Early life

Kamaraj was born 15 July, 1903, to Kumarasamy Nadar and Sivakami Ammal at Virudhunagar near Madurai in Tamil Nadu. His parents were from a trading family. His real name was Kamakshi Kumaraswamy, but was affectionately shortened to Raja by his mother, Sivakami Ammal. His father, Kumarswamy Nadar, was a coconut merchant. Kamaraj was enrolled at the local elementary school, the Enadhy Nayanar Vidyalaya, and later shifted to the high school Kshatriya Vidyalaya.

Unfortunately his father died within a year of Kamaraj's enrollment in school. Kamaraj's mother sold all jewelry except her earrings and deposited the money with a local merchant and cared for the entire family on the monthly interest that the money earned.


Kamaraj dropped out of school when he was in the sixth grade. When he entered mainstream public life he felt handicapped and realized the importance of a good education. He educated himself during his periods of imprisonment.

Start in politics and freedom struggle

Kamaraj joined as an apprentice in his maternal uncle Karuppiah's cloth shop after dropping out of school. He would slip out from the shop to join processions and attend public meetings addressed by orators like Dr. Varadarajulu Naidu. His relatives frowned upon Kamaraj 's budding interest in politics. They sent him to Thiruvananthapuram to work at another uncle's timer shop.

At the age of 16, Kamaraj enrolled himself as full-time worker of the Congress. He invited speakers, organized meetings and collected funds for the party. He also participated in the march to Vedaranyam led by C. Rajagopalachari as part of the Salt Satyagraha of March 1930.

Kamaraj was arrested and sent to Alipore Jail in Calcutta for two years. He was 27 at the time of his arrest and was released in 1931 following the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Kamaraj was implicated in the Virudhunagar bomb case two years later. Dr. Varadarajulu Naidu and George Joseph argued on Kamaraj's behalf and proved the charges to be baseless. Kamaraj was arrested again in 1940 and sent to Vellore Central Prison while he was on his way to Wardha to get Gandhiji's approval for a list of satyagrahis.

While still in jail, Kamaraj was elected Chairman of the Municipal Council of Viruthunagar. Nine months later, upon his release, Kamaraj went straight to the Municipality and tendered his resignation from his post. He felt that "one should not accept any post to which one could not do full justice."

Kamaraj was arrested once more in 1942 and sentenced to three years in the Amaravathi prison for spreading propaganda material for the Quit India movement initiated by Gandhiji. While in prison, Kamaraj read books and continued his self-education.

With Satyamurti

Kamaraj's political guru and inspiration was S. Satyamurti, orator and parliamentarian. Satyamurti found in Kamaraj "an efficient, loyal, indefatigable worker and skillful organizer (p. 147, Pakshirajan)." Both developed a deep friendship and complemented each others' skills. In 1936, Satyamurti was elected President of the Provincial Congress Committee and he appointed Kamaraj the General Secretary. Four years later they swapped positions. The party base was strengthened under their leadership. of Tamilnadu, Kamaraj went to Satyamurti's house and garlanded his photo and paid his respects to the leader's widow.

Chief Minister

On April 13, 1954, K. Kamaraj reluctantly became the Chief Minister of Madras Province. To everyone's surprise, Kamaraj nominated C. Subramaniam and M. Bhakthavatsalam, who had contested his leadership, to the newly formed cabinet. Kamaraj removed the family vocation based Hereditary Education Policy introduced by Rajaji. He reopened the 6000 schools closed by previous government for financial reasons and also added 12000 more schools. The State made immense strides in education and trade. New schools were opened, so that poor rural students were to walk no more than 3 miles to their nearest school. Better facilities were added to existing ones. No village remained without a primary school and no panchayat without a high school. Kamaraj strove to eradicate illiteracy by introducing free and compulsory education up to the eleventh standard. He introduced the Mid-day Meal Scheme to provide at least one meal per day to the lakhs of poor school children (first time in the whole world).. He introduced free school uniforms to weed out caste, creed and class distinctions among young minds.

Achievements as Chief Minister

Kamaraj was 'reluctant to accept' the chief ministership but the circumstance prevailed upon him as there was no 'alternative to the kingmaker himself ascending the throne.'12 Kamaraj took the mantle from Rajaji, and formed his first cabinet, which did not contain a single Brahmin contrary to Rajaji's first ministry in 1937, 'dominated by Brahmins'.13 The elevation of Kamaraj as the chief minister on the wave of opposition to the Rajaji scheme of education, led to the development of closer ties between Kamaraj and E V Ramasamy. The Congress gained the support of E V Ramasamy and Kamaraj's equation with the non-Brahmins was kept intact. E V Ramasamy was all set to endorse his solidarity with Kamaraj on the grounds that in all these years he was the first and only non-Brahmin with Tamil as his mother tongue to become the chief minister; and for the first time a full-fledged ministry had been formed without a single Brahmin headed! by Kamaraj.

According to E V Ramasamy all credit should go to Kamaraj for dropping Rajaji's educational scheme despite opposition from upper castes led by C Subramaniam and Bakthavatchalam who were in favour of it.14 Extolling Kamaraj as the pacchai Tamilan he urged his followers to extend every support to sustain the Kamaraj rule and prevent it from being ousted, as the interests of Tamils were safe in his hands.15 However, Kamaraj did not follow the exclusion of Brahmins as a deliberate policy. In fact, Brahmins were incorporated into his ministry at a later stage, one of the prominent gainers being R Venkataraman.

For Kamaraj, E V Ramasamy's open proclamation of support was a great source of strength, arriving precisely at the right moment when he himself was under pressure since doubts were being echoed in certain circles whether Kamaraj, a low caste man without formal education, would be able to cope with the administrative exigencies of the office of chief minister.16 For Kamaraj, seasoned for the occasion, E V Ramasamy's endorsement was an unmistakable political gain and he saw its usefulness in countering his critics. Soon Kamaraj proved his capabilities as one of best chief ministers silencing the critics and sceptics. Kamaraj silently used the non-Brahmin movement in his favour though he did not 'share Periyar's anti-Brahmanism'.17 E V Ramasamy's crusade against brahmanism, religion and the threat of imposition of Hindi from Delhi would continue unabated under Kamaraj's rule only so long as it did not weaken Kamaraj's ministerial governance. Kamaraj distanced himself from Ramasamy and his followers when the mode of agitation culminated in a call for burning the national flag (August 1, 1955), maps of India and copies of the Constitution.18

One of the first political acts of Kamaraj during his tenure as chief minister was to widen representation of the rising non-Brahmins in the cabinet. Ministerial berths were given to the non-Brahmin caste-based parties, Tamil Nadu Toilers Party and Commonweal Party. Both the parties were subsequently 'subsumed' by the Congress.19 In a move to counter Tamil cultural politics espoused by the DMK, Kamaraj made conscious attempts to partake in the linguistic cultural matters. In order to placate Tamil aspirations, Kamaraj effected some measures.20 The efforts towards introducing Tamil language as a medium of instruction in schools and colleges was accompanied by the publication of textbooks on 'scientific and technical subjects' in Tamil.21 In 1960 the state education minister took steps to introduce Tamil in government arts colleges as a medium of instruction.

The introduction of the Tamil typewriter in government offices was another effort to change the language of administration gradually.22 Similarly the usage of Tamil in the courts received encouragement. To affirm his role in the linguistic politics of the state, Kamaraj did introduce a bill in February 1962 in the legislative assembly for changing the name of Madras to 'Tamilnad' for 'intrastate communication', the bill also proposing Madurai as the capital.23 But no decision was taken on it. However these moves were on a low key and inadequate to woo the masses. The DMK made capital out of this, routing Congress in the 1967 elections four years after Kamaraj relinquished his office as chief minister in accordance with the Kamaraj Plan to concentrate on Congress organisational work.

Committed to his version of 'socialism' meaning that "those who are backward should progress", Kamaraj remained truthful to the simple dictum of his 'socialism', providing 'what is essential for man's living' such as 'dwelling, job, food and education'.24 The great feature of Kamaraj rule was the ending of the retrogressive educational policies and setting the stage for universal and free schooling. Six thousand schools closed down by Rajagopalachari were revived and 12,000 schools added.25 The percentage of school going children in the age group between 6 and 11 increased from 45 per cent to 75 per cent within a span of seven years after he became the chief minister.26

Almost every village within a radius of one mile with a population of 300 and above inhabitants was provided with a school.27 With a view to encouraging and attracting the rural poor children to the schools Kamaraj pioneered a scheme of free mid-day meals for primary school children in panchayat and government institutions.28 This scheme, aided by the American voluntary organisation CARE, was launched in 1957.29 In addition the government came forward to supply school uniforms to poor students.30 To make the education easily accessible to children from various backgrounds, full exemption from school fees was introduced. Public enthusiasm and participation in raising funds and procuring equipment for the schools were entertained through different schemes making education a social responsibility.31 Such measures made education affordable for many who were denied basic educational opportunities for centuries.

Kamaraj's other major feat was his role in facilitating developmental programmes chiefly electrification and industrial development. Thousands of villages were electrified. Rural electrification led to the large-scale use of pumpsets for irrigational purposes and agriculture-received impetus. Large and small-scale industries were flagged off generating employment opportunities. Kamaraj made the best use of the funds available through the Five-Year Plans and guided Tamil Nadu in deriving the maximum benefit.

His efforts in these directions not only enhanced the profile of Tamil Nadu as one of the best-administered states in the post-independent era, but it also raised it high in social and economic rankings compared to other states.32 As chief minister for nine years Kamaraj headed a stable administration and managed two elections successfully and his reputation soared high as 'shrewd and competent' and "one of the most effective chief min! isters in India."33 He proved himself more than equal to the task and his detractors retracted the statements made about this 'village-green trundler'34 and his capacity to govern the state when he took the mantle from Rajaji.

His competent ministerial colleagues and the excellent set of senior state officials saw in Kamaraj 'a man with a mission' who could set aside any stricture in order to serve the common people. He was able to invoke cooperation, dedication and willingness ungrudgingly. Importantly his approach to governance and party control was never tainted with religious overtones and a secular commitment was natural and integral to his mission in life. Among his cherished political mentors, Kamaraj held George Joseph, a Kerala Christian nationalist who chose Madurai as his base for practising law and for his political activities, in high esteem.35

Kamaraj's association with George Joseph began early and grew in strength from the days when Kamaraj frequented political meetings addressed by George Joseph in Virudhunagar.36 It continued through the period of his involvement in the Vaikom Satyagraha then led by George Joseph, to the organising of demonstrations against the Simon Commission along with Joseph. It was George Joseph who defended Kamaraj and got him released when he was accused of making bombs and implicated in the Virudhunagar Conspiracy case. Profoundly fond of George Joseph and his family, Kamaraj continued to pay visits to the Joseph family especially his wife Susannah, even with his busy itinerary as chief minister.

His lifestyle never changed; power and position failed to dislocate his simplicity. His illustrious career as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu ended in 1963 and he commenced his political life in Delhi as the president of the All India Congress Party. Explicating Kamaraj's long stint and stature in Tamil Nadu politics, reputed political scientist, R Bhaskaran, observed:

"Mr Kamaraj was not rich and has not grown rich; he is a bachelor and has no family ties. He has been and is a whole-time politician and has laboured to acquire personal knowledge of men and things all over the Tamil country and he knows all the leaders of his party from every part of India. He has also acquired facility in English and very considerable knowledge of world affairs. He is immensely popular for all these reasons and especially because he has no vices and leads a simple life. Above all he is the 'representative' Tamil as most Tamils imagine that figure. His ways of speaking, walking, eating and dress commend themselves to the many millions to whom these are familiar ways with nothing outlandish about them."37

Bhaskaran's judgment is indeed right. That is certainly the reason why the beleaguered Congress in Tamil Nadu is wooing the Tamils today with the promise of 'Kamaraj Rule.'

Most know why it cannot promise a 'Rajaji Rule'

K Plan

Kamaraj remained Chief Minister for three consecutive terms Fact|date=July 2008 Kamaraj noticed that the Congress party was slowly losing its vigor. He came up with a plan which was called the "Kamaraj Plan".

On October 2, 1963, he resigned from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Post. He proposed that all senior Congress leaders should resign from their posts and devote all their energy to the re-vitalization of the Congress.

In 1963 he suggested to Nehru that senior Congress leaders should leave ministerial posts to take up organisational work. This suggestion came to be known as the ‘Kamaraj Plan’, which was designed primarily to dispel from the minds of Congressmen the lure for power, creating in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and policies of the organisation. Kamaraj was elected President, Indian National Congress, on October 9, 1963.

Well impressed by the achievements and acumen of Kamraj, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru felt that his services were needed more at the national level. In a swift move he brought Kamaraj to Delhi as the President of the Indian National Congress. Nehru realised that if he had wide learning and vision, Kamaraj possessed enormous common sense and pragmatism.

Advice to his ministers

Kamaraj gave a simple advice to his ministers, "Face the problem. Don't evade it. Find a solution, however small. People will be satisfied if you do something." Followed by him a number of Central and State ministers like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Morarji Desai and S.K. Patil followed suit and resigned from their posts. In 1964, Kamaraj was elected 'Congress President' and he successfully navigated the party and the nation through the stormy years following Nehru's death. Kamaraj’s political maturity came in full view when Nehru died in 1964. How he settled the succession issue for the Prime Ministership was amply proved by his choice of Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi in succession.


On October 2, 1975, Gandhi Jayanti day, Kamaraj awoke from his afternoon nap feeling uneasy. His housekeeper, Vairavan, rang up his physician. While he was on his way out, Kamaraj said, "Vairavan, put out the lights when you go out." K. Kamaraj died that day in his sleep. He was honored with the highest civilian honour, the 'Bharat Ratna' posthumously in 1976.


In 2004 a Tamil Movie about his life was released titled "Kamaraj". The English version of the movie was released on DVD in 2007.


External links

* [http://kamarajar.blogspot.com Collection of Kamarajar's Rare Photos ]
* [http://www.kamaraj.com The official website about Perunthalivar Kamaraj by Congress Party ]
* [http://www.kamaraj.org/ A site about Kamaraj ]
* [http://www.perunthalaivar.org A website Dedicated to Perunthalaivar Kamaraj]
* [http://kamaraj101.blogspot.com/ A blog collection of Kamaraj's life sketch]

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