Patriots > Freedom Struggle under Mahatma Gandhi > Kamaraj , Kumarswami
Kamaraj , Kumarswami (1903 - ? )

Kumarswami Kamaraj, who played a leading role in shaping India’s destiny from the passing away of Jawaharlal Nehru to the Congress-split in 1969, was born humble and poor in a backward tract of Tamilnadu. He was born a Nadar, one of the most depressed castes in the Hindu society. Virudhunagar (it was called Virudhupatti then), where he was born on 15 July 1903, lies in the relatively backward District of Ramnad.

Kumarswami Nadar, the father of Kamaraj, a petty coconut-shop owner, died when Kamraj was only six. Uncle Karuppiah Nadar, who was running a small cloth-shop, came to the rescue of Kamaraj, his only sister Nagammal and the windowed mother Sivakami Ammla.

He was barely fifteen when he heard of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which was the decisive turning point in his life, two years later when Kamaraj saw Gandhiji at Madurai, the path was chosen. He became a member of the Indian National Congress. Kamaraj was content for years to remain a rank and file Congress volunteer, working hard for the cause of the freedom movement, unmindful of his personal comfort or career. Though he tried for some time an insurance agency as a means of earning some money, he gave it up after a few months. Political activity became his sole preoccupation.

Kamaraj was eighteen when he responded to the call of Gandhiji for non-cooperation with the British. He carried on propaganda in the villages, raised funds for Congress work and took a leading part in organising meetings, first at Virudhunagar and then in the entire District of Ramnad. At twenty Kamaraj was picked up by S. Satyamurthy, one of the greatest and a leading figure of the Tamilnadu Congress Committee, who was to be Kamaraj’s political guru.

In April 1930 Kamaraj joined the Salt Satyagraha Movement at Vedaranyam and was sentenced to two years, his first term in prison. Jail going had become a part of his career, and in all he had been to prison six times and spent more than 3,000 days in British Jails. Bachelor Kamaraj was forty-four when India became free.

He was elected President of the Tamilnad Congress Committee in February 1940. This marked in a very real sense a turning point in the political career of Kamaraj. He held that post till 1954. He was in the Working Committee of the A. I. C. C. from 1947 till the Congress split in 1969, either as a member or as a special invitee. After the split, he has been a leading figure in the Organisation Congress.

Kamaraj was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1937 unopposed. He was elected Chairman of the Virudhunagar Municipal Council in 1941, while in prison; and after release he took up the post for one day only and then resigned.]

He was again elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1946. He was also elected to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1946, and later to the Parliament in 1952. He resigned his seat in Parliament when he became the Chief Minister of Madras in 1954. He was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1954, 1957 and 1967 General Elections, when the DMK swept the polls.

In January 1969, Kamaraj triumphed in the Lok Sabha by-election from Nagercoilo, defeating his immediate rival Dr. M. Mathias, an independent backed by the ruling United Front, by a massive majority of votes.

Kamaraj was perhaps the first non

English-knowing Chief Minister in India. But it was during the nine years of his administration that Tamilnadu came to be known as one of the best administered States in India. His team was small, compact, able and devoted. None of his ministers could be accused of corruption or nepotism.

As Chief Minister Kamaraj dedicated himself to the spread of education. As a result of his and his colleagues’ efforts every village in Tamilnadu with a population of 300 and above is now provided with a primary school within a distance of a mile. Rural electrification was another field where tremendous achievement was recorded. New industries were set up with the active encouragement given by the State Government.

In 1963 Kamaraj 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 and creating in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and politicies of the organisation. The plan was approved by the Congress Working Committee and was implemented within two months. Six Chief Ministers and six Union Ministers resigned under the Plan.

Kamaraj was elected President, Indian National Congress, on 9 October 1963. Twice he played a leading role in choosing the Prime Minister of India. As Congress President Kamaraj visited the Soviet Union and the East European countries. But that was not his first foreign trip. In 1954 he visited Malaya and Ceylon to acquaint himself with the problem of Indian settlers there.

His defeat in Virudhunagar in 1967 considerably undermined his prestige. It was even said that he was a much disillusioned man. But the landslide victory at Nagercoil revived his political stature. However, the split in the Congress in 1969 (he remained in the Organisation Congress) and the General Election of 1971 resulted in a set-back to his political prestige and authority. He is still quietly working among the masses. Kamaraj has built up a reputation for personal integrity. He is greatly respected throughout India. He is a true democrat and a socialist. He has literally grown with the Congress to which he has contributed his heart and soul.

“For the progress of our country,” he says, “we must strive in two ways. We must raise our standard of living. Secondly, we must also raise our self-respect. This is the objective of the Congress.

Some say that as Congress President Kamaraj was weak in implementing some of its basic policies, missed several opportunities and ended as a colossal failure. There are others who E. V. Ramasami Naicker, whose anti-national and anti-Indian antics, apart from his constant anti-Congress outbursts, continue till to-day, but, it must be said to the credit of Kamaraj that in spite of these criticisms he has never allowed his image in the All India Congress picture to be affected in any way.

As a product of the national movement and as one who participated in it, from the age of eighteen, Kamaraj with his rich and valuable experience, huge popularity and tremendous influence, will certainly play an increasing role in the task of democratic socialist construction in India, despite the temporary eclipse of political influence since 1971.

Author : M.Bhaktavatsalam