Kumarswami Kamaraj, who played a leading role
in shaping Indias 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
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
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 Kamarajs 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
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
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
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
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.