Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (10 December 1878 – 25 December 1972), informally called Rajaji or C.R., was an Indian statesman, writer, lawyer, and independence activist
. Rajagopalachari was the last Governor-General of India
, as India soon became a Republic in 1950. He was also the first Indian-born governor-general, as all previous holders of the post were British nationals. He also served as leader of the Indian National Congress
, Premier of the Madras Presidency
, Governor of West Bengal
, Minister for Home Affairs of the Indian Union and Chief Minister of Madras state
. Rajagopalachari founded the Swatantra Party
and was one of the first recipients of India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna
. He vehemently opposed the use of nuclear weapons and was a proponent of world peace and disarmament. During his lifetime, he also acquired the nickname 'Mango of Salem'.
Rajagopalachari was born in the Thorapalli
village of Hosur
taluk in the Krishnagiri district
of Tamil Nadu
and was educated at Central College
, Bangalore, and Presidency College, Madras
. In 1900's he started legal practice at the Salem court. On entering politics, he became a member and later President of the Salem
municipality. He joined the Indian National Congress and participated in the agitations against the Rowlatt Act
, joining the Non-Cooperation movement
, the Vaikom Satyagraha
, and the Civil Disobedience
movement. In 1930, Rajagopalachari risked imprisonment when he led the Vedaranyam Salt Satyagraha
in response to the Dandi March
. In 1937, Rajagopalachari was elected Prime minister of the Madras Presidency and served until 1940, when he resigned due to Britain's declaration of war on Germany. He later advocated co-operation over Britain's war effort and opposed the Quit India Movement
. He favoured talks with both Muhammad Ali Jinnah
and the Muslim League
and proposed what later came to be known as the ''C. R. formula
''. In 1946, Rajagopalachari was appointed Minister of Industry, Supply, Education and Finance in the Interim Government of India
, and then as the Governor of West Bengal
from 1947 to 1948, Governor-General of India from 1948 to 1950, Union Home Minister
from 1951 to 1952 and as Chief Minister of Madras state
from 1952 to 1954. In 1959, he resigned from the Indian National Congress and founded the Swatantra Party, which fought against the Congress in the 1962
elections. Rajagopalachari was instrumental in setting up a united Anti-Congress front in Madras state under C. N. Annadurai
, which swept the 1967 elections. He died on 25 December 1972 at age 94.
Rajagopalachari was an accomplished writer who made lasting contributions to Indian English literature
and is also credited with composition of the song ''Kurai Onrum Illai
'' set to Carnatic music
. He pioneered temperance
and temple entry movements
in India and advocated Dalit
upliftment. He has been criticised for introducing the compulsory study of Hindi
and the controversial Madras Scheme of Elementary Education
in Madras State
. Critics have often attributed his pre-eminence in politics to his standing as a favourite of both Mahatma Gandhi
and Jawaharlal Nehru
. Rajagopalachari was described by Gandhi as the "keeper of my conscience".
Rajagopalachari was born to Chakravarti Venkataryan, ''munsiff
'' of Thorapalli
[Bakshi, p. 1]
and Chakravarti Singaramma on 10 December 1878 in Thorapalli, Dharmapuri taluk
, Salem district
, Madras Presidency
, British Raj
. He was born in an Iyengar Brahmin
Tamil family. The couple already had two sons, Chakravarti Narasimhachari and Chakravarti Srinivasa.
[Varma et al., p. 50]
A weak and sickly child, Rajagopalachari was a constant worry to his parents who feared that he might not live long.
As a young child, he was admitted to a village school in Thorapalli
then at the age of five moved with his family to Hosur
where Rajagopalachari enrolled at Hosur R.V.Government Boys Hr sec School.
He passed his matriculation examinations in 1891 and graduated in arts from Central College, Bangalore
Rajagopalachari also studied law at the Presidency College, Madras
, from where he graduated in 1897.
Rajagopalachari married Alamelu Mangalamma in 1897
and the couple had five children, three sons: C. R. Narasimhan
, C. R. Krishnaswamy, and C. R. Ramaswami, and two daughters: Lakshmi Gandhi (''née'' Rajagopalachari) and Namagiri Ammal C. R. .
Mangamma died in 1916 whereupon Rajagopalachari took sole responsibility for the care of his children.
His son Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari Narasimhan
was elected to the Lok Sabha from Krishnagiri
in the 1952 and 1957 elections and served as a member of parliament for Krishnagiri from 1952 to 1962.
He later wrote a biography of his father. Rajagopalachari's daughter Lakshmi married Devdas Gandhi
, son of Mahatma Gandhi
while his grandsons include biographer Rajmohan Gandhi
, philosopher Ramchandra Gandhi
and former governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi
. His great-grandson, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari Kesavan, is a spokesperson of the Congress Party and Trustee of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee
Indian Independence Movement
Rajagopalachari's interest in public affairs and politics began when he commenced his legal practice in Salem
At the age of 28, he joined the Indian National Congress
and participated as a delegate in the 1906 Calcutta
Inspired by Indian independence activist Bal Gangadhar Tilak
[Varma et al., p. 52]
he later became a member of the Salem municipality in 1911.
In 1917, he was elected Chairman of the municipality and served from 1917 to 1919
during which time he was responsible for the election of the first Dalit
member of the Salem municipality. In 1917, he defended Indian independence activist P. Varadarajulu Naidu
against charges of sedition
[Ralhan, p. 34]
and two years later participated in the agitations against the Rowlatt Act
Rajagopalachari was a close friend of the founder of Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company V. O. Chidambaram Pillai
as well as greatly admired by Indian independence activists Annie Besant
and C. Vijayaraghavachariar
After Mahatma Gandhi
joined the Indian independence movement in 1919, Rajagopalachari became one of his followers.
He participated in the Non-Cooperation movement and gave up his law practice.
In 1921, he was elected to the Congress Working Committee and served as the General Secretary of the party
before making his first major breakthrough as a leader during the 1922 Indian National Congress session at Gaya
when he strongly opposed collaboration with the colonial administration and participation in the diarchial
legislatures established by the Government of India Act 1919
While Gandhi was in prison, Rajagopalachari led the group of "No-Changers", individuals against contesting elections for the Imperial Legislative Council
and other provincial legislative councils, in opposition to the "Pro-changers" who advocated council entry.
When the motion was put to the vote, the "No-changers" won by 1,748 to 890 votes resulting in the resignation of important Congress leaders including Pandit Motilal Nehru
and C. R. Das
, the President of the Indian National Congress.
When the Indian National Congress split in 1923, Rajagopalachari was a member of the Civil Disobedience Enquiry Committee.
He was also involved in the Vaikom Satyagraha
movement against untouchability
In the early 1930s, Rajagopalachari emerged as one of the major leaders of the Tamil Nadu
Congress. When Gandhi organised the Dandi march in 1930, Rajagopalachari broke the salt laws at Vedaranyam
, near Nagapattinam
, along with Indian independence activist Sardar Vedaratnam
and was afterwards imprisoned by the colonial government
He was subsequently elected President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.
Following enactment of the Government of India Act in 1935, Rajagopalachari was instrumental in getting the Indian National Congress to participate in the 1937 general elections.
Madras Presidency 1937–39
The Indian National Congress first came to power in the Madras Presidency
(also called Madras Province by the British), following the Madras elections of 1937
. Except for a six-year period when Madras was under the governor's direct rule, the Congress administered the presidency until India became independent on 15 August 1947.
[Encyclopedia of Political Parties, p. 199]
At the age of 59, Rajagopalachari won the Madras University seat and entered the Assembly as the first Premier of the Madras Presidency from the Congress party.
Rajagopalachari issued the Temple Entry Authorization and Indemnity Act 1939, under which restrictions were removed on Dalits and Shanars
entering Hindu temples.
[Kothari, p. 116]
In the same year, the Meenakshi temple at Madurai
was also opened to the Dalits and Shanars. In March 1938 Rajagopalachari introduced the Agricultural Debt Relief Act, to ease the burden of debt on the province's peasant population.
He also introduced prohibition
[Bakshi, p. 149]
along with a sales tax to compensate for the loss of government revenue that resulted from the ban on alcohol.
The Provincial Government shut down hundreds of government-run primary schools, citing lack of funds.
His opponents said that this deprived many low-caste and Dalit students of their education. His opponents also attributed casteist
motives to his government's implementation of Gandhi's Nai Talim
into the education system.
Rajagopalachari's tenure as Chief Minister of Madras is largely remembered for the compulsory introduction of Hindi in educational institutions, which made him highly unpopular.
This measure sparked off widespread anti-Hindi
protests, which led to violence in some places and the jailing of over 1,200 men, women and children who took part in the unrest.
Two protesters, Thalamuthu Nadar and Natarasan, were killed during the protests.
In 1940, Congress ministers resigned in protest over the declaration of war on Germany without their consent, leaving the governor to take over the reins of the administration. On 21 February 1940 the unpopular new law on the use of Hindi was quickly repealed by the Governor of Madras.
Despite its numerous shortcomings, Madras under Rajagopalachari was still considered by political historians as the best administered province in British India.
Second World War
Some months after the outbreak of the Second World War
, Rajagopalachari resigned as premier along with other members of his cabinet in protest at the declaration of war by the Viceroy of India
. Rajagopalachari was arrested in December 1940, in accordance with the Defence of India rules, and sentenced to one-year in prison.
However, subsequently, Rajagopalachari differed in opposition to the British war effort.
He also opposed the Quit India Movement
and instead advocated dialogue with the British.
He reasoned that passivity and neutrality would be harmful to India's interests at a time when the country was threatened with invasion.
He also advocated dialogue with the Muslim League
, which was demanding the partition of India.
He subsequently resigned from the party and the assembly following differences over resolutions passed by the Madras Congress legislative party and disagreements with the leader of the Madras provincial Congress K. Kamaraj
Following the end of the war in 1945, elections followed in the Madras Presidency in 1946. During the last years of the war, Kamaraj was requested by Nehru, PM; Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, Home Minister; and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to make Rajaji the Premier of Madras Presidency. Kamaraj, President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, was forced to make anguturi Prakasam
as Chief Ministerial candidate, by the elected members, to prevent Rajagopalachari from winning. However, Rajagopalachari did not contest the elections, and Prakasam was elected.
Rajaji was instrumental in initiating negotiations between Gandhi and Jinnah.
In 1944, he proposed a solution to the Indian Constitutional tangle.
In the same year, he proposed an "absolute majority" threshold of 55 per cent when deciding whether a district should become part of India or Pakistan,
triggering a huge controversy among nationalists.
From 1946 to 1947, Rajagopalachari served as the Minister for Industry, Supply, Education, and Finance in the Interim Government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
Governor of West Bengal 1947–1948
When India and Pakistan attained independence on 15 August 1947, the British province of Bengal was partitioned into two, with West Bengal
becoming part of India and East Bengal
part of Pakistan. Supported by Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajagopalachari was appointed first Governor of West Bengal
[Ghose, p. 331]
Disliked by Bengalis for his criticism of the Bengali revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose
during the 1938 Tripuri Congress session,
Rajagopalachari's appointment was unsuccessfully opposed by Bose's brother Sarat Chandra Bose
During his tenure as governor, Rajagopalachari's priorities were to deal with refugees and to bring peace and stability in the aftermath of the Calcutta riots
He declared his commitment to neutrality and justice at a meeting of Muslim businessmen: "Whatever may be my defects or lapses, let me assure you that I shall never disfigure my life with any deliberate acts of injustice to any community whatsoever."
Rajagopalachari was also strongly opposed to proposals to include areas from Bihar
as part of the province of West Bengal.
One such proposal by the editor of an important newspaper led to the reply:
"I see that you are not able to restrain the policy of agitation over inter-provincial boundaries. It is easy to yield to the current pressure of opinion and it is difficult to impose on enthusiastic people any policy of restraint. But I earnestly plead that we should do all we can to prevent ill-will from hardening into a chronic disorder. We have enough ill-will and prejudice to cope with. Must we hasten to create further fissiparous forces?"
Despite the general attitude of the Bengalis, Rajagopalachari was highly regarded and respected by Chief Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghosh
and the state cabinet.
Governor-General of India 1948–1950
From 10 until 24 November 1947, Rajagopalachari served as Acting Governor-General of India
in the absence of the Governor-General Lord Mountbatten
, who was on leave in England to attend the marriage of Princess Elizabeth
to Mountbatten's nephew Prince Philip
Rajagopalachari led a very simple life in the viceregal palace, washing his own clothes and polishing his own shoes.
[Kesavan, p. 36]
Impressed with his abilities, Mountbatten made Rajagopalachari his second choice to succeed him after Vallabhbhai Patel
, when he was to leave India in June 1948.
Rajagopalachari was eventually chosen as the governor-general when Nehru disagreed with Mountbatten's first choice, as did Patel himself.
He was initially hesitant but accepted when Nehru wrote to him, "I hope you will not disappoint us. We want you to help us in many ways. The burden on some of us is more than we can carry."
Rajagopalachari then served as Governor-General of India from June 1948 until 26 January 1950, and was not only the last Governor-General of India, but the only Indian national ever to hold the office.
By the end of 1949, an assumption was made that Rajagopalachari, already governor-general, would continue as president.
Backed by Nehru, Rajagopalachari wanted to stand for the presidential election but later withdrew,
[Guha, p 47]
due to the opposition of a section of the Indian National Congress mostly made up of North India
ns who were concerned about Rajagopalachari's non-participation during the Quit India Movement.
[Ralhan, p 31] [Gandhi, p. 309. "Why was the party not keen on C. R., whose success as Governor-General had been unquestioned? That he came from outside the Hindi belt and was not fluent in the language were perhaps factors. 'The protagonists of Hindi favour Rajendra Prasad', Nehru told Patel. But the biggest reason was C. R.'s 1942 role."]
Role in Constituent Assembly
He was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Madras. He was a part of Advisory Committee and Sub-Committee on Minorities. He debated on issues relating to rights of religious denominations.
In Nehru's Cabinet
At Nehru's invitation, in 1950 Rajagopalachari joined the Union Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio
where he served as a buffer between Nehru and Home Minister Sardar Patel
and on occasion offered to mediate between the two.
Following Patel's death on 15 December 1950, Rajagopalachari was finally made Home Affairs Minister
and went on to serve for nearly 10 months.
As had his predecessor, he warned Nehru about the expansionist designs of China and expressed regret over the Tibet
problem. He also expressed concern over demands for new linguistically based states, arguing that they would generate differences amongst the people.
By the end of 1951, the differences between Nehru and Rajagopalachari came to the fore.
While Nehru perceived the Hindu Mahasabha
to be the greatest threat to the nascent republic, Rajagopalachari held the opinion that the Communists
posed the greatest danger.
[Zachariah, p. 185]
He also adamantly opposed Nehru's decision to commute the death sentences passed on those involved in the Telangana uprising
and his strong pro-Soviet
[Zachariah, p. 186]
Tired of being persistently over-ruled by Nehru with regard to critical decisions,
Rajagopalachari submitted his resignation on the "grounds of ill-health" and returned to Madras.
[Ghose, p. 332]
Madras State 1952–1954
In the 1952 Madras elections
, the Indian National Congress was reduced to a minority in the state assembly with a coalition led by the Communist Party of India
winning most of the seats.
Though he did not contest the election, Madras Governor Sri Prakasa
appointed Rajagopalachari as Chief Minister by nomination as MLC
without consulting either the Indian Prime Minister Nehru or the ministers in the Madras state cabinet.
[Reddy, p. 24] [Reddy, p. 25]
Rajagopalachari was then able to prove that he had a majority in the assembly by luring MLAs
from opposition parties to join the Indian National Congress.
Nehru was furious and wrote to Rajagopalachari saying "the one thing we must avoid giving is the impression that we stick to office and we want to keep others out at all costs."
Rajagopalachari, however, refused to contest a by-election and remained as an unelected member of the legislative council.
During Rajagopalachari's tenure as Chief Minister, a powerful movement for a separate Andhra State
, comprising the Telugu
-speaking districts of the Madras State, gained a foothold.
On 19 October 1952, an Indian independence activist and social worker from Madras named Potti Sriramulu
embarked on a hunger strike reiterating the demands of the separatists and calling for the inclusion of Madras city within the proposed state.
Rajagopalachari remained unmoved by Sriramulu's action and refused to intervene.
After fasting for days, Sriramulu eventually died on 15 December 1952, triggering riots in Madras city and the Telugu-speaking districts of the state.
Initially, both Rajagopalachari and Prime Minister Nehru were against the creation of linguistically demarcated states but as the law and order situation in the state deteriorated, both were forced to accept the demands.
Andhra State was thus created on 1 October 1953 from the Telugu-speaking districts of Madras, with its capital at Kurnool
However, the boundaries of the new state were determined by a commission which decided against the inclusion of Madras city.
Though the commission's report suggested the option of having Madras as the temporary capital of Andhra State to allow smooth partitioning of the assets and the secretariat, Rajagopalachari refused to allow Andhra State to have Madras even for a day.
On 31 May 1952, Rajagopalachari put an end to sugar rationing and followed up by abolishing control over food supplies on 5 June 1952. He also introduced measures to regulate the running of universities in the state. In 1953, he introduced a new education scheme known as the "Modified System of Elementary Education", which reduced schooling for elementary school students to three hours per day
with students expected to learn the family vocation at home during the remainder of the day.
The plan came in for sharp criticism and evoked strong protests from the Dravidian parties
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
dubbed the scheme ''Kula Kalvi Thittam'' or Hereditary Education Policy
and attempted to organise massive demonstrations outside Rajagopalachari's house on 13 and 14 July 1953.
The rising unpopularity of his government forced K. Kamaraj to withdraw his support for Rajagopalachari and on 26 March 1954, he resigned as President of the Madras Legislature Congress Party thereby precipitating new elections. During the subsequent poll held on 31 March 1954, Rajagopalachari fielded C. Subramaniam against Kamaraj.
But Subramaniam could garner only 41 votes to Kamaraj's 93 and lost the elections.
Rajagopalachari eventually resigned as Chief Minister on 13 April 1954, attributing the decision to poor health.
Split from Congress – parting of ways
Following his resignation as Chief Minister, Rajagopalachari took a temporary break from active politics and instead devoted his time to literary pursuits. He wrote a Tamil re-telling of the Sanskrit epic ''Ramayana
'' which appeared as a serial in the Tamil magazine ''Kalki
'' from 23 May 1954 to 6 November 1955.
The episodes were later collected and published as ''Chakravarthi Thirumagan'', a book which won Rajagopalachari the 1958 Sahitya Academy award in Tamil language
[Varma et al., p. 68]
On Republic Day
1955, Rajagopalachari was honoured with India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna
[Varma et al., p. 69]
Rajagopalachari tendered his official resignation from the Indian National Congress and along with a number of other dissidents organised the Congress Reform Committee
(CRC) in January 1957.
K. S. Venkatakrishna Reddiar
was elected president and the party fielded candidates in 55 constituencies in the 1957 state assembly elections
, to emerge as the second largest party in Madras state with 13 seats in the legislative assembly.
The Congress Reform Committee also contested 12 Lok Sabha
seats during the 1957 Indian elections
The committee became a fully-fledged political party and was renamed the Indian National Democratic Congress at a state conference held in Madurai
on September 28–29, 1957.
On 4 June 1959, shortly after the Nagpur session of the Indian National Congress, Rajagopalachari, along with Murari Vaidya
of the newly established Forum of Free Enterprise (FFE)
[Erdman, p. 66]
and Minoo Masani
, a classical liberal
and critic of socialist Nehru, announced the formation of the new Swatantra Party
at a meeting in Madras.
[Erdman, p. 65]
Conceived by disgruntled heads of former princely states such as the Raja of Ramgarh, the Maharaja of Kalahandi and the Maharajadhiraja of Darbhanga, the party was conservative in character.
[Erdman, p. 74] [Erdman, p. 72]
Later, N. G. Ranga
, K. M. Munshi
, Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa
and the Maharaja of Patiala joined the effort.
Rajagopalachari, Masani and Ranga also tried but failed to involve Jayaprakash Narayan
in the initiative.
[Erdman, p. 78]
In his short essay "Our Democracy", Rajagopalachari explained the necessity for a right-wing alternative to the Congress by saying:
since... the Congress Party has swung to the Left, what is wanted is not an ultra or outer-Left iz. the CPI or the Praja Socialist Party, PSP but a strong and articulate Right
Rajagopalachari also insisted that the opposition must:
operate not privately and behind the closed doors of the party meeting, but openly and periodically through the electorate.
He outlined the goals of the Swatantra Party through twenty one "fundamental principles" in the foundation document.
[Erdman, p. 188]
The party stood for equality and opposed government control over the private sector.
[Erdman, p. 189] [Erdman, p. 190]
Rajagopalachari sharply criticised the bureaucracy and coined the term "licence-permit Raj
" to describe Nehru's elaborate system of permissions and licences required for an individual to set up a private enterprise. Rajagopalachari's personality became a rallying point for the party.
Rajagopalachari's efforts to build an anti-Congress front led to a patch up with his former adversary C. N. Annadurai
of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Annadurai grew close to Rajagopalachari and sought an alliance with the Swatantra Party for the 1962 Madras legislative assembly elections
. Although there were occasional electoral pacts between the Swatantra Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Rajagopalachari remained non-committal on a formal tie-up with the DMK due to its existing alliance with Communists whom he dreaded.
The Swatantra Party contested 94 seats in the Madras state assembly elections and won six
as well as won 18 parliamentary seats in the 1962 Lok Sabha elections
India's use of military force against Portugal
to capture the Portuguese enclave of Goa was criticised by Rajagopalachari
who said of the operation and subsequent acts of international diplomacy, "India has totally lost the moral power to raise her voice against the use of military power."
1965 Anti-Hindi agitations in Madras
On 26 January 1950, the Government of India adopted Hindi
as the official language of the country, but because of objections in non-Hindi-speaking areas, it introduced a provision tentatively making English the second official language on a par with Hindi for a stipulated fifteen-year period to facilitate a switch to Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states. From 26 January 1965 onwards, Hindi was to become the sole official language of the Indian Union and people in non-Hindi speaking regions were compelled to learn Hindi. This led to vehement opposition and just before Republic Day, severe anti-Hindi protests
broke out in Madras State. Rajagopalachari had earlier been sharply critical of the recommendations made by the Official Languages Commission in 1957.
[Ghose, p. 218]
On 28 January 1956, Rajagopalachari signed a resolution along with Annadurai and Periyar endorsing the continuation of English as the official language.
At an All-India Language Conference held on 8 March 1958, he declared: "Hindi is as much foreign to non-Hindi speaking people as English s
to the protagonists of Hindi".
When the Anti-Hindi agitations broke out in 1965, Rajagopalachari completely reversed his 1938 support for the introduction of Hindi and took a strongly anti-Hindi stand in support of the protests,
On 17 January 1965, he convened the Madras state Anti-Hindi conference in Tiruchirapalli
angrily declaring that Part XVII of the Constitution of India which declared that Hindi was the official language should "be heaved and thrown into the Arabian Sea."
The fourth elections to the Madras Legislative assembly
were held in February 1967.
At the age of 88, Rajagopalachari worked to forge a united opposition to the Indian National Congress through a tripartite alliance between the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
, the Swatantra Party and the Forward Bloc.
The Congress party was defeated in Madras for the first time in 30 years and the coalition led by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam came to power.
C. N. Annadurai
served as Chief Minister from 6 March 1967 till his death on 3 February 1969. Rajagopalachari delivered a moving eulogy to Annadurai at his funeral.
The Swatantra party also did well in elections in other states and to the Lok Sabha, the directly elected lower house
of the Parliament of India
. It won 45 Lok Sabha seats in the 1967 general elections and emerged as the single largest opposition party. The principal opposition party in the states of Rajasthan
, it also formed a coalition government
and had a significant presence in Andhra Pradesh
, Tamil Nadu and Bihar
Later years and death
In 1971, Annadurai's successor M. Karunanidhi
relaxed prohibition laws in Tamil Nadu
due to the poor financial situation of the state.
Rajagopalachari pleaded with him not to repeal prohibition but to no avail
and as a result, the Swatantra Party withdrew its support for the state government
[Ralhan, p. 32]
and instead allied with the Congress
, a breakaway faction of the Indian National Congress led by Kamaraj.
In January 1971, a three-party anti-Congress coalition was established by the Congress (O), Jan Sangh
and the Samyukta Socialist Party
then on 8 January, the national executive of the Swatantra Party took the unanimous decision to join the coalition.
The dissident parties formed an alliance called the National Democratic Front and fought against the Indian National Congress led by Indira Gandhi
in the 1971 Indian general election
However, the alliance fared badly.
The Swatantra Party's tally was reduced to 8 seats from 23 in the 1967 elections.
The decline of the Swatantra Party was also visible in the 1971 Tamil Nadu Legislative assembly elections
in which it won just 19 seats down from 27 in the 1967 elections.
By November 1972, Rajagopalachari's health had begun to decline
[Ralhan, p. 36]
and on 17 December the same year, a week after his 94th birthday, he was admitted to the Government Hospital, Madras suffering from uraemia
and a urinary infection
In the hospital, he was visited by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, V. R. Nedunchezhiyan
, V. V. Giri
and other state and national leaders.
Rajagopalachari's condition deteriorated in the following days as he frequently lost consciousness and he died at 5:44 pm on Christmas
day, 25 December 1972 at the age of 94.
[Ralhan, p 38]
His son, C. R. Narasimhan
, was at his bedside at the time of his death reading him verses from a Hindu holy book.
He was a widower for 56 years, and also outlived a son and both his sons-in-law.
Contributions to literature and music
An accomplished writer both in his mother tongue Tamil as well as English,
Rajagopalachari was the founder of the Salem Literary Society and regularly participated in its meetings.
In 1922, he published ''Siraiyil Tavam'' (Meditation in jail), a day-to-day account of his first imprisonment by the colonial government from 21 December 1921 to 20 March 1922.
Rajagopalachari started the Tamil Scientific Terms Society in 1916,
a group that coined new words in Tamil for terms connected to botany, chemistry, physics, astronomy and mathematics.
At about the same time, he called for Tamil to be introduced as the medium of instruction in schools.
In 1951, he wrote an abridged retelling of the ''Mahabharata
'' in English,
followed by one of the ''Ramayana'' in 1957.
Earlier, in 1961, he had translated Kambar
's Tamil ''Ramayana'' into English.
In 1965, he translated the Thirukkural
into English and also wrote books on the Bhagavad Gita
and the Upanishads
in English as well as works on Socrates
, and Marcus Aurelius
[Bakshi, p 3]
Rajagopalachari often regarded his literary works as the best service he had rendered to the people.
In 1958, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award
for works in the Tamil
language for his retelling of the ''Ramayana'' – ''Chakravarti Thirumagan''.
He was also one of the founders of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of education and Indian culture.
In 1959, the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan published his book: "Hinduism: Doctrine and Way of Life".
Apart from his literary works, Rajagopalachari also composed a devotional song ''Kurai Onrum Illai
'' devoted to Lord Venkateshwara
a song set to music and a regular at Carnatic
concerts. Rajagopalachari composed a benediction hymn sung by M. S. Subbulakshmi
at the United Nations General Assembly in 1967.
In 1954, during US Vice-President Richard Nixon
's nineteen country Asian tour, he was lectured by Rajagopalachari on the consuming emotional quality of nuclear weapons.
The pair discussed spiritual life, particularly reincarnation and predestination.
Nixon wrote three pages of notes recording Rajagopalachari's words, claiming in his memoirs thirty-six years later that the afternoon "had such a dramatic effect on me that I used many of his thoughts in my speeches over the next several years."
While on a tour to the United States as a member of the Gandhi Peace Foundation
delegation, in September 1962 Rajagopalachari visited American President John F. Kennedy
at the White House
[Pasricha, p. 71]
Rajagopalachari warned Kennedy of the dangers of embarking on an arms race, even one which the US could win.
At the end of the meeting Kennedy remarked "This meeting had the most civilizing influence on me.
Seldom have I heard a case presented with such precision, clarity and elegance of language".
[Pasricha, p. 72]
On 1 May 1955, Rajagopalachari appealed to the Government of India to cancel receipt of aid from America if the country continued with its nuclear tests.
E. M. S. Namboodiripad
, a prominent Communist Party
leader, once remarked that Rajagopalachari was the Congress leader he respected the most despite the fact he was also someone with whom he had the most differences.
[Ralhan, p. 50]
Of Rajagopalachari, Periyar, one of his foremost political rivals remarked "he was a leader unique and unequalled, who lived and worked for high ideals".
On his death, condolences poured in from all corners of the country. Indira Gandhi
, the then Prime Minister of India commented:
Regarded as a pioneer of social reform,
Rajagopalachari issued temple entry proclamations in the Madras Presidency and worked towards the upliftment of Dalits. He played a pivotal role in the conclusion of the Poona Pact
between B. R. Ambedkar
and the Indian National Congress and spearheaded the Mahabal Temple Entry program in 1938.
He was a staunch advocate of prohibition and was elected Secretary of the Prohibition League of India in 1930.
On assuming the premiership of the Madras Presidency, he introduced prohibition
throughout the province.
where it remained in vogue until its removal by M. Karunanidhi over thirty years later. Rajagopalachari was also an active member of the All India Spinners Association.
and a strong opponent of "linguistic states", which he felt would bring anarchy to India.
He is also remembered for his literary contributions, some of which are considered modern-day classics. He frequently wrote articles for ''Kalki
'' and his own journal Swarajya, of which Philip Spratt
, Governor of Bengal from 1944 to 1946, regarded Rajagopalachari as the wisest man in India.
The best possible tribute to Rajagopalachari was from Mahatma Gandhi who referred to him as the "keeper of my conscience".
Today, his private papers are part of the Archives at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library
, at Teen Murti House
On 21 August 1978, a portrait of Rajagopalachri is put in the Central Hall of Parliament House
. The portrait of Rajagopalachri, painted by N. S. Subhakrishna, was unveiled by the then President of India, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
Rajagopalachari was considered one of the ablest statesmen in the national arena. Critics opine that he completely failed to gauge the thoughts and feelings of the masses – his introduction of Hindi
and the Madras Scheme of Elementary Education have both been extensively criticised while his pacifist stance during the Quit India Movement and his "C. R. formula
" angered the majority of his colleagues in the Indian National Congress.
P. C. Alexander
, a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, once wrote:
Although his popularity at the regional level fluctuated greatly, Rajagopalachari was able to exercise his stranglehold over provincial politics mainly because he was favoured by national leaders such as Gandhi, Patel and Nehru.
The President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, K. Kamaraj, and a majority of the provincial leaders opposed him in the 1940s, Rajagopalachari clung on to a position of influence in regional politics through support from his colleagues at the centre.
Rajagopalachari was the pro-Brahminism nemesis
of the anti-Brahminism
movement constituting the Dravidian movement
He took stances that were pro-Sanskrit and pro-Hindi. Rajagopalachari found it difficult to fight against the masses' feeling because his imposition of Hindi during the Madras Anti-Hindi agitations
of 1965. His attempts to heavily "Sanskritise" Tamil vocabulary through the inclusion of a large number of Sanskrit-derived words in his writings were not received well.
He closed down six thousand schools, citing financial constraints,
and introduced the Modified Scheme of Elementary education 1953
or Kula Kalvi Thittam that implied a caste-based education system which ultimately led to his resignation; this gave raise to Kamaraj, who opposed this policy and eventually opened 12000 schools.
* List of places named after C. Rajagopalachari
* Vasanthi Srinivasan, Gandhi's Conscience Keeper: C Rajagopalachari and Indian Politics (Permanent Black 2009)
Vasanthi Srinivasan, Gandhi's Conscience Keeper: C Rajagopalachari and Indian Politics (Permanent Black 2009)
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