Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari (Tamil: சக்ரவர்தி ராஜகோபாலாச்சாரி) (b. December 10, 1878 - d. December 25, 1972), known as or Rajaji or C.R., was an Indian lawyer, writer, statesman and a devout Hindu . He was the second Governor-General of independent India. Later he became the Chief Minister of Madras State, and was one of the first recipients of India's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna (in 1954), the other two being Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Dr. C.V.Raman, all from the same state Tamil Nadu.
Rajagopalachari was born into a Tamil Brahmin family in a small village called Thorapalli of the then Salem District. (Now Thorapalli is in Krishnagiri District.) He had his school education at Hosur and college education at Madras (Chennai) and Bangalore. He was married to Alamelu Mangamma when he was young and they had five children. His wife died when he was 37 and he solely took the responsibility of taking care of his children. Rajaji studied law in Bangalore and started his practice at Salem. As a lawyer he was very successful. When in Salem, Rajaji showed keen interest in the social and political affairs. He was even elected as the Municipal Chairman of Salem and he held that post for two years. He was affectionately hailed as the "Mango of Salem".
With the Congress
Rajaji started to take part in the politics of the nation at the beginning of the 1900s. At first he was drawn towards Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He had a good relationship with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai, an ardent follower of Tilak. During the Home Rule League days he admired Dr. Annie Besant and he highly revered Salem C. Vijayaraghavachariar, one of the founders of the Congress Party.
In the year 1919 Rajaji chose to follow Mahatma Gandhi, who had just returned from South Africa. In the year 1921, Rajaji was selected as the General Secretary of the Congress Party and he came into close contact with Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad, Rajendra Prasad etc. and began to gain stature in the party.
At one time considered Mahatma Gandhi's heir, this brilliant lawyer from Salem, Tamil Nadu was regarded in pre-independence years as one of the top five leaders of the Congress along with Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Rajaji was also connected by marriage to Mahatma Gandhi, as his daughter married Devdas Gandhi. Of the five, Rajaji, Nehru and Patel were christened the "head, heart and hands" of Gandhi, in whose shadows they remained till his death. Ironically, all three of them were to have a tempestuous relationship, bound together only by their common goal and Gandhi's charm. However, they respected each other immensely. Nehru wrote about Rajaji in his autobiography of how Rajaji's "brilliant intellect, selfless character, and penetrating powers of analysis have been a tremendous asset to our cause". Rajaji's intellect and political acumen is often compared with that of Chanakya.
He had a very intimate relationship with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. In fact after his resignation as Governor-General he was called back to join Nehru's Cabinet mainly to work as a bridge between Nehru and Patel, a role in which he very well suited and succeeded after Mahatma Gandhi. Though in later years Rajaji developed differences with Nehru with regards to economic policy, their personal relationship remained unstrained. Both had a high regard and affection on each other. Sardar Patel had always identified Rajaji as one of his close companions, he always shared a cordial relationship with Rajaji. He was so open to Rajaji that he shared his personal views about Nehru, Maulana Azad and their policy with him. Both of Sardar Patel and Rajaji were averse to Socialism and communism. As one of the Top Five Leaders of the Congress, Rajaji had to play a very vital role in policy making of the Congress Party. He was a member in the Working Committee from 1919 to 1942 and then 1950 to 1955. Though he was active in Congress for nearly 50 years, Rajaji was not Congress president even once. In 1932 he was the acting President of Congress Party and played a vital role in forging the Poona Pact with Ambedkar. Rajaji was requested to occupy the Presidency of Congress in the years 1934 and 1936 by Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel but he refused. Once again in 1950 Rajaji was sought after by Nehru and Patel to accept the Presidency of the party but he put down the offer once again.
Rajaji was perhaps the earliest Congress leader in the 1940s to accept the right of Muslims to self-determination. He devised a formula whereby there could be common defence and communications between the two nations. But the Rajaji formula was rejected by Jinnah as well as some Congress leaders. Rajaji was known to be a fierce defender of his political ideals, and did not hesitate to contradict his closest aides and friends in public, whenever he sensed a threat to them.
In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, "Rajaji represents fundamentally the highest type of mind in India." A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, "conscience keeper of the Mahatma", was an ardent freedom fighter.
After serving time in British prisons for his work in the independence movement, he became a member of the Governor's Council in 1946 and first held the portfolios of Education and Arts and in Jan,1947 held the portfolio of Industries and Supply and after the resignation of Liaquat Ali Khan from the Interim Government, the portfolio of Finance was also held by him. In 1948, after Indian independence was attained, he replaced Mountbatten to become the only Indian Governor-General of India, in which post he continued till the Republic was declared on January 26, 1950. The office was replaced by that of President, first held by Rajendra Prasad.
Rajaji became a member of Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet, first without portfolio, then, after Patel's death, as Home Minister. He was chief minister of Madras from 1952 to 1954.
On leaving government, he was among the first recipients of the Bharat Ratna, the Indian government's highest civilian award.
Rajaji has the unique distinction of being the only Indian Governor-General. Prior to his occupying this great distinguished position he was serving as the Governor of West Bengal. Rajaji had served as Acting Governor-General during November,1947, when Lord Mountbatten was in England to attend Prince Phillip's marriage to then-Princess Elizabeth. Rajaji led a very simple life in the viceregal palace. He even used to wash his own clothes, a great change from the pomp required by Lord Mountbatten. Once when a friend of Rajaji came to see him, was surprised to see Rajaji polishing his shoes on his own. He was astonished to see a Governor-General polishing his shoes, so he put up to him "Rajaji! polishing your shoes?!", to this Rajaji replied, "Yes! Of course, I am polishing my shoes and whose shoes do you polish!". Rajaji as Governor-General, Jawaharlal Nehru, as Prime Minister and Sardar Patel, as Deputy Prime Minister, constituted an impressible triumvirate which ruled the country from 1948 - 1950.
President of India
By the end of the year 1949, it was assumed that Rajaji, already Governor-General, was going to continue as President. But due to the internal politics of the Congress mainly between the supporters of Nehru and Patel, Rajendra Prasad was also taken up as a possible candidate. Congressmen who were opponents of Rajaji used his non-participation in the Quit India Movement as a weapon against him. Rajaji immediately called Rajendra Prasad and he said to him that he did not want the country to witness a conflict between senior leaders so soon after the death of Mahatma Gandhi and said he is withdrawing from the Presidential Contest. Thus Rajendra Prasad became the President.
As Union Home Minister
Rajaji served as the country's Home Minister for nearly 10 months. He at that time warned Nehru about the expansionist designs of China and also expressed regret over the Tibet problem, his views being in par with that of Sardar Patel, his predecessor. He had also expressed concern over the demands made about establishing new states on a linguistic basis, saying that it would generate differences amongst the people. Once in a cabinet meeting regarding Foreign Policy, Rajaji made a point and Nehru's view was different to that of Rajaji. The other members in the meeting also supported Nehru. Nehru turned to Rajaji and said "See Rajaji, the majority is with me!". To this Rajaji retorted "Yes, Jawaharlal! The majority is with you, but the logic is with me!". Nehru laughed and supported Rajaji's proposal.
When Rajaji was piloting the Press Bill in the Parliament in the year 1951, Shyama Prasad Mukerjee interrupted and said "Rajaji! Please remember that you have ceased to be a lawyer". And to this Rajaji shot back "Yes indeed, I accept that I have ceased to be a lawyer. But I have not ceased to be reasonable!".
As Chief Minister of Madras Presidency/Madras State(Tamil Nadu)
Rajaji became the Premier of Madras Presidency in 1937 and he made Hindi a compulsory language in schools. This was immediately opposed and protests were organised by Periyar Ramasami and Sir A. D. Panneerselvam a few people were killed in the Anti-Hindi agitations. He introduced prohibition in 1937 and to compensate the loss of revenue introduced sales tax for the first time in India. He resigned along with other Congress governments in 1939 due to viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow declaring that India was also at war without consultation and no discussion on the question of immediate independence.
Rajaji again became the Chief minister due to a constitutional impropriety in 1952.In the 1952 elections Congress Party was reduced to a minority in the State Assembly and the Communist Party of India led coalition appeared to be in a better position to form the Government. But Governor Sri Prakasa nominated Rajaji to the Legislative Council without the advice of the council of ministers and the selection of a nominated member as Chief Minister and further majority was obtained by luring opposition MLA to join the party and Nehru was furious and wrote to Rajaji that" 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" Rajaji refused to contest a bye election and remained a non elected member.
Dr. P.C. Alexander himself a former Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governor writes that the most conspicuous case of constitutional impropriety was the one by Sri Prakasa when he invited Rajagopalachari to form the government in the Madras state.Potti Sriramulu fasted for a separate Andhra and died and violence followed in the Telugu areas of Madras State. Initially Nehru was opposed giving in warning "This method of fasting to achieve administrative or political changes will put end to democratic government." But Nehru agreed to the demand for Andhra after the death of Potti Sriramulu but refused to include Madras city in Andhra.Why did not the Rajaji government intervene arrest,force fed or shift Potti Sriramulu to hospital who fasted for over 50 days in Royapettah in the heart of Chennai knowing fully well that if anything happened to Potti Sriramulu violence will follow and the demand for Andhra will be greater is a question unanswered. It is interesting to note that only one person before him in modern Indian history Jatin Das actually fasted to death all others either gave up or arrested and force fed or hospitalised. The State of Andhra was carved out of the Madras State in 1953, Rajaji remained aloof from the Andhra State and related issues. Rajaji removed controls on foodgrains. Rajaji introduced a new education policy based on family vocation. As per this policy schools will work in the morning and students had to compulsorily learn the family vocation in the afternoon it was severely opposed as casteist and dubbed Kula Kalvi Thittam (Hereditary Education Policy) and opposition to this came from within the Congress and outside led to his resignation in 1954.
Just ahead of the 1957, CR and his followers broke away from the Congress and formed the Congress Reform Committee. He came to an understanding with his former adversary, Forward Bloc leader U. Muthuramalingam Thevar, in forming an anti-Congress front. The two parties contested the elections jointly. In September CRC was renamed the Indian National Democratic Congress.
The Swatantra Party
In July 1957, CR merged his INDC into the Swatantra Party. He attacked the license-permit Raj fearing its potential for corruption and stagnation, even while the tide was in favour of Nehru's socialistic pattern. He wrote in his newspaper Swarajya thus -
"Encouraging competition in industry and giving incentives for higher production are good for the public as well as for the private interests. I want an India where talent and energy can find scope for play without having to cringe and obtain special individual permission from officials and ministers, and where their efforts will be judged by the open market in India and abroad. [...] I want the inefficiency of public management to go where the competitive economy of private management can look after affairs. [...] I want the corruptions of the permit-license-raj to go. [...] I want the officials appointed to administer laws and policies to be free from pressures of the bosses of the ruling party, and gradually restored back to the standards of fearless honesty which they once maintained. [...] I want real equal opportunities for all and no private monopolies created by the permit-license- raj. [...] I want the money power of big business to be isolated from politics. [...] I want an India where dharma once again rules the hearts of men and not greed." There were many great personalities who got themselves affiliated with the Swatantra Party such as K.M. Munshi, Prof. N.G. Ranga, Minoo Masani, H.M. Patel, V.P. Menon and Gayatri Devi of Jaipur.
The party proved to be a good opponent to the ruling Congress. The party won 45 Lok Sabha members in the 1967 general elections and was the single largest party in the opposition. It was the principal opposition party in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It also formed a coalition government in Orissa. It also had a significance presence in the Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. In the mid 1960s it won nearly 207 legislative assembly seats all over India, as against 153 by the communists, 149 by the socialists and 115 by the Jan Sangh. But the Party started to disintegrate after the death of Rajaji. It finally merged with Charan Singh's Bharatiya Lok Dal in 1974.
CR made several literary contributions. His works in his native Tamil are recognized as modern classics (published and re-printed several times). After his break with politics, he started on the massive task of translating the Hindu Scriptures Ramayana http://www.rajaji.net/Rajaji-Original/ramayana/index.htm, Mahabharata http://www.rajaji.net/Rajaji-Original/mahabharata/index.htm from Sanskrit to Tamil; and later into English. He received rave reviews from scholars and religious seers alike. He translated Upanishads http://www.rajaji.net/Rajaji-Original/Upanishads/upanishad.htm and Bhaja Govindam http://www.rajaji.net/Rajaji-Original/adisankara.htm into English. His book Hinduism - Doctrine and Way of Life http://www.rajaji.net/Rajaji-Original/hinduism/hinduism.htm is a concise essence of the doctrine and way of life propagated by Hinduism.
His novels and short stories, themselves would have won him public adulation. He also translated 'The Tirukkural' from Tamil to English. 'Tirukkural' is an ancient piece of the Tamil literature and is often referred to as 'the flower of Tamilnad'. His ability as a writer, is in a sense, unparalleled, not just in India alone.
Some of his poetry was set to music and sung by Carnatic music's dominant personality M.S. Subbulakshmi at several occasions of importance, and once at the United Nations Kurai Onrum Illai http://www.rajaji.net/Rajaji-Original/kurai.htm - (meaning - No regrets have I My lord, None) is a very famous song in the semi-Carnatic music genre written by Rajaji and the most popular version, (widely acknowledged as soul-stirring) has been rendered by M.S. Subbulakshmi. Rajaji also composed a hymn http://www.rajaji.net/Rajaji-Original/hereunderthisunitingroof.htm which was sung in 1966 at the United Nations, again by M.S. Subbulakshmi.
He was invited to the White House by President Kennedy; perhaps the only civilian, not in power, ever to be accorded formal state reception. The two discussed various matters and it is said that the great Indian statesman tried to impress on the young President the folly of an arms race - even one which the US could win. At the end of the meeting President 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".
The nonagenarian's public life, spanning nearly eighty years are perhaps best recognized by Mahatma Gandhi's rich tribute to him praising him as: "the keeper of my conscience". Rajaji died in December, 1972 after a short illness.