| by N.S.Venkataraman
( December 3, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mr. C.Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), the first Governor General of independent India was a great patriot and an intellectual who could think beyond his time and express his views with clarity and courage of conviction.
As Rajaji’s birth anniversary falls on 10th December, one would wish that Narendra Modi government would remember him on his birthday, just as the government did so correctly in the case of Sardar Vallabhai Patel recently.
Rajaji’s contribution to national cause in pre independent India was as significant as his contribution to the post independent India. Rajaji was so forthright and honest in expressing his views , that Gandhiji had no hesitation in applauding him as his conscience keeper.
After several decades of Rajaji’s passing away, as one would recall his life ,what would be seen as most striking was Rajaji’s capacity to think beyond his time and his practical and pragmatic approach to everyone of the issues , whether it would concern India or the world.
As a student of Chemical Engineering in Annamalai University, I drafted a two page letter to Rajaji in 1967 suggesting the need for world government to ensure world harmony. When I showed the letter to one of my professors, he was surprised and asked me as to how I could suggest an idea to such a great thinker as Rajaji. Nevertheless, in my youthful enthusiasm, I posted the letter to Rajaji and within three days, I got a postcard from Rajaji written in his own handwriting saying “your suggestion is a good one”. From that day onwards, my respect for Rajaji went up sky high as he cared to reply , to a half baked idea to an unknown student like me. From that day onwards, I made it a point to read carefully everyone of Rajaji’s writings and speeches.
On his birthday, it would be appropriate to briefly highlight some of Rajaji’s great acts and views.
Rajaji’s salt satyagraha in Vedaranyam, Tamil Nadu was as significant and dignified as that of Dandi march of Mahatma Gandhi. This salt satyagraha of Rajaji helped considerably in spreading the spirit and philosophy of Gandhiji’ in southern part of the country at a time when communication was not that extensive as it is today.
In the cold war era, Rajaji advocated unilateral disarmament by USA and travelled to USA to meet President Kennedy to advocate his idea. While Rajaji’s idea was not implemented, certainly it set the thoughts rolling on such possibility , as one of the healthy ways of avoiding military conflict in the world.
Rajaji recognised the importance of free enterprise to promote rapid industrial and economic development in the country and disapproved Nehru’s vision of government sponsored centralised economy. Rajaji had the courage to argue that there was nothing wrong in the concept of profit making by industries and commercial establishments , though at the same time he stressed the need for ethics and adhering to moral principles in management of private sectors. Today, after experimenting with the centralised economy for several decades and realising the futility, the governments in India are resorting to building up private sector which was precisely what Rajaji advocated. By not accepting Rajaji’s views on the significance of private enterprises for several years until 1990s, the country has lost valuable time and opportunity.
With regard to Indo Pakistan relationships, Rajaji repeatedly said that the best way of maintaining cordial relationships between the two neighbours was to promote people to people cooperation on the basis of social, cultural and business relationships, which would pave way for building up appropriate climate that would force the governments of both the countries to find peaceful and long standing solution. Even today, this suggestion of Rajaji appears to be the best way to build healthy relationship between India and Pakistan.
Rajaji’s relations with leaders like Nehru, E.V.Ramaswamy Naicker ( Periyar ) in Tamil Nadu and others with whom he crossed swords for political reasons were extremely cordial on the personal front. When Nehru passed away, Rajaji grieved as to why he was still there when Nehru had gone. When Rajaji passed away, E.V.Ramaswamy Naicker came to the cremation ground in wheel chair at his ripe age and cried inconsolably. Such standards of personal relationships amongst political leaders are becoming a far cry these days.
Rajaji’s books in Tamil on Ramayana and Mahabharatha , written in simple style so that everyone can understand , will be read by the young and old for several generations to come.
Saga of Rajaji cannot be fully told in a brief article but certainly the country should discuss and debate knowledgeably about the contribution of this great man to the pre and post independent India on his birthday at national level.