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Rajagopalachari (1878-1972), popularly called C.R. or Rajaji, is usually
remembered as free India's Governor-General, or the first Indian Head of State.
At one time considered Gandhi's heir, this brilliant lawyer from Salem was
regarded in pre-independence years as one of the top five leaders of the
Congress along with Nehru, Prasad, Patel and Azad.
biography written by Rajaji's grandson, the noted historian and biographer
Rajmohan Gandhi, highlights Rajaji's role in the events preceding Partition. A
statesman and conciliator of conflicts between stalwarts, he was perhaps the
sole Congress leader in the forties to admit to the likelihood of Partition. He
prophesied even then that Pakistan might break up in twenty-five years! Later,
C.R. became a strident critic of Nehru and the Congress. As a founder of the
Swatantra party in the fifties, he attacked the 'permit-license Raj' fearing
its potential for corruption and stagnation, even while the tide was in favour
of Nehru's socialistic pattern.
researched, using C.R.' s private papers, his contemporaries' archives,
extensive interviews with eye- witnesses and contemporary accounts and
newspapers, this intensely personal, yet objective account gives us an
unparalleled portrait of one of the outstanding Indians of this century. Cover design by Tapan Goon.
those knowing even a little about him, a biography. of Rajaji or C.R., as
Chakravarti Rajagopalachari was known, I needs no justification. However, a word may be in
order for the many for whom Rajaji's life is curtained by time.
born in 1878 in a poor Tamil-speaking Iyengar family in a South Indian village
called Thorapalli, not far from Bangalore and Hosur, and died in 1972 in
Madras, now Chennai. In the movement for Indian freedom he was Gandhi's
southern general and at one stage regarded as Gandhi's heir. 'I do say he is
the only possible successor,' Gandhi had said about C.R. in 1927. However, in
1942 Gandhi was to declare, 'Not Rajaji but Jawaharlal will be my successor.'
Nehru was the nation's as well as Gandhi's choice as free India's first Prime
Minister, yet in 1948 Rajajibecame Governor-General and thus independent
India's first Indian head of state.
the late 1950s, when Rajaji was close to eighty, to the end of 1972, when he
died at the age of 94, Rajaji was the period's most notable - and most quotable
- dissenting Indian. He crackled and sparkled. In 1962, when Nehru was alive,
Rajaji was, at least to one person, 'by far the most interesting and lively man
in all India.'! That from time to time he contradicted himself added to his
liveliness. This gifted wordsmith - and skilled administrator - was also
remarkably prescient. When, in the 1950s, Nehru was luring everyone in India
towards the 'socialistic pattern,' C.R. attacked the 'permit-licence raj' - the
phrase was his - as a recipe for
corruption and stagnation, and formed a political party, Swatantra, in support
of an open economy and fundamental rights.
1971, within six weeks of a bitter electoral defeat at the hands of Indira
Gandhi, he asserted that the policies of Swatantra were 'bound to become the
Government's policies and programmes, if not now, some years hence.' The true
if grudgingly acknowledged father of the economic reforms of the early 1990s is
CR. In the 1950s he anticipated subsequent warnings regarding the global
nuclear threat - and the power of China. Before independence he was the only
Congress leader to admit the likelihood of Partition; and in 1947 he said that
Pakistan might break up in about twenty-five years. His capacity to be ahead of
his times can be gauged also from what he said in 1921-2 about life after
independence,' his 1961 call for state funding of elections ('Elections now are
private enterprise, whereas this is the first thing that should be
nationalised"), and his 1970 warning about 'adventures in the manufacture
of [a] small car. His lifespan joined far-apart ages. When he was born, the
revolt of 1857 and, on the other side of the globe, the assassination of
Lincoln were recent events; when he died, the twenty-first century had started
impinging on people's minds.
interests us also because in his case power did not translate into wealth.
Finally, a focus on CR. is inevitably a welcome focus on South India, which
features inadequately in stories of the Freedom Movement or of the post-1947
book is a freshly written condensation of my two volumes on the life of CR.,
the first of which came out in 1978 and the other in 1984. My sources were
CR.'s private papers, made available to me by his sons and daughters; the
papers of Devadas Gandhi (my father and the husband of Rajaji's youngest
daughter Lakshrni), the papers in different archives of several of CR.'s
contemporaries; the correspondence and writings of Gandhi in the Collected Works of
Mahatma Gandhi and elsewhere; newspapers of the time, including Kalki, The Hindu and
Swarajya; Rajaji's correspondence with his lifelong friend Navaratna Rama Rao;
and recollections provided by numerous relatives, colleagues, adversaries,
officials, journalists and other contemporaries.
included G.D. Birla, John . Brackenbury, Chellarnma, Isabel Cripps, B.W. Day,
Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi, V.V. Giri, Ramnath Goenka, Lord Glendevon, R.V.
Krishna Iyer, K. Kamaraj, Acharya Kripalani, T.T. Krishnamachari, S.
Krishnamurti, Harold Macmillan, the Earl of Mar & Kellie, Minoo Masani,
Mirabehn, Lord Mountbatten, John Munro, V.K. Narasimhan, Jayaprakash Narayan,
Colleen Nye, Pyarelal, S. Ramakrishnan, Henry Ramsey, the family of Navaratna
Rama Rao, B. Shiva Rao, C. Samachar, A.N. Sivaraman, Ian Stephens, C.
Subramaniam, Margaret Tait, Mahavir Tyagi and Richard Wood.
particular, this work owes a great deal to the prodding, help, information and
insights provided by two close associates of Rajaji, T. Sadasivam and K.
Santhanam - and by Rajaji's children, Krishnaswami, Namagiri, Narasimhan and
help at different times with research or translation I thank S.A. Govindarajan,
D. Venkatesan, V. Ramaratnam, Neerja Chowdhury and K. Vedamurthy. I am grateful
for the secretarial assistance received from Meher Ghyara, Linda Pierce and
are also due to those who permitted me to study material in the following
institutions: Tamil Nadu Archives, Madras; National Archives, New Delhi; Nehru
Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi; India Office Library, London; Gandhi
Sangrahalaya, New Delhi & Ahmedabad; Rashtrapati Bhavan; the Prime Minister's
Office; the Union Home Ministry; Amrua Bazar Patrika and The Statesman, Calcutta;
The Hindu and Indian Express, Madras; and Hindustan Times, New Delhi.
A word on spellings. The English spelling of Rajaji's
name varied during different phases of his life, from Rajagopalachar, favoured
early in his career, to the usual Rajagopalachari, the respectful
Rajagopalachariar and the rare Rajagopalacharya. The abbreviations most resorted
to were Rajaji and C.R. These are freely used in the .text. Indian towns have
generally been given the spelling they had in the period under reference. Thus
Madura instead of Madurai, and Cawnpore for Kanpur.
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