C. Rajagopalachari

There was only one person whom Mahatma Gandhi described as his conscious keeper. And Jawaharlal Nehru praised him as one representing fundamentally the highest type of mind in India. And he was Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, known popularly as ‘Rajaji’ or just ‘CR’, who became the first Indian Governor General of India, when the country gained its freedom from foreign yokes. He was more than qualified to be the Indian successor to the last British Governor General, for he was brilliant statesman, an efficient administrator (Chief Minister of Madras state, Governor of West Bengal state and Union Minister for Home affairs), a great patriot and freedom fighter, a first class orator, an eminent scholar, a popular author and an ideal inheritor to the legendary simplicity of Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.

Rajaji was born in 1878 in Tamil Nadu, and studied law and built up a very successful practice as a lawyer. A member of the Congress party to begin with, he participated in Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement and other agitations and in the Vaikom Satyagraha for the rights of the oppressed classes, in the famous Dandi march of Gandhiji against the salt tax and courted arrest. It was after this that he was appointed minister in the interim government led by Nehru, Governor of West Bengal, Governor General of India, Union Home minister, and the Chief Minister of Madras state, one after the other. The first recipient of Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award in 1954, Rajaji went away from the Congress party, founded Swatantra Party and opposed the Congress, though not successfully.

He stood for free enterprise, when the country was guided along an opposite direction by Nehru’s government. He was a champion of prohibition and disarmament. He led an Indian delegation to the U.S. in 1962 to plead against the nuclearization of the world. A prolific and accomplished writer both in English and his mother tongue Tamil, he retold stories from the epics and puranas of India, and wrote books on the Gita and the Upanishads. He is also remembered as a good administrator and for his campaign for compulsory introduction of Hindi in schools and colleges. This made him very unpopular in various places.