Rajaji: A Life

Rajaji: A Life

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Item Code: NAF697
Author: Rajmohan Gandhi
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1997
ISBN: 9780140269673
Pages: 502
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8 inch X 5 inch
Weight 390 gm
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Back of the Book

 

Chalaavarti 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.

 

This 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.

 

Meticulously 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.

 

Preface

 

To 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.

 

He was 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.

 

From 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.

 

In 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.

 

He 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 decades.

 

This 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.

 

They 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.

 

In 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 Lakshmi.

 

For 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 Usha Gandhi.

 

Thanks 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.

 

 

Contents

 

Preface

ix

1.

Manga 1878-1915

1

2.

Hope 1915-19

U

3.

Battle 1919-21

43

4.

Jail 1921-22

63

5.

Hero 1922-25

74

6.

Ashram 1925-29

98

7.

Vedaranyam 1929-31

114

8.

Stigma 1931-33

128

9.

Switch 1933-35

144

10.

'Fall' 1935-37

162

11.

Premier 1937-39

174

12.

Hitler 1939

200

13.

Cogitation 1939-41

215

14.

Rebellion1941-44

227

15.

'Moth-eaten'1944-46

247

16.

Freedom! 1946-47

258

17.

Calcutta1947-48

276

18.

Palace1948-50

294

19.

'Matchstick'1950-51

314

20.

'Downfall'1951-54

332

21.

Wolves1954-58

356

22.

Swatantra1958-62

371

23.

Kennedy1961-63

391

24.

Defiance1962-69

400

25.

Sparkle1969-72

432

Notes

452

Bibliography

477

Index

483

 

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