Modi Vs Kamaraj

Self-Centricity vs Selflessness!

I know it is a sin to compare Narendra Modi with K Kamaraj.


Why not Rahul vs Modi?: With elections on the horizon, wouldn’t a comparison between Rahul Gandhi, who could ascend to the throne in the unlikely event of the Congress posting an upset victory, and Modi be more appropriate?

Both Rahul and Modi have educational credentials that are not transparent, if not questionable, and their relationship status is also mired in mystery.

Or Sonia Vs Modi: Or perhaps Modi could be weighed in against Sonia Gandhi, particularly because the battle-lines have now changed and she is now pitting herself against Modi, going by a debate now under way on Times Now..

If Modi has a “chaiwalah” (tea-seller) past, Sonia is also said to have had a bartender stint while learning English in the U.K. While Sonia had given up the chance to become the PM in 2004 by condescending to make the path clear for Dr Manmohan Singh that can in no way equate her with Kamaraj.

The late Congress leader led a life of simplicity, owning nothing, and doing little for his kith and kin. EModiven late last year, there was a report in The Times of India highlighting the poverty of his sister’s family, with some Congressmen having had to provide some support for them.

Sonia, the “billionaire”: Sonia, in contrast, came from a modest background in Italy and may well be among the richest women in the world, going by some reports. Given her political ambitions, her actual net-worth will always be disputed and difficult to assess.

The billions her son-in-law Robert Vadra is reported to have made (he was just a small-scale unit owner when he married Priyanka Gandhi in 1997), the murky deals he has been involved with and the limitless privileges he enjoys need no enumeration here.

So I will avoid the bigger sin of comparing Sonia with Kamaraj.

There are no leaders of the stature of Kamaraj in Indian politics now. I doubt there will ever be one!

The “Modi Alone can Save India” Rhetoric: But with most educated Indians appearing to believe that Modi is the next best thing to have happened to India since Mahatma Gandhi (though it was someone with Hindu nationalist affiliations like Modi who assassinated the Father of the Nation).

In fact, many have no qualms in asserting that Modi alone can save India from the mess where the Congress has pushed it to. For a nation of 1.2 billion to think that the country’s redemption lies only with Modi is a little hard to digest!

Ambitious, Manipulative Modi: Under the circumstances, I have decided to venture forth with a comparison between Kamaraj and Modi. My intent is just to show how the nation misses such tall leaders as Kamaraj and how misplaced the glorification of Modi is.

It may still be considered outrageous and an affront to the late leader!

After all, while Modi aggressively pushed his way into becoming the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Kamaraj had given up the opportunity to succeed Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964 on the death of the latter.

Kamaraj was close to Nehru and commanded the respect of his partymen as he was known for his leadership acumen blended with honesty, integrity and simplicity.

Kingmaker: Kamaraj was the president of the Indian National Congress then and he was best placed to become the Prime Minister. He declined the offer when his name was recommended by the Congress party syndicate.

He came to be known as the Kingmaker as he was responsible for paving the way for two party leaders to become Prime Ministers — Lal Bahadur Shastri first and then Indira Gandhi.

No Hindi, No English: He was not conversant with English or Hindi, and he was ready to accept that. But to cite that as a reason why he was pragmatic enough to decline the chance to become PM is too simplistic an argument.

Language did not deter him from making a strong impression on the party and on Nehru who relied on him for his organisational ability, trouble-shooting and forward-looking ideas. He was a sharp thinker and a visionary leader under whom Tamil Nadu prospered in what is considered the State’s golden era.

In the book, “The Political Career of K Kamaraj”, the author, P Kandasamy points out that the late leader had, as Congress President, visited many countries, including the Soviet Union and other East European countries in 1966 and had meetings with such global leaders as Brezhnev and Marshal Tito. He had also visited Malaya and Ceylon much earlier for a first-hand view of issues that Indian settlers there faced.

So any effort to compare Modi, who is seen as being power hungry and running a one-man show by his own party leaders, with Kamaraj will be frowned upon by those who hold the latter in esteem.

But there are some similarities and divergences that I think deserve airing.

Kamaraj Narendra Modi
Did not clamour for power and instead was responsible for making two leaders Prime Ministers — Lal Bahadur Shastri first (1964) and then Indira Gandhi in 1966 (a decision he regretted later) – at the expense of Morarji Desai on both occasions.

He thus came to be known as the “kingmaker”.

He believed in collective leadership but an authoritative Indira Gandhi would neither listen to him nor other senior party leaders. “She wants to have all the power herself,” Kamaraj is said to have remarked of Indira during the fag-end of his political life, per the book, “The Political Career of K Kamaraj”, by P Kandasamy.

Pushed his way into becoming the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate by sheer marketing, side-lining senior leaders who had built up the party.

He very aggressively marketed the Gujarat model of governance (that a Samajwadi Party leader dubbed a “vacuous model” at a recent debate on Times Now). He had even roped in Amitabh Bachchan to project the Gujarat “growth” story.

Marketing is no transgression, though. It just showed his self-centricity in his thrust for new Delhi.

Was Chief Minister of the Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu) for three consecutive terms during 1954-1963.

His reign was considered the golden era for the State with “massive industrialization, rural electrification and unprecedented government investment in education.”

Succeeded Kesubhai Patel as the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001 with the former having health issues.

Modi was advised to be Kesubhai Patel’s deputy by Vajpayee / Advani but he wanted the chief ministership or nothing – his lust for power has its roots there. The leadership acceded to his desire.

He led the party to power in the 2002 elections and is now in his third term.

His reign has been marred by the 2002 riots in the State.

The Kamaraj Plan: Within a year on his third term, Kamaraj resigned from the post of Chief Minister to focus on rebuilding the party which was losing strength.

He was 60 years old then and he moved to Delhi at Nehru’s request with a mission to rejuvenate the party

Under the K-Plan, senior party leaders holding offices of power were asked to quit and take up organisational work, following his example.

Veteran BJP leaders in their late 70s and 80s are still in the electoral fray. Modi himself is 63.

Jaswant Singh, 77, defied the BJP and filed his nomination as an Independent from the Barmer constituency after the party asked him to contest from another seat. He has since been expelled from the BJP.

LK Advani also ran into a similar controversy before settling down with Gandhinagar.

Education: As chief minister he made school education accessible to poor children. He not only made school education free but also pioneered a free midday meal scheme (with help from an American voluntary organisation, CARE) in schools.

He found his lack of strong education a handicap in public life and wanted to ensure future generations had a firm foundation.

During his period as CM, the State made significant strides in education. Schools were opened rapidly throughout the State and the education rate reached 37% from 7% prior to that.

It was during his chief ministership that the IIT was established in Madras (in 1959) – the third such in India.

Education presents a dismal picture in Gujarat.

School dropouts are higher than national average and for higher education Gujarat’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 17.6 is lower than the national average of 20.4 and much below equally advanced states like Tamil Nadu (38.2) and Maharashtra (27.4).

The IIM was established in Ahmedabad in 1961 – way before Modi became the CM of Gujarat.

In the Annual Educational Development Index released earlier this year, Gujarat fell by nine places to the 18th rank among 35 states and union territories

Industry/Agriculture: During the period Kamaraj was at the helm in Tamil Nadu, the State made big strides both in terms of industrialisation and agriculture. The Neyveli Lignite Corporation, BHEL at Trichy, the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and the Manali Oil Refinery were among the many industrial outfits that were established through his initiative.

Late Indian President R. Venkataraman is acknowledged as the father of industrialisation in Tamil Nadu.

But Venkataraman himself pointed out later that it was during the rule of Kamaraj that Tamil Nadu transformed itself into an industrialised State from an agrarian one.

Many dams and irrigation canals were also built during his period. They include the Sathanur dam, the Vaigai dam, the Lower Bhavani dam, the Krishnagiri dam and the Amaravathi dam. Incidentally, dams had been built in Tamil Nadu a millennium ago – for instance, the Kallanai that came up during the Chola period.

To give credit where it is due, Gujarat under Modi has been open to investment, continuing its post-Independence tradition, though it is Maharashtra that is the country’s most industrialised State.

Per a recent report in The Economic Times, the top five industrialised States are:

  1. Maharashtra
  2. Karnataka
  3. Gujarat
  4. Tamil Nadu
  5. Andhra Pradesh

It is true that Gujarat was already well established in such sectors as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, gems/jewellery and textiles.

But it takes good leadership to sustain it. So Modi deserves that credit. A striking example is how Gujarat quickly lapped up the Nano project after West Bengal rejected it.

Had a very humble background and did not go beyond middle school as he had to support his family. Also had a modest background and completed schooling after which he supported his family by selling tea.

He never went to college but is believed to have some degree through correspondence learning.

He remained a bachelor till his death in 1975 at age 72 Actress Mallika Sherawat calls Modi the most eligible bachelor

His supporters believe he is a bachelor. But a retired teacher, Jashodaben, claims she is his divorced wife. According to her, she married him in 1968 and they were separated three years later.

The above comparative matrix is also available through the link below:

Kamaraj vs Modi 2 (Kamaraj and Modi – A Review of their Styles, Personality)

 G Joslin Vethakumar



Filed under News and politics

3 responses to “Modi Vs Kamaraj

  1. Pingback: The “Quattro” Ps of Politics in India – Power, Personality, Principles and Policies | Top of the Word

  2. Pingback: One Hitler vs Another – Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi | Top of the Word

  3. Pingback: Modi will soon be King | Top of the Word

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