Kamaraj Kumarasami

K. Kamarajar

     Kamaraj Kumarasami, (Tamil: காமராஜ்) better known as K. Kamaraj (15 July 1903 – 2 October 1975) was an Indian politician widely known to be the kingmaker in Indian politics, and known for his honesty, integrity and simplicity.

      He was involved in the Indian independence movement and was a close ally of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. He was instrumental in bringing to power two Prime Ministers, Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964 and Indira Gandhi in 1966. He was affectionately known as the Gandhi of the South. He is also known as Padikatha Medhai or Uneducated Intellect . In Tamil Nadu, his home state, he is still hailed for facilitating the spread of education to millions of the rural poor by introducing free education and free mid-day meals scheme in schools for the first time in the whole world during his chiefministership in 1957. He was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1976. The domestic terminal of the Chennai airport is named Kamaraj Terminal in his honour. He was hailed as one of the greatest of leaders of all the free world by the then US vice-president Hubert Humphrey.

MGR with Kamarajar

Kamarajar Memorial House, Chennai

K Kamarajar

Built in the memory of Shri Kamaraj, the late chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Kamaraj Memorial House is now a permanent gallery that showcases photographs and personal effects of Kamaraj who rose out of poverty to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (elected to the post thrice). Kamaraj Memorial House was inaugurated on 15th July 1978, by the then Chief Minister M.G Ramachandran

On the ground floor is the bedroom of this bachelor, whose austere living comes across so clearly in the plain furniture that occupies the room. Leaning over the railings, one can spot yellowed volumes of 'Lok Sabha Debates', '100 Modern Lives', 'Churchill' and 'Doctor Zhivago' amongst the books lined up in the well-stocked library. Obviously, having to discontinue his schooling did not stop him from becoming a well-read man.

The Photographs Of Shri Kamaraj
The Black and White photographs that adorn the walls of the dining hall cover Kamaraj's life across all stages - Kamaraj at the age of five, in his youth, in middle age and in the final years. Notable among the collection are pictures of his 1954 swearing-in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the first Kamaraj Ministry of 1954, the second of 1957 and the third of 1962.

Photographs of Kamaraj's public life show him rubbing shoulders with stalwarts like Jawarharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Sathyamurthy, Dr S. Radhakrishnan, Rajendra Prasad, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Periyar, M.G Ramachandran, Govind Vallabh Pant, Martin Luther King and Queen Elizabeth.

A Unique Collection
Several pictures showcase the leader in different moods: playing Cricket, hauling the rope in at a 'Tug of War' for the Legislator's Sports Meet, drenched under the Courtallam falls, supervising relief work for flood victims, chairing meetings, etc. Among the personal effects of Kamaraj that are on display are his spectacles, pens, a spool tape player and even a Gillette Shaving set used by him!

The second floor has displays of Kamaraj's several luxuriant Felicitation Shawls. In marked contrast are the displays of his own simple attire, his suitcases, timepiece, pens and utensils. Of special mention is the prison coat worn by him while serving term in prison in 1942.

Photographs on the second floor show several personalities paying homage to the dead leader. Among those pictured are Late Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi and veteran actor Shivaji Ganeshan. Especially impressive is the bird's eye view of the multitude, on Mount Road (Anna Salai), who accompanied the body of their leader on his last journey.

Timings: 9.00am to 6.00pm.

Early Life

Kamaraj was born 15 July 1903, to Kumarasamy Nadar and Sivakami Ammal at Virudhunagar near Madurai in Tamil Nadu. His parents were from a trading family. His real name was Kamakshi Kumaraswamy, but was affectionately shortened to Raja by his mother, Sivakami Ammal. His father, Kumarswamy Nadar, was a coconut merchant. Kamaraj was enrolled at the local elementary school, the Enadhy Nayanar Vidyalaya, and later shifted to the high school Kshatriya Vidyalaya (A Nadar minority instituition).

Unfortunately his father died within a year of Kamaraj's enrollment in school. Kamaraj's mother sold all jewelry except her earrings and deposited the money with a local merchant and cared for the entire family on the monthly interest that the money earned.


Kamaraj dropped out of school when he was in the sixth grade. When he entered mainstream public life he felt handicapped and realized the importance of a good education. He educated himself during his periods of imprisonment.

Start in politics and freedom struggle

Kamaraj joined as an apprentice in his maternal uncle Karuppiah's cloth shop after dropping out of school. He would slip out from the shop to join processions and attend public meetings addressed by orators like Dr. Varadarajulu Naidu. His relatives frowned upon Kamaraj 's budding interest in politics. They sent him to Thiruvananthapuram to work at another uncle's timer shop.

At the age of 16, Kamaraj enrolled himself as full-time worker of the Congress. He invited speakers, organized meetings and collected funds for the party. He also participated in the march to Vedaranyam led by C. Rajagopalachari as part of the Salt Satyagraha of March 1930.

Kamaraj was arrested and sent to Alipore Jail in Calcutta for two years. He was 27 at the time of his arrest and was released in 1931 following the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Kamaraj was implicated in the Virudhunagar bomb case two years later. Dr. Varadarajulu Naidu and George Joseph argued on Kamaraj's behalf and proved the charges to be baseless. Kamaraj was arrested again in 1940 and sent to Vellore Central Prison while he was on his way to Wardha to get Gandhiji's approval for a list of satyagrahis.

While still in jail, Kamaraj was elected Chairman of the Municipal Council of Viruthunagar. Nine months later, upon his release, Kamaraj went straight to the Municipality and tendered his resignation from his post. He felt that "one should not accept any post to which one could not do full justice."

Kamaraj was arrested once more in 1942 and sentenced to three years in the Amaravathi prison for spreading propaganda material for the Quit India movement initiated by Gandhiji. While in prison, Kamaraj read books and continued his self-education.

With Satyamurti

Kamaraj's political guru and inspiration was S. Satyamurti, orator and parliamentarian. Satyamurti found in Kamaraj "an efficient, loyal, indefatigable worker and skillful organizer (p. 147, Pakshirajan)." Both developed a deep friendship and complemented each others' skills. In 1936, Satyamurti was elected President of the Provincial Congress Committee and he appointed Kamaraj the General Secretary. Four years later they swapped positions. The party base was strengthened under their leadership. So deep was Kamaraj's devotion to Satyamurti that when India gained independence, he first went to Satyamurti's house and hoisted the Indian flag there. On his election as Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, Kamaraj went to Satyamurti's house and garlanded his photo and paid his respects to the leader's widow.

Chief Ministership

On April 13, 1954, K. Kamaraj reluctantly became the Chief Minister of Madras Province. To everyone's surprise, Kamaraj nominated C. Subramaniam and M. Bhakthavatsalam, who had contested his leadership, to the newly formed cabinet.

Kamaraj removed the family vocation based Hereditary Education Policy introduced by Rajaji. He reopened the 6000 schools closed by previous government for financial reasons and also added 12000 more schools. The State made immense strides in education and trade. New schools were opened, so that poor rural students were to walk no more than 3 miles to their nearest school. Better facilities were added to existing ones. No village remained without a primary school and no panchayat without a high school. Kamaraj strove to eradicate illiteracy by introducing free and compulsory education up to the eleventh standard. He introduced the Mid-day Meal Scheme to provide at least one meal per day to the lakhs of poor school children (first time in the whole world). He introduced free school uniforms to weed out caste, creed and class distinctions among young minds.

During British regime the education was only 7 percent. But in Kamaraj's period it was 37% . During Rajaji's period there were 12000 schools in the state. Whereas it was 27000 in the period of Kamaraj. Apart from increasing number of schools, steps were taken to improve standard of education. To improve the standards number of working day were increased from 180 to 200. Unnecessary holidays were reduced. Syllabus were prepared to give opportunity to various abilities.

During his period IIT Madras was started.

Major irrigation schemes were planned in Kamaraj's period . Lower Bhavani, Mani Muthuar , Cauvery Delta , Aarani River , Vaigai Dam , Amravathi , Sathanur , Krishnagiri , Pullambadi , Parambikulam and Neyaru Dams were among them . The Lower Bhavani Dam in Coimbatore district was constructed with an expenditure of Rs 10/- Crores. 2,07,000 acres of land are under cultivation.

45,000 acres of land are benefited through Mettur canal of Salem. Another scheme was Krishnagiri in the same district. Vaigai , Sathanur facilitate to cultivate thousands of acres of lands in Madurai and North Arcot districts respectively. Rs 30 crores were planned to spend for Parambikulam River scheme in Kamaraj's period. This has helped for the development of Coimbatore district in agriculture field.

Number of dams were constructed under his rule are:

          # Manimuthar Dam,
          # Vaikai Dam,
          # Aliyar Dam,
          # Sathanur Dam,
          # Krishnagiri Dam

In 1957-61 1,628 Tanks were de-silted under Small Irrigation Scheme 2000 wells were digged with outlets. Long term loans with 25% subsidy were given to farmers. Apart from formers who are having dry lands were given oil engines , electric pump sets on installment basis.

150 lakhs of acres of lands were cultivated during Kamaraj's period. One third of this i.e. 56 lakhs of acres of land got permanent watering facility.

Industrial Development

Industries with huge investments in crores of Rupees were started in his period. Neyveli Lignite Scheme, Raw photo film industry at Nilgri, Surgical instruments factory at Guindy, Sugar factories , Bi-Carbonates factories, Cement factories, Railway coach factory at Avadi, Mettur paper industry were started in the period of Kamaraj. These are the back-bone for the development of the nation.

Other industries which were started his period are

           o BHEL, Trichy.
           o Neyveli Lignite Corporation.
           o MANALI Refinary Ltd.


Many schemes were started to generate electicity like Guntha hydro power station, Ooty and Neyveli thermal power station. During his period, Tamilnadu was developing in all fronts.

Kamaraj remained Chief Minister for three consecutive terms, winning elections in 1957 and 1962. Kamaraj noticed that the Congress party was slowly losing its vigor. He came up with a plan which was called the "Kamaraj Plan".

On October 2, 1963, he resigned from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Post. He proposed that all senior Congress leaders should resign from their posts and devote all their energy to the re-vitalization of the Congress.

In 1963 he suggested to Nehru that senior Congress leaders should leave ministerial posts to take up organisational work. This suggestion came to be known as the Kamaraj Plan, which was designed primarily to dispel from the minds of Congressmen the lure for power, creating in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and policies of the organisation. Kamaraj was elected President, Indian National Congress, on October 9, 1963.

Well impressed by the achievements and acumen of Kamraj, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru felt that his services were needed more at the national level. In a swift move he brought Kamaraj to Delhi as the President of the Indian National Congress. Nehru realised that if he had wide learning and vision, Kamaraj possessed enormous common sense and pragmatism.

Kamaraj's Cabinet (April 13, 1954 - April 13, 1957)

      * K. Kamaraj: Chief Minister; Minister of Public and Police in the Home Department
      * A. B. Shetty: Minister in charge of medical and public health, cooperation, housing and ex-servicemen.
     * M. Bhaktavatsalam: Minister in charge of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries, Cinchona, Rural Welfare, Community Projects, National Extension Scheme, Women’s Welfare, Industries and Labour and Animal Husbandry and Veterinary.
     * C. Subramaniam: Minister in charge of Finance, Food, Education, Elections and Information and Publicity and Law (Courts and Prisons)
      * M. A. Manickavelu Naicker: Minister in charge of Land Revenue and Commercial Taxes and Rural Development.
      * Raja Sri Shanmuga Rajeswara Sethupathi: Minister in charge of Public Works, Accommodation Control, Engineering Colleges, Stationery and Printing including Establishment questions of the Stationery Department and the Government Press.
      * B. Parameswaran: Minister in charge of Transport, Harijan Uplift, Hindu Religious Endowments, Registration and Prohibition.
      * S. S. Ramasami Padayachi: Minister in charge of Local Administration.

Following the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, A. B. Shetty quit the Ministry on March 1, 1956 and his portfolio was shared between other ministers in the cabinet.

Kamaraj's Cabinet (April 13, 1957 - April 13, 1962)

     * K. Kamaraj: Chief Minister; Minister of Public, Planning and Development (including Local development         Works, Women's Welfare, Community Projects and Rural Welfare), National Extension Scheme.
      * M. Bhaktavatsalam: Minister for Home
      * C. Subramaniam: Minister for Finance
      * M. A. Manickavelu: Minister for Revenue
      * R. Venkataraman: Minister for Industries
      * P. Kakkan: Minister for Works
      * V. Ramaiah: Minister for Electricity
      * Lourdhammal Simon: Minister for Local Administration

Chief Minister

From Year
To Year
Madras legislative assembly election, 1952
Madras legislative assembly election, 1957
Madras legislative assembly election, 1962

Advice to his ministers

Kamaraj gave a simple advice to his ministers, "Face the problem. Don't evade it. Find a solution, however small. People will be satisfied if you do something." Followed by him a number of Central and State ministers like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Morarji Desai and S.K. Patil followed suit and resigned from their posts. In 1964, Kamaraj was elected 'Congress President' and he successfully navigated the party and the nation through the stormy years following Nehru's death. Kamaraj’s political maturity came in full view when Nehru died in 1964. How he settled the succession issue for the Prime Ministership was amply proved by his choice of Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi in succession.


On October 2, 1975, Gandhi Jayanti day, Kamaraj awoke from his afternoon nap feeling uneasy. His housekeeper, Vairavan, rang up to his physician. While he was on his way out, Kamaraj said, "Vairavan, put out the lights when you go out." K. Kamaraj died that day in his sleep. He was honored with the highest civilian honour, the 'Bharat Ratna' posthumously in 1976.

Popular culture

In 2004 a Tamil Movie about his life was released titled "Kamaraj". The English version of the movie was released on DVD in 2007.