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Updated: August 31, 2012 00:48 IST

A Kamaraj Plan for our times

Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Comment (37)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

If some Congress ministers are replaced and deployed for party work, a new confidence could emerge in the party and the government

Fifty years are like a millennium in politics. To write about the India of 1962 is to invoke a different universe.

And yet that year compels recollection today. The rose bud fresh on his achkan, Jawaharlal Nehru led his party to a third impressive victory at the 1962 general elections and stepped into his third Prime Ministership. A seamless cruise to the next elections in 1967 lay ahead for the Congress.

But the months that followed that third return to power, were anything but smooth. Certain things are just not in a government’s control, like the behaviour of neighbours. China breached our borders in two simultaneous offensives in Ladakh and on the McMahon Line, shaking the nation’s equanimity. Also to be shaken, visibly, was Prime Minister Nehru .With a wan frankness he said in a TV interview for American viewers, “… there is no such thing [now] as non-alignment vis-à-vis China.”

Faith shaken

Shaken, too, were faith in a neighbour’s intentions, faith in panchsheel and faith in the practicality of non-alignment. There was a clamour for other shake-ups too, like the replacement of Defence Minister Krishna Menon. The Prime Minister was hesitant to move someone he so admired from that sensitive Ministry. Amidst growing public restiveness Lal Bahadur Shastri told him: ‘Panditji jab chhoti ahuti nahin di jaati, tab badi ahuti deni par jaati hai …’ (When a small sacrifice is withheld, a bigger one gets to be demanded). Not much later, Menon was replaced by the no-nonsense Yeshwantrao Chavan.

Finance Minister Morarji Desai was blunt. “The people of India,” he said, “will have to submit to heavy taxation…” and with new taxes he introduced the compulsory deposit scheme and the gold control order. These were meant to and did feel tight, very tight. The country was uneasy, angry. Three by-elections to the Lok Sabha held in quick succession saw stalwart opposition leaders Acharya Kripalani, Rammanohar Lohia and Minoo Masani defeat the Congress.

And that is when while others in the party and the government despaired, one man stirred. Kumaraswami Kamaraj was also into his own third term as Chief Minister of Madras. Like a tectonic plate on the move, he pushed an idea formidably and irresistibly northward.

Kamaraj proposed, in 1963, to Prime Minister Nehru that all senior Congress leaders holding ministerial office resign and take up party work. Serial wins in elections were alright, he said, but continuous office incumbency was distancing leaders from the fears and feelings, thoughts and travails of the masses. Nehru saw the point and told Kamaraj he would like to be the first one to go. Kamaraj demurred and said “no, Panditji, you are unique, you must remain Prime Minister.”

In the event, six Union Ministers, including Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram and Morarji Desai, and six Chief Ministers, including Kamaraj himself, Biju Patnaik and S.K. Patil resigned from their posts. The ‘freed-from-office-for-party’ Kamaraj became, inevitably, Congress president.

How much the Kamaraj Plan revived a dispirited party, polity and nation remains open to debate. Indrani Jagjivan Ram has some valuable negative insights to offer, in her recently published memoirs. But the Plan certainly prepared the nation to face the unexpected and the unwelcome.

At Kamaraj’s instance, Nehru brought Lal Bahadur Shastri back, as Minister Without Portfolio, virtually as Deputy Prime Minister. This made his succession by Shastri foregone, when it could otherwise have been fractious. Two years had barely elapsed when Shastri, too, was taken from us. As thousands waited for the plane bringing Shastri’s remains from Tashkent to land in Delhi, another aircraft descended at Palam airport. And from it emerged, the rough-hewn granite figure of Congress president Kamaraj, dressed in his simple un-starched khadi, angavastram resting on his left shoulder. The gathering at the airport would have clapped in relief and confidence, had the moment not been so deeply sad. At that point in time, Kamaraj simply personified the nation’s vishvas.

Fiftieth anniversary

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Kamaraj Plan, the scene of today compels comparison with that of 1962-63.

The basic systems of government and statecraft in a democracy are, essentially, the Cabinet, the government and its political leadership. Only an optimist in self-deceptive denial would say these are working well in today’s India. Cabinets are meant to be colleagueships. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh trustingly heads a moody coalition which is not a colleagueship.

Governments are there to govern. Staving off the Opposition’s relentless and mindless obstruction of Parliament’s functioning takes up the government’s time, saps its energy. Leadership is about commanding implicit trust, vishvas. The entanglement of senior figures in allegations of corruption has undermined vishvas.

Besides systems, there are imponderables that actuate the human condition, whether in a democracy or in other forms of government. These too are in distress.

With the monsoon playing truant, a serious water and energy crisis glowering at us, prices continuing to be volatile, and purchasing capacity sinking, our economy is in trouble. Investments and job creation in the private sector plummet. And, if this is not disabling enough, the northeast has been through the most bewildering ethnic tension. Who started the unheard-of internal migration that followed? The truth wears a hood.

The Government of India is prepared, doubtless, to meet certain contingencies. But there is no upper limit to preparedness. One more insufficient monsoon, a border conflagration, a terror attack of vast scale, a natural disaster of higher magnitude than “usual,” and we will be put to tests we are not really ready for.

So, on this 50th anniversary, one cannot but recall Kamaraj and his plan with nostalgia.

Clearly, status quo is untenable. But merely asking for a Kamaraj Plan II would be too pat and predictable. Had he been alive he would have himself acknowledged that his grand hope of drafting ministers into game-changing party rejuvenation did not work as dramatically as he would have liked it to. Those who gave up their offices tended to sulk into inactivity or waited for the day when they would be re-inducted into office.

We do not have a Kamaraj with us today but as 50 years ago, so now, the Congress has as its president one who has shown the power and impact of saying ‘no’ to office. If the Congress president and our Prime Minister were to re-deploy a dozen or more ministers for party work and replace them with a new generation of ministers with competence and credit, a new confidence and enthusiasm could emerge in the party and the government and, by extension, in the country, making it better placed to face the unwelcome and the unexpected.

This could be done in the States as well with differential effect.

But if the ‘re-jig’ (as the media is bound to dub the exercise) is to have abiding effect, a new work ethic will need to be inaugurated under which the ‘new brooms’ in the Cabinet apply their clean and strong bristles to rid the system of what Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan described as “widespread inefficiency and gross mismanagement of resources,” and corruption.

Reinforcement of vishvas

Simultaneously those re-deployed for party work will need to become the alert eyes and ears of the public, pro-active spokespersons within the party for the people they represent. This is where such an initiative will be an advance over the Kamaraj Plan. Popular outrage over mis-governance and corruption can, if addressed as it should be, lead to a moral dividend for India’s systemic benefit. Else, it will get co-opted by one-a-day political opportunisms. And if Parliament were to pass, as part of the change, a convincing Lokpal Act, we could see the return to national life of vishvas.

Kamaraj, the un-chaptered and un-versed chapter-turner, would have warmed to Basavanna’s wise 10th century aphorism: “What stands must subside; it is what moves on that stays.”

(The writer is former Governor of West Bengal.)

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Its a grand ma story to and children will sleep before its conclusion.Let any minister or any political leader be asked to resign and work for party?Answer will be (1)He/She will join opposition (2)A new party (3)Independent.
I wish some one may prove me wrong but I am sure I am right with the present class of politicians?

from:  Ravindra Raizada
Posted on: Aug 30, 2012 at 16:19 IST

In those days all were tall leaders with equal merits for leadership.They listened to Kamaraj.There is no tall leader now in any of the political party in the Country,but only dwarfs plenty everywhere,without merits,all are ready to obey their master-Allaudin!.How can the Kamaraj Plan-II now work with any party? Sonia assumed supreme control of the Congress party,she need not persuade others to give way,she assumed power to such an extent that she can kick any person she dislike in the party.No person can resemble Kamaraj in this scenario.Kamaraj plan can work in a rural India.Congress is fit only to govern rural India.India is now changed to the worst.

from:  Sundaram
Posted on: Aug 30, 2012 at 08:12 IST

Watch out. Slogans of high Ideals of French revolution “freedom equality and freternity “ultimately end up in the continuation of the the imperial monarchic rule. Do you want the dynastic rule to be perpetuated. In India? Kamaraj Plan -1, ultimately led ---- Gandhi to power. History can repeat itself!
Think before you drink propaganda.

from:  Gopinathan Krishnan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2012 at 05:48 IST

The authors expectation are too much from the current ruling party or he
is not living in the time. He is talking Youth who are NOT real
representative of people; just as son of mamma or daughter of papa. When
going through records NOT a single under 30 age MP elected in country
who doesn't has dynstic roots.

from:  Vineet Kumar Singh
Posted on: Aug 30, 2012 at 02:37 IST

In analysing this article through a marxist perspective,it can be
extrapolated that changing of structures rather than the individuals is
of more importance to solve the current impasse in the political process
in India.

from:  Ashwin Kurian
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 23:34 IST

Sounds pretty good. But, lets be realistic. Every politician has a heir apparent not just the first family. So, back to square one. This will wane the growing unrest against corruption.

from:  M Sai krishna
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 23:11 IST

At that point in time, Kamaraj simply personified the nation’s vishvas.

~ I remember that day with veneration, Sir. But, now the exit will have be en-bloc
and there will be none left to govern/misgovern.

from:  Soundararajan Srinivasa
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 22:57 IST

How is Kamaraj plan different from Sonia Gandhi plan, i.e. division of
responsibility and decision making authority. Kamaraj plan is exactly
what India does not needs now.

from:  Rohit Raj
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 21:59 IST

Time, situation, people - these factors play a great role in devising
some plan. Kamaraj plan was one such which was appropriate for that
time. Mahatma Gandhi had sit in fast and brought out the desired
results on several occasions. Today's fast meets only lathi charge and
tear gas shells. We are the old flood being pushed by younger flood
towards the ocean. Till we merge with ocean we have to get along with
next generation peacefully. Youth alone is not the answer. If such is
the case why Mr.E.Sreedharan was assigned to bring into reality the
DMRC dream? Like in the western countries successful youngsters
(preferably in their 40s) from all walks of life should enter
politics, as an obligation to the society, to serve the people with
honesty and efficiency, atleast for one term of Lok Sabha. In fact if
we ban continuous 2nd term to any elected office in India, politics
will become clean over a time. Once upon a time actors in film
industry were ridiculed but not now.

from:  mvrangaraajan
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 21:41 IST

So Kamraj is also responsible for foisting a dynasty on this democracy, isn't he? What did he mean by telling Nehru that he was unique and need not relinquish his PM's office? Just compare this with Gen Nathu Singh Rathore who asked Nehru bluntly that if he thought that there was no Indian General officer capable of taking over command of the army of the newly free nation, then how could he, a novice in the field of administration, take over as PM?

from:  P M Ravindran
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 20:59 IST

We should appreciate the imagination with which the author dealt with the subject. To satisfy the present political atmosphere and find an everlasting conclusion for the lacunae which are found in the system one has to answer so many 'ifs'. The first and foremost 'if' is even if Kamaraj would have been alive he would not have succeeded in the attempt in the prevailing circumstances. The second 'if' is even if the present political leaders accept the plan individually it would not be possible for them to accept the who would be the one to lead them. We should keep in mind that 2012 is not 1962. The total involvement of the leaders in the system which existed during 1960s could not be compared to the present state. The service motto which found among them is in question now. Any way one should thank the Gopalkrishna Gandhi for having such mindset that prevailed in those years sharing them with the readers in order to find a solution to some extent.

from:  Dr B Jambulingam
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 20:52 IST

As Marx said, "history does not repeat itself, except as a farce". Gopalakrishna Gandhi's well meaning advice misses the gargantuan changes in India and the world since 1962. There is no Kamaraj or Nehru in Indian politics now. Only people who exploit their names and memories for personal gains. Kamaraj was only too willing to relinquish power. Morarji Desai and others might have had some qualms about the "Plan", but obeyed the High Command like good soldiers. You would not find one such soul now!
An eerie uneasiness comes, thinking about 1962 --- the year India lost her innocence. In the fall of that year, China attacked India and shook her off the world of make-believe. Is India again for such a jolt?

from:  Thiru V. Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 20:43 IST

Sir, I very well appreciate your idea of implementing a plan similar to what Kamraj suggested in the sixties.It is a good suggestion. As a first step, let the congress and BJP shd first jointly decide not to field any of their existing MPs ad MLAs who have enjoyed their office twice by now, specially the old guys over 65 yrs for election again in 2014.

from:  c.g.venkatesan
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 19:27 IST

"Kamaraj Plan" worked earlier as the party command was to build up the party and now, the power mongers politician can not leave the chair,as once left by chance, they will be booked on many corruption charges as well,which is another reason for clinging the chair of their position.
Now, most of the MPs, and Mlas has got stake amassed wealth for himself and for the party to a firm build up and they also keep their people with all facilities to keep them in good humour.this is way of life in Politics in India

from:  vaidya
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 19:17 IST

After 50 years, talking about Kamaraj Plan and asking the present congress leadership to implement it by Gandhiji's grand son is welcome.I read carefully every word of the article.The statement 'At that point in time, Kamaraj simply personified the nation’s vishvas' would ignite the followers of Kamaraj.this is a very good article in today's situations.

from:  kaliraja yjangamani
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 19:09 IST

People of the earlier generation know that 'Kamaraj Plan' was in fact 'Nehru Plan' to get rid of the likes of Morarji Desai from the cabinet. Nehru did not have the guts to ask Morarji Desai to resign or dismiss him. In fact, if Nehru had resigned under the Kamaraj Plan and Morarji was made the Prime Minister at that time, the nation would have become an economic super power even by 1975. We all know how the economy flourished under Morarji Desai when Janatha Party was ruling - the price of Kerosene, Sugar, Rice, etc., were cheaper in the open market than in the ration shops.

from:  S Subramanian
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 18:50 IST

A pipe dream although well intentioned. Past history can not be recreated given the caliber of
the leadership in the Congress party and government of the day. LB Shastry resigned his
post taking responsibility for a railway accident. Others like TTK were forced to vacate on just
the whiff of a scandal. Today's ministers -less said the better.

from:  RAMAKRISHNAN
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 18:43 IST

That was then. We now have ministers and MPs who are viewed by the common man as dacoits plundering the motherland. Out of touch with the public, perhaps, but no one viewed Shastriji or Morarji of being corrupt. Same cannot be said of todays crop in Delhi.

from:  Naren
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 18:39 IST

the political leaders should understand their ageing problem. they should encrouge the youths and monitor them with their experience so that we can build a pool of knowledgeale youths so that they can do better in the future.

from:  gyaneshwar
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 18:18 IST

The proposal of Gopalakrishna Gandhi is quite timely and excellent.
There is an urgent need to have a thorough shake up in the ministry as
people at large are fed up with scams and corruption. In this process
not only some of our old and very senior ministers have to go but also
our prime minister. But please ensure that we continue to have his advice in the economic affairs of the country. Probably Antony or
Chidambaram can be given the prime ministership. There are many
talented young bloods in the party and some of them could be brought
into ministerial berth. Rahul Gandhi has to be inducted and given the
responsibility of an important portfolio which would be fitting to
him. Unless Sonia Gandhi takes some drastic measures soon and improve
the image of the ministry it will be difficult for the people to elect
UPA again to power in the next general election.

from:  Dr.C.K. George
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 18:12 IST

An excellent one,but I doubt the implementation of Kamaraj plan with now
situation, though rather something need to be pro active than reactive.
But with high regards to the 1962 plan, we need to assess whether it
will go well with now phase, Its a leap of faith.

from:  Harini
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 18:08 IST

The author mentions about Youth in the government. The Youth in politics are not representative of the common masses. They are the sons and daughters of Ministers, MPs, Chief Ministers and governors.
We need a career path in Politics and nation building. I guess the Team Anna attracted such youngsters and Rahul Gandhi mentioned this in his UP campign. If such a career path is established, we would have energetic, intelligent, patriotic young blood, serving the nation.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 16:45 IST

Not just the talk and griping.... Something doable from 'The Hindu'- Again (and mention of thanks Mr. Gopal)

from:  Santhanakrishnan
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 14:25 IST

Dynastic politics has entrenched itself deeply in india's political theatre.The author is apt in saying that there needs to be introduced a criteria which specifies particular qualifications for those who wish to occupy the seat.It is only when there are people who hold the country's interests above their personal interest and those who have a will to serve the general masses,can we hope for a truly democaratic society.

from:  neha
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 13:26 IST

Excellent suggestion given by Mr. Gopalkrishna. In the present day scenario of india it is most apt. Especially the age old Indian ministers may more suit for Party work, while more youngsters with enthusiasm and energy should be deployed in Office.

from:  sabil ali
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 12:26 IST

The Kamraj II Plan generates a serious doubt in mind over its efficacy and implementation in today's modern India.Let's not forget that the political brass during 1960's was different from that of today's.The intent of serving people first than themselves seems to be lacking in most cases today.

from:  Sumit Gupta
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 12:09 IST

I fully agree with the Article. I suggest that, to start with, with
immediate effect, all those above 70 years of age, should not be
appointed for any political or constitutional posts.

Further, there should be no extension for any Political Posts,beyond 5
years, in aggreagate

from:  HARINATHAN.K
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 11:55 IST

Kamraj Plan with a twist- Politics as a profession is facing a serious
credibility crisis. Political Parties have run out of ideas on how to
keep their members inspired. The cynicism and lack of pride in the
profession of politics is not just seen amongst the vocal citizens and
media, it is also very high amongst the politicians themselves.It can
be a great strategy for parties to just bring in women and youth where
they are facing the harshest criticism for corruption etc. Women and
youth can resolve this crisis, bring back inspiration and most
importantly re-imagine the political profession in a way that is
wholesome and harmonious for everyone involved. The key would be to be
bold and announce these ticket allotments atleast an year before the
due date of the elections.

from:  Nidhi Prabha Tewari
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 11:50 IST

The author is expecting too much from today's politicians.Why should
they forsake their cabinet berth...their hard earned jack-pot in this cut-throat competition among party-men vying for one,and that too for the country-men which they never intend to serve...and if they do so then who will fill their swiss bank accounts,who will make provisions for their future generations to occupy the same cabinet berth???where are the politicians of will and high moral character to implement the
kamaraj plan..The opposition,baying for blood of tainted ministers are doing more so out of their inability to loot than of their
responsibilty of being a responsible opposition.In this scenario of
missed and gained opportunities is caught the poor and needy waiting
futilely for the struggle to get over,while the rich are busy getting
richer and the common man trying to catch up with them!!!

from:  Gaurav Sawant
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 11:31 IST

The article makes good reading; except for the reference to the Cong. president's saying no to office. As is well known even to the most "unchaptered", the kind of back-seat driving that is happening now is unheard of in the political history of the country and that true power vests with Madame Gandhi and not the prime minister. That apart,in the absence of a will to govern, no plan is likely to succeed. Actually, there is no dearth of young talent in the ministry, with the likes of Sachin Pilot, Jyotidaritya Scindia, etc. In the absence of a clear direction from above, what can young and fresh faces by themselves do? There is a total policy paralysis gripping the government internally, whose own coalition partners, for e.g., the TMC are pulling it in different directions. So, how correct would it be to blame the opposition for "stalling the parliament?" Actually, it is their constitutional duty to go for the jugular when the Govt has committed grave acts of commission and ommision.

from:  Suresh Bindhumadhav
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 11:19 IST

A very sane article and needs to be heeded by the Congress.

from:  George Varghese
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 11:16 IST

Certain drastic changes are to be made in our democratic system.The
most important thing is probity in public life.Electoral laws should
totally prevent the role of money,muscle,misuse of official machinery
in winning elections.Our multi party system has helped only in
dividing the Indian society deeper on caste,communal basis and
resulting in fractured verdicts and social conflicts.This type of
political chaos helps self seeking parties to form unholy alliances
and loot public wealth for their own benefits.The offer of freebies in
election manifestos should be stopped.Instead political parties are to
spell out their plans for improving the lot of underprivileged through
economic opportunities.Even if our democracy becomes alimited
democracy it should effectively put an end to family rule/dynastic
rule and also prescribe qualifications for becoming a
legislator.Unless these happen there cannot be vishwas and we will
continue to suffer in perpetuity.
G.Kulandaivelu,
Karaikal

from:  G.Kulandaivelu
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 11:12 IST

An excellent suggestion and perhaps the only recourse for Congress.Drop all the 'tainted',accused and aged Ministers from the cabinet immediately.
Such an act will blunt the opposition attack for some time.Meantime make a sincere attempt to bring back black money into India.There is enough time to recuperate well before the 2014 polls. By the way , even BJP may have to drop some to fetch more numbers .Keep in mind ,there will be more voter turn out in all the forthcoming elections.

from:  Gururaj
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 08:57 IST

A very good suggestion by Patriotic Citizen. I am not sure whether Kamraj Plan II may have
the expected results. But I firmly believe that Congress Leaders, Ministers should emulate
the simplicity of Kamraj and dedicate themselves to party work without always having an eye
on Ministerial posts. We have not only Soniaji but Veterans like A. K. Antony to say No to
office without any hesitation. There are leaders with very rich experience and number of
Youth with Talent.If India is to remain as a sovereign Secular Democratlc with unity in
diversity Congress must regain its lost ground and meet all the challenges facing the Nation.
The growthh and development should be sustained. All political parties including the BJP
should ensure the Parliament passes the Bills which are pending including the Lok Pal Bill

from:  N. Thirunavukkarasu
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 04:31 IST

appropriate article. hope the message goes to the right people.

from:  avraju
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 04:03 IST

Considering the situation that Congress party is in right now, it would
not be a bad idea to try the suggested course of action. There has,
indeed, been too much "widespread inefficiency and gross mismanagement
of resources" and corruption with the UPA 2 government. At this point,
anything to change the image of party would be worthwhile. Assuming the
strategy works for 2014 elections, there is still the question of how
much support can be garnered from the other parties and independents, as
any one party gaining majority is unlikely.

from:  Balasundar
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 02:43 IST

The idea of rejuvenating the parliament is really really appreciable.
The young people in politics should be given opportunity to show their
potential as a great leader and as a minister, while the old ones can
work for party and their strategies.
By the way it will make any change if and only if the intentions of the
ruling party (or rather, government) is to SERVE THE PEOPLE and not to
make money!
For a party aspiring to take the parliament in hand in coming
elections, this one is a good idea. Certainly it is of no use for the
current government, as they turned out to be MONEY MAKERS!

Jai hind!

from:  vivek patil
Posted on: Aug 29, 2012 at 01:59 IST
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