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From great grandfather to great grandson

B. Kolappan
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Mohan Kumaramangalam, the Congress candidate for the Salem Lok Sabha constituency in the forthcoming election, is a chip of the old bloc. He hails from a politically and professionally illustrious family, once known as the ‘Zamindars of Kumaramangalam’ in Salem district, whose members in politics have left their imprints across the political spectrum over nearly a century, from the erstwhile Justice Party, Communist movement to the Congress.

“The good work done by my father (late Rangarajan Kumaramangalam) as the member of the Salem constituency will stand me in good stead. He was instrumental in getting the general hospital and a flyover,” said 35-year old Mohan, who was named after his grandfather Mohan Kumaramangalam, a barrister-communist-turned-Congress Union Minister in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet. He died in a plane crash in 1973.

Mohan left India at the age of 18 to pursue an undergraduate degree in engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology and later an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Three years ago, he returned to India and started visiting Salem constituency, before joining the Congress. He is the vice-president of the Youth Congress unit in the Salem constituency. “I drew inspiration from young leaders such as Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia who have done some solid work,” said Mr. Mohan, whose great grandfather P. Subbarayan was the Chief Minister of erstwhile Madras Presidency. Subbarayan, a Justice Party member, achieved the feat by quitting his party and secured the support of the Swarajaya Party, he later joined the Congress and became a Minister in Nehru’s Cabinet.

“Late P.T. Rajan used to call him the first political defector,” recalled K. Thirunavukkarasu, author of the history of the Justice Party. Whether Subbarayan or Mohan Kumaramangalam or Rangarajan, all of them married outside their community.

Mohan’s father Rangarajan Kumaramangalam was a Minister in the Congress cabinet before joining the BJP. He was elected from Tiruchi constituency twice in 1998 and 1999, giving a new face to the BJP in Tamil Nadu. Rangarajan was also a high-profile Minister in the Vajpayee-led NDA government.

Even though his grandfather was one of the well-known leaders of the Communist movement and his father a trade unionist and advocate espousing the cause of workers, Mohan said communism was a “flawed political ideology.” “But I will not say capitalism alone could be a solution. In a country like India the role of government is far more important in the uplift of people living in poverty,” Mr. Mohan said, adding that his efforts to get educational loans to students and take drinking water to four villages with funding from the Salem Steel Plant had already made him popular in the constituency.

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