As I said about freedom, the Constitution by itself is only an opportunity. The Constitution only means that the affairs of our country will be conducted according to the will of the people, all the adult men and women of the country. But for attaining happiness the will of the people must be guided aright and executed aright. People want to be happy, but how will you be happy is a question to be answered by wise and good leaders. The Constitution cannot give us happiness
Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, popularly known as Rajaji or C.R., was part of the top Congress leadership in the run up to Independence. Close to Gandhi since 1919, he led the salt satyagraha in Tamil Nadu and the Vaikom satyagraha in Kerala, and ardently pursued the programmes of khadi, Prohibition, Hindu-Muslim harmony, promotion of Hindi, temple-entry and abolition of untouchability. A superb writer in English and Tamil, his political speeches and articles stand out for their erudition, eloquence and elegance. This selection of Rajaji's writings and speeches includes his reflections on the meaning of Swaraj and Independence, communalism and caste— including his refutation of Ambedkar—and the challenges of citizenship, education and leadership that faced the new nation.
Described once by Gandhi as the 'keeper of my conscience', Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (1878—1972), popularly known as Rajaji or C.R., was a lawyer, scholar, philosopher and statesman. Born in Thorapalli, then in Salem district, he was educated at Central College, Bangalore, and Presidency College, Madras, before he set up a legal practice in 1900. He soon entered public life and was elected chairman of the Salem municipality in 1917. But then, inspired by Gandhi's satyagraha in South Africa and after, he decided to join the Congress in 1919, giving up law.
Participating in the anti-Rowlatt satyagraha, he followed Gandhi into prison in December 1921, and was held in Vellore jail. On his release, Rajaji started an ashram at Tiruchengode to promote the Congress programme of khadi, prohibition, Hindu—Muslim harmony, temple-entry and abolition of untouchability. Picked by Gandhi in 1930 to lead the salt satyagraha in South India, Rajaji marched to Vedaranyam, in Tamil Nadu. He would be in the forefront of the Vaikom satyagraha, Kerala, Kerala, for the depressed classes' right to use the roads around the Hindu temple, along with Periyar 'Ramasami, who remained a respected friend, despite their political differences Rajaji would head the short-lived Congress ministry in Madras State, formed in 1937—39, after the elections under the Government of India Act 1935. He endeavoured to introduce legislation for temple-entry for the shudras and panchamas and Prohibition, but was defeated by the anti-Hindi protest in 1938 against the compulsory introduction of Hindi in schools which led to statewide violence.
Loyalty to Gandhi did not deter Rajajifrom being outspoken. He opposed the call to 'Quit India', believing that India should support Britain in the hour of crisis; he stood apart from the other top Congress leaders and pressed for accommodation with the Muslim League in negotiations prior to Partition, putting forth the 'C.R. Plan', that appears prescient, with hindsight. Governor of West Bengal in 1947-48 and free India's first Indian Governor-General in 1950, after the departure of Lord Mountbatten, Rajaji would be called upon by Nehru to be home minister after Patel's death and then chief minister of Madras (1952—54). At one time, he was mentioned for the first President of India.
Over time, after 1950, Rajaji would increasingly become skeptical of Nehru and the Congress's policies, especially of land reform and the public sector in industry, and carry on his scathing criticism through the Swaiajya, the paper he edited.The formation of the Swatantra Party in 1958 marked the final break with the Congress in politics.
With his extraordinary felicity in English and Tamil, Rajaji's political speeches and articles stood out for their erudition, eloquence and elegance. He popularized the epics; his renderings of the Ramayana and Mahabharata are still read. He was also a gifted short-story writer in Tamil. As a believing Hindu, he also wrote with elan on the religion, its sacred texts and Indian culture.
These selections reflect the vision of a liberal, who upheld the values of Indian culture and, through personal example, underlined the role of character and probity in public life in building the new nation.
To celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Indian Republic, the Words of Freedom series showcases the landmark speeches and writings of fourteen visionary leaders whose thought animated the Indian struggle for Independence and whose revolutionary ideas and actions forged the Republic of India as we know it today.