May 24, 2024
K Kamaraj

K Kamaraj: Indian independence activist and politician

K Kamaraj was a chief minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu assigned at that time by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He is considered one of the major factors in industrialization and economic progress in India under her leadership.

Kamaraj was born on 22nd January, 1896 in Mettur, Tamil Nadu. Kamaraj was an active social reformer who integrated modern ideas with traditional values to improve society and economy within his lifetime. He started working as a lawyer and began politicizing when he joined Congress Party early in 1925 during the British rule of India. He also served as Finance Minister for 7 years during 1942-1947.

About K Kamaraj

Kumaraswami Kamaraj was a Tamil politician and served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (1946–47) and Union Finance Minister of India. Kamaraj was among the first Indians to acquire a doctorate degree in economics from Cambridge University. He was also the first Indian to be appointed as the chairman of the National Planning Committee by Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. As a part of his contribution towards the Indian economy, he successfully led the introduction of ‘Development Bank’ (later became National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) on 1 December 1961.

Life of Kamraj

His Birth

K Kamaraj was born on 22 January 1896 in Mettur, Tamil Nadu. His father’s name was Karumboothi Thirumalai Kamaraj and mother’s name was Purnakumara. He had one sibling Vindhyavalli Kamaraj. His paternal grandfather was Chinna Kuriyampalaiyar and maternal grandfather was Senathurai Pandiyan.

His Education

Kamaraj started his school education at the age of 4. He studied to the 10th standard in a school that he founded for poor children around Mettur town called Nethanodu High School (NHS). K Kamaraj continued his education at the age of 16 in First Grade College, Pannaivilai. He completed his tenth standard with an Arts degree from Madras Christian College in 1916. Kamaraj started working as a sugar merchant and later became a lawyer.

Personal life

Kamaraj got married to Panchakshari Ammal and had three children. His eldest son was Shri Kumaraswami Kamaraj (1934–2001) who was a Member of Parliament from Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. His second son was Shri K.S. Chariannan and the youngest son was K.S. Nagarajan. His wife died after a few years of marriage.

Political Career

K Kamaraj entered active politics when he joined the Indian National Congress party early in 1925 where he was appointed as its general secretary, until 1930. Kamaraj was first elected as an MLA in 1931 from Kudimangalam constituency and later became the Minister for Law under the reign of the British Governor Sir Arthur Hope Hooglie during 1935-1936. Kamaraj started his political career by joining Congress party in 1925 while he was studying law at Madras Christian College. He contested election to Madurai Municipality twice, and became alderman several times after 1937.

Kamaraj’s other key positions included member of Central Legislative Assembly, the party’s vice-president, the deputy leader of Congress Legislature Party and president, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) during 1930–32 and 1937–47 respectively.

Kamraj’s role in Indian independence movement
Jallianwala Bagh massacre changes thought

Kamaraj’s success in politics can be attributed to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919. The massacre led to an adverse opinion of British rule in India. Which later brought Kamaraj into active politics in 1925. Kamaraj fought elections against the British rulers and came up with an organized political strategy to take on British authority and local opponents. 

Kamaraj’s role in the Indian independence movement must be understood in a broader context of his economic principles and social reforms he advocated for.

Non-Cooperation Movement

He was appointed General Secretary of the Congress Party during 1925-1930. Kamaraj continued his defiance against the British by getting arrested and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 6 months in 1932. 

Kamaraj was also a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles and undertook several social reforms movements in order to improve living conditions and level of education among Indian people. He advocated the philosophy that education should be made available to everyone regardless of their social status. Kamaraj also took oath as a member of Congress Working Committee after resigning from the Municipal Corporation during 1930-1931.

Salt Satyagraha

Kamaraj served as the Minister for Law and Education during the reign of Governor Sir Arthur Hope Hooglie from 1935 to 1936. He was assigned the duty to implement laws pertaining to salt, opium and arms. His role in Salt Satyagraha (1930) is often under emphasised in comparison with other contemporaries like Kamalapati Tripathi, Rajendra Prasad and Vallabhbhai Patel. Kamaraj was also arrested by British authorities along with Mahatma Gandhi during 1940-41 Salt Satyagraha movement.

Towards independence

K Kamaraj actively participated in Quit India Movement (1942) and later became a part of Indian National Congress Working Committee in 1947. A strong believer in multilingual politics. He advocated for language policy that would allow anyone to study and interact with the government in any of the national languages. He was appointed as the first Chief Minister of Madras state (now known as Tamil Nadu) following independence. His 7 years term witnessed his contribution in industrialisation, free and compulsory education, rural development and many more socio-economic programmes.

Chief Minister

Kamaraj’s 7 years term as Chief Minister also saw India fight its first war with Pakistan in 1947–48 just after independence. Kamaraj played a key role to settle the dispute by forming a coalition government with Muslim League Party led by Sardar Vallabhai Patel. He oversaw the arrival of refugees (due to partition) and rehabilitated them. 

K Kamaraj led his party to win the assembly elections in 1952 and served as Chief Minister again. However, Kamaraj was criticized by his party members for sitting out of active politics between 1956 and 1962.

Political split

In 1964, Kamaraj’s differences with fellow party members grew on whether to align with Indian National Congress led by Indira Gandhi or with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which he had founded previously along with Annadurai. The difference grew further when Kamaraj supported Congress candidates in Tamil Nadu during the 1967 election. DMK formed its own government after winning the assembly elections in 1967. Kamaraj actively participated in politics again and won the elections in 1971. 


K Kamaraj died in 1975 following a heart attack. Kamaraj’s funeral was attended by several political leaders such as Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Morarji Desai.

Awards and Honor

The Tamil Nadu Government issued a postal stamp and 2000-rupee currency note in his honor. Kamaraj Academy, a school in Chennai is also named after him. 

Several commemorative events were held to mark the birth centenary of Kamaraj in 1989. In February 2015, a 100-foot statue of Kamaraj was unveil by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. He get Bharat Ratna in 1976.

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