(1903 – 1975) – (Tamilnadu)
Kumaraswami Kamaraj (Aged 72) born on 15 July 1903 in Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu, was an Indian independence activist and politician who served as the Chief Minister of Madras State (Tamil Nadu) from 13 April 1954 to 2 October 1963. He was the founder and president of the Indian National Congress and widely acknowledged as the “Kingmaker” in Indian politics during the 1960s.
He served as the President of the Indian National Congress for two terms, between 1964 and 1967, and was responsible for the elevation of Lal Bahadur Shastri to the position of Prime Minister of India after Nehru’s death, and Indira Gandhi after Shastri’s death. He was also a Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, during 1952–1954 and 1969–1975.
Kamaraj was known for his simplicity and integrity. He played a major role in developing the infrastructure of the Madras state and worked to improve the quality of life of the needy and disadvantaged. As the President of the INC, he was instrumental in steering the party after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru. As the Chief Minister of Madras, he was responsible for bringing free education to the disadvantaged and introduced the free Midday Meal Scheme, while he himself did not complete schooling.
He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1976. In January 1966, US Vice-President Hubert Humphrey called Kamaraj “one of the greatest political leaders in all the countries of the free world.”
During his tenure as Chief Minister, when the municipality of Virudhunagar provided a direct water connection to his house in his hometown, Kamaraj ordered it to be disconnected immediately as he did not want any special privileges. He refused to use the Z-level security that was provided to him as the CM of Tamil Nadu and instead traveled with just one police patrol vehicle. He did not marry, did not own any property, and was never tempted by power. When he passed away on 2 October 1975 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, he left behind 130 rupees, 2 pairs of sandals, 4 shirts, 4 dhotis, and a few books.