C Rajagopalachari (Part 2)

A Logical Intellect

Rajaji was endowed with critical thinking, backed by sound logic. Whatever the topic, he first examined the sentence that communicates the idea; he analyzed its literal meaning and then grasp its essence; he then verified ‘Is this aspect true?’ If there was more than one piece of information, he considered their compatibility. It was his method thus to dissect every topic, and weigh and value each of them. This is the logical way. One might infer that this is due to the practice of law. But this talent for sharp scrutiny must have come naturally. I know several lawyers who lack this clarity. They use a lot of words, speak loftily, use fancy figures of speech, and quote from famous personalities. But there is no logical flow, no refinement of sentences and no core idea. A traditional storyteller once happened to read from a treatise:


In the town named Kuṇḍinī…

A woman who was in the audience asked, “What does it mean ācārya?”

He replied, “What, don’t you understand? It’s easy! Will not people laugh (nagare) if you () apply nāma on your backside (kuṇḍi)?[1] Don’t you know this much?”

She asked, “Is that the meaning? Isn’t it in Sanskrit?”

“What! If you don’t believe my words, go and ask Ramabai. She has recently returned from Udupi. Tell me lady – does lord Krishna’s hand hold the butter or not? Sitabai, you tell me! Rukminibai, you tell me…”

This is the style of argument of many lawyers and politicians. Contrary to this is pure logic. It questions the close connections between Kuṇḍinī, town, Udupi, and Kṛṣṇa. It is not satisfied just by people’s laughter.

Uḍupi kṛṣṇā

One shouldn’t just stop with such songs. Sentences must be refined. The truth must be extracted. This is the method of logic. Because Rajagopalachari followed this arduous path, many people realised his mastery over debate, but not his yearning for truth. What the common folk could not understand were the finesse of his words and the ingenuity of his speech. People who were satisfied with superficial, coarse, and bombastic statements, but did not scrutinize what they encountered, never understood Rajagopalachari’s finesse. They were irritated at his ingenuity. A bit annoyed even. But Gandhi wanted refined logic. He had grasped and admired Rajagopalachari’s refined intellect. Being incapable of opposing a worker who was close to and respected by Gandhi, others swallowed their dissatisfaction. Such people called him ‘CR’ (sounds like ‘cur,’ meaning fox) and other such nasty names. In sum, people from North India did not have as much fondness for Rajaji as those from South India.

Main Achievements

I will say a word or two about the tasks that Rajagopalacharya took up. Important among them are:

  1. Prohibition of Alcohol
  2. Khadi (handspun natural fibre)
  3. Upliftment of Harijans (socially backward people)
  4. Propagation of Hindi
  5. Attainment of Self-rule
  6. Fiscal Prudence in Expenses of State
  7. Administrative Efficiency
  8. Spotless Administration
  9. Traditional Practices (Dharma-sampradāya)
  10. Literary Work – Tamil literature

Prohibition of Alcohol: This was one of the important goals of Mahatma Gandhi. It’s worth remembering the efforts Rajagopalachari put in for this. However, the results have been insignificant until now. The Chief Ministers of Madras who succeeded him as well as the other ministers have been negligent on this topic; au contraire, they have become detractors. The prohibition arrangement itself has been disbanded.

Khadi: Rajagopalachari worked incessantly not only for propagation of khadi but also for protection of handloom weavers. He would himself spin the yarn from the charkha (spinning wheel). But that has not endangered the sale of cloth from the mill. And there is no guarantee that the handloom workers are using the handspun yarn.  It does not seem that the handloom folk have made much use of this opportunity. They are themselves the cause of this: they have not earned public trust.

Upliftment of Harijans: In this struggle, thanks to the efforts of Rajaji, harijans gained entry into Thiruvananthashayana temple[2]. However, no one has witnessed the extent to which the temple entry facility is being used by harijans. They do not seem to be much enthusiastic about this matter. In the matter of government jobs, it is happening; in fact, it’s happening a lot. What has been its effect on that community? What has been the effect on general public administration? This is something to be deliberated upon.

Propagation of Hindi: Rajagopalachari was initially an enthusiastic advocate of Hindi. He did a lot of work for this. After realizing the dangers of Hindi on our regional languages and on English education, he kept aside his enthusiasm and advocated the use in favour of English and regional languages. It looked like he abandoned Hindi.

Attainment of Self-rule: It’s impossible to say how much effort he put into this. He worked as much as Gandhi did. Rajagopalachari’s primary objective was to get rid of the foreigners and earn self-rule and independence. He entered politics with this aim; this has succeeded.

Fiscal prudence: In the matter of how state administration has to be managed, Rajagopalachari’s objective has not been achieved. Fiscal prudence has not come about. He used to call the post-independent fiscal policy of state governments as ‘hypocritical pleasures.’

Administrative efficiency and transparency: After obtaining self-rule, governments took up policies that made efficient and clean administration impossible. Word has spread house-to-house that bribery and nepotism have become prominent. Rajagopalachari derided the Permit-License Raj[3] as ‘Permission-Discount Raj,’ strongly condemning the immorality of the governments.

Dharma: From the beginning, Rajagopalachari was devoted to dharma. Even so, he has given this topic more attention recently. There are more references to dharma in every article and in every speech of his. He was uninhibited in declaring that if this country has to survive, our primary attention should be towards dharma.

To be concluded.

This is the second part of a three-part English translation of the fourth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavaru Saarvajanikaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar. Thanks to K K Subramaniam for his review and suggestions.



[1] The fun of this episode is lost in translation. The original phrase ‘kuṇḍinīnāmanagare…’ is in Sanskrit and it means ‘In the town named Kuṇḍinī’ but the words in this phrase ‘kuṇḍi,’ ‘,’ ‘nāma,’ and ‘nagare’ all have meanings in Kannada as well! This creates the possibility of a totally different meaning, which is taken by the ignorant storyteller.

[2] The Anantaśayana (popularly called the Anantapadmanabhaswamy Temple) is a famous temple in Thiruvananthapuram; technically speaking, the pose of Lord Padmanabha is called 'ananta-śayana,' the one asleep on Ananta (Ādiśeṣa).

[3] ‘Licence Raj’ or ‘Permit Raj’ is the colloquial term used for the elaborate system of licences, regulations, and accompanying red tape that were required to set up and run businesses in India between 1947 and 1990.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Prof. Vedavyas M G is a visiting professor of Strategy and International Business at PES University, Bangalore. He is on the Advisory Board of Atria Institute of Technology. Before moving to academics, Prof. Vedavyas was Senior Vice-President at Mahindra Satyam, responsible for its global telecom business. Earlier he was the Regional Manager for Tata Consultancy Services at Birmingham. Prof. Vedavyas is a graduate of IISc., Bangalore (BE in E&C) and IIM, Bangalore (MBA). He has an abiding interest in everything Kannada.

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