Kamaraj had an uncanny talent for assessing men after a short acquaintance. In carrying his colleagues with him, he believed in consensus. In implementing programmes and schemes, he was ruthless to a fault. He was unsparing in extracting work from bureaucrats but at the same time treated them with respect. He had supreme self-confidence and could do business with any diplomat of international repute on equal terms. He was not conversant either with Hindi or English, but that did not stand in the way of his interacting with leaders at the national level. His grasp of the problems of the masses was extraordinary and that endeared him to the millions who looked up to him for alleviating their misery. His life was an illustration of how greatness and simplicity can go hand in hand.
As a leader and man, he had his own failings. He was wary of assertive intellectuals and tended to keep them at bay lest they should encroach on his political domain. He was also a master of manipulative politics and to ensure his political dominance, he would place powerful men in powerless places and vice-versa. He practised his own type of groupism and that worked to his advantage, until an assertive leader with an all-India image, Indira Gandhi, challenged it effectively. In Tamil Nadu politics, a younger generation of leaders emerged in the Dravidian movement who cleverly exploited all the mass media to strengthen their mass base. Kamaraj’s decline began when he failed to strike a working equation with Indira Gandhi, who outsmarted him in his own game.
Nevertheless, Kamaraj’s contribution to the freedom movement and the building of the nation was enormous. He left deep footprints in the political domain.