Kamaraj succeeded C.Rajgopalachari, another great stalwart, as the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu on April 13,1954. Undoubtedly, this was a great achievement for him as he was the unanimous choice for the high office. He was honest and selfless to the core. Almost half a century has passed since he administered Tamilnadu. But his pivotal role in the State’s all-round development is still remembered. Keeping pace with Nehru’s visionary efforts at the national level, Kamaraj was instrumental in building many irrigation dams, linking the villages by all-weather roads and constructing hospitals in remote places. Today he is talked about for making primary education completely free. Perhaps he might have felt that the asset of education which he was deprived of due to poverty should not befall similarly placed children. In fact, he felt that a major part of his life’s mission was fulfilled by this one act. Kamraj had also introduced the mid-day meal scheme for the poor students at school. It helped arrest dropouts. It is now being replicated at the national level. Even the Supreme Court in one of its recent judgments has asked every State to implement the scheme besides instructing the Central Government to release foodgrains from its godowns for this purpose. The President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, while inaugurating a similar scheme under ‘Akshaya Patra’ at a function in Bangalore recently, acknowledged the pioneering work done in this field by Kamaraj.
The result of Kamaraj’s work was there for all to see. There was an all-round development with village as the nucleus. By inducting colleagues like Shri R. Venkataraman and C. Subramaniam in his Ministry he paved the way for the growth of industrial, agricultural and educational sectors.Tamilnadu set itself as an example for other States to emulate.
Well impressed by the achievements and acumen of Kamraj, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru felt that his services were needed more at the national level. In a swift move he brought Kamaraj to Delhi as the President of the Indian National Congress. That Nehru should have lent his ears to a little-educated leader like Kamaraj on party and national issues amazed everyone. Nehru realised that if he had wide learning and vision, Kamaraj possessed enormous common sense and pragmatism. This was amply proved when Kamaraj suggested to Nehru to seek the resignation of some of his senior cabinet colleagues to draft them for party work. Kamaraj had realised that the Congress party was losing ground among the people due to the absence of dedicated leaders. Nehru promptly accepted his suggestion and some of his Cabinet ministers resigned.
Kamaraj’s political maturity came in full view when Nehru died in 1964. How he settled the succession issue for the Prime Ministership was amply proved by his choice of Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi in succession.
Though later in life Kamaraj had to lose his political power and sit in the opposition, he still remained a respected national figure both among his colleagues and opponents. He had no enemies in politics and remained endeared to the masses as before. This was evident when a multitude surged to bid the final farewell to Kamaraj on October 02,1975 after he died of a massive heart attack. Countless condolences came in from various parts of the country. But the one that came from Justice Krishna Iyer said it all: “A common man’s man with an uncommon common sense”