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Greatness or Tragedy?


S. Gopal

THE RAJAJI STORY 1: A WARRIOR FROM THE SOUTH
By Raj Mohan Gandhi
Bharatan Publications, Madras, 1978, pp. 311 index, Rs. 45.00

THE POLITICAL CAREER OF C. RAJAGOPALACHARI 1937-1954: A MORALIST IN POLITICS
By A.R.H. Copley
Macmillan, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 332 index, Rs. 70.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 4 January/February 1979

Hegel said that every great man places history under an obligation to understand him. No student of history would today accept this dictum: rather, he would regard almost all so-called great men as irrelevant, if not diversionary nuisances. Yet it is worth spending a little time on C.R. First of all, his tortuous career as a national figure spans over fifty years. Political longevity in itself makes a claim on our attention. Moreover, C.R. merits study precisely and paradoxically because unlike other individuals who demand notice, such as Gandhi or Nehru, he was not a representative figure. He had no mass following, either in his home province or in any other part of the country. He led no group within the Congress. He symbolized the sentiments of no sector of society. In .the heyday years of the non-brahmin movement, he was the quintessential South Indian brah­min. He had no personal weaknesses. He was incorruptible, mentally detached from his family, uninterested—after the death of his wife relatively early in life—in women. In a society which thrives on scandal; there was never, over half a century, even a whiff of gossip about his private life. He was the lay ascetic in Indian politics, the Hindu who does not renounce the world and even has an intense political interest but is un­touched by the sordidness of the world. If one were to construct a Meccano figure of the brahmin of Indian tradition the result would be C.R. Had he not existed, he would have had to be invented. Yet how did such a man, a loner in every sense and at every level, who would be described, in Voltaire's favourite defini­tion of himself, as a 'brain with a skeleton attached', come to be a figure to be rec­koned with, for more than fifty years, in Indian politics? An attempt at an answer would help in understanding, not merely C.R. but, more important, the history of India during that period. It is fashionable to discard C.R. as a failure, as a man who, with abundant talent, achieved little and had few opportunities for achievement. But the position is really the other way round; and what is surpris­ing is that an unattractive personality with no major political asset save a power­ful brain could go so far in an era of mass politics ...


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