K Kamaraj, the former Congress president and chief minister who dominated Tamil Nadu politics for four decades and played a leading role in national politics in the post-Nehru era, died in his house in Chennai. Doctors said it was a heart attack. Thousands lined up to pay homage at Rajaji Hall in the city, where the body lay in state. Kamaraj, the architect of modern Tamil Nadu, became an influential figure in national politics in the 1960s. He resigned as CM in 1963 on his own to dedicate himself to party work. His idea, the Kamaraj Plan as it came to be known, to have ministers work for the party strengthened the Congress and helped Jawaharlal Nehru energise the government.
Kamaraj was Congress president when Nehru died and was instrumental in choosing Lal Bahadur Shastri as Nehru’s successor and, later, Indira Gandhi as PM. However, he later fell out with Indira and left the party after the split in 1969.
Kuldip Nayyar, in his obituary, said that Kamaraj’s death meant a bridge between the Congress and the opposition had fallen. “It was more than a coincidence that Kamaraj died on Gandhi Jayanti. His precious possession, he once told me, was a picture in which he stood before Gandhi,” Nayyar wrote.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said the passing away of Kamaraj “removes from our midst a remarkable personality who wielded considerable influence and commanded the respect of all sections… He was a man of the masses with wide experience of problems at the field level and was dedicated to the cause of the poor and the weak.”
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