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In the Whirligig of Politics

Rajaji's political life had a strange course. He was the General Secretary of the Indian National Congress in 1921-22. For two decades from 1922, he continued as a working committee member. He became a frontline leader of the Congress, and was a confidant of Gandhiji. His extraordinary genius was well known to all. He participated in various Satyagraha movements and was imprisoned fivetimes. When Gandhiji began the salt Satyagraha, Rajaji led a procession from Tiruchirapalli to Vedaranya and began making salt on the seashore. They were all arrested by Government and sent to prison.

When, for the first time, the Congress participated in the elections, Rajaji became the Chief Minister of the then Madras Province. But he resigned from the Congress in 1942. The Muslim League under Jinnah put forth the demand for Pakistan. It insisted that grouping together Muslim majority provinces and dividing India into two should create a separate nation. In the early stages the Congress opposed the demand. But Rajaji said that it was better to accept the demand for Pakistan. Many Congressmen criticized Rajaji very harshly. Rajaji left theCongress. But the same Congress agreed to the demand for Pakistan in 1946!

Rajaji again joined the Congress in 1945. He became a Minister when Jawaharlal Nehru formed a Government on the eve of independence. The state of West Bengal had certain serious problems.

Rajaji became the Governor of that State in 1947. When Lord Mountbatten returned to England, Rajaji became the Governor General occupying the highest position in free India. Later, he was Home Minister in the Central Government. By then he was 72 years old, and he needed rest. He gave up the Ministership and returned to Madras and the world of letters. He began a study of the Ramayana.

A little later, when the Congress Party in Madras again urged him to take up the leadership, he said, "No. I am old, and I do not want any power or responsibility." But finally he had to agree and in 1952, at the age of 75 years, he became the Chief Minister. He infused a new dynamism into the Congress before retiring. But he became disgusted with the way the country's affairs were going on. He felt that in the havoc created by the control-licence -raj, corruption became rampant and the nation's life was in a shambles. It became clear that if there were no strongopposition party in a democracy, it would only be a travesty of democracy. So, the 82-year-old hero founded a new party called "The Swatantra Party". It was the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha till 1969.

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