Radhakrishnan As A President and His Last Days

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Radhakrishnan As A President and His Last Days

Radhakrishnan As A President

Dr. Radhakrishnan was a common man who could combine the spirit and power of philosophy with political judgment. In 1862, after the retirement of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru chose Radhakrishnan as the official nominee for the Presidency of India and he was elected President by an overwhelming majority. On his appointment, Bertrand Russell, a famous philosopher said, “It is an honor to the philosophy that Radhakrishnan should be the President of India, and I, as a philosopher, take special pleasure in this.” Plato always stressed that philosophers should become kings and it was a great honour for India that philosophers became the President.
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Even in advanced countries like the United States of America and United Kingdom, no philosopher had the opportunity to become Head of the State. Thus this event became a “classical document of the history of philosophers in politics.” As a President, he was too good to be true and he completed the full time of five years with commanding intellect and rare dignity. He was a simple man with simple habits but he achieved all the significance because of his genial personality and his rare gift of noble expression.

Dr. Radhakrishnan was a President without formality and he wanted to mingle with common people. He said, “one may climb a mountain but he would not like to live there. He must come down and enjoy the warmth of society.” As a President, he visited various countries to strengthen India’s policy.

He went to Afghanistan and then to Iran. After that, he visited United States and Britain. President Kennedy gave honour to Dr. Radhakrishnan and there was personal warmth in the attitude of Kennedy. In Britain, the press was quite enthusiastic in its welcome as it was the first time that a Commonwealth Head of State was visiting the United Kingdom. Soon after his arrival in England on June 12,1963, he was honoured by the Queen, the award of the order of Merit which was the greatest distinction. After these visits, Pt. Nehru regarded these as “so memorable and inspiring.”

In December 1964, Radhakrishnan called on the Pope in Bombay. The Pope regarded him as “One of the chiefs of the Golden Army of Angels.”

During Chinese attack on India as well as the Pakistan attack, he kept in close touch with the chiefs of staff and in a grave crisis, he helped to hold the people together. He congratulated the Muslims in India on their loyalty and thanked the Sikhs for their support. Again after the declaration of the cease-fire, Radhakrishnan requested Indians not to be short-sighted and consider China and Pakistan as neighbours and develop friendly relationship.

On all critical issues, Dr. Radhakrishnan always remained neutral. He always considered the Constitution supreme. He always remained uncontroversial and always maintained harmony with the Prime Minister. In 1964, he visited the Soviet Union and his visit renewed the friendship between the two countries. When Nehru died, Dr. Radhakrishnan appointed Guljari Lal Nanda, the then Home Minister and he adopted the similar course of action even after the unexpected death of Guljari Lal Nanda. He helped Mrs. India Gandhi to secure the office of Prime Minister after Lal Bahadur Shastri and he set out to train her to function adequately. His attitude to his new prime minister was affectionate and supportive.

In the second half of 1966, Dr. Radhakrishnan was in a relaxed mood. He completed a full term of office as President of India in 1967. Everyone was hopeful of his return for a second term but Radhakrishnan was determined to retire. He said, “left to myself, I wish to get out of the present office.”

Although the support for Radhakrishnan gathered in volume, he declined and thus Dr. Jakir Hussain, who was then the Vice-President of India was chosen as the Congress nominee for the Presidency of India. Dr. Radhakrishnan retired from public life in 1967. He was, undoubtedly the best President of India so far. He earned international recognition and became one of the best-liked public figures of his time.

His unique quality was that he never concealed his own Indian identity while he visited foreign countries and this made him an ideal President. His personality reflected different sides of his nature-physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual. His unshaken faith in the people of India was a secrete of his success as the President of India. He considered democracy as the highest religion and this political philosophy made him different.

His Last Days

After his retirement, Dr. Radhakrihnan settled down in Madras in 1967. But he continued to write books. In 1968, he suffered a stroke and his health began to deteriorate from 1972 onwards. In September 1973, he slipped and broke his hip and he was bed-ridden. He progressed gradually and while in nursing home, he used to listen Karnataka music which was a source of relaxation for him. On June 22, 1974, he suffered from a cerebral stroke and again he was admitted to hospital. In February 1975, he was awarded The Templeton Award for progress in Religion. Although he was unable to speak at that time, he gladly expressed his feelings by a broad smile. He was truly a world champion of religion.
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He always defended not one religion but the spirit which lay underneath all religions. He had deep faith in spiritual revival and stressed that the solution to every problem lay in the understanding of religion and God. He successfully combined religion and politics, thus he truly deserved the Templeton foundation prize.

Dr. Radhakrishnan enjoyed sound health throughout his life but in his last days, his health suffered setbacks and he remained in nursing home for about eight months. Before his death, he suffered from repeated cardiac arrest and on April 16, 1975, his condition further deteriorated and even the best efforts of the doctors could not save him. A life full of dignity and glory come to an end and India was deprived of a great philosopher and a fine statesman. He was a man of unmatched genius who carried the message of India abroad and won laurels for India.

He was a philosopher by temperament who chose to be a politician. He balanced religion and politics and taught the world that spirituality is very important in every walk of life, especially in politics. According to him, spirituality and belief in God could result in economic betterment and equality in social status. “No man in any country had achieved so much importance in so many fields of activity as Radhakrishnan in India.”

Jayaprakash Narayan said in his message: “Dr. Radhakrishnan lived a richly varied and purposeful life and made distinct contribution both to the academic and public life. He had bestowed upon humanity a fund of wisdom to guide future generation.”