R. Venkataraman

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Ramaswamy Venkataraman (Tamil: இராமசுவாமி வெங்கட்ராமன் December 4, 1910January 27, 2009) was an Indian lawyer, Indian independence activist and politician who served as a Union minister and as the eighth President of India.


  • I will have to speak for my candidature versus Justice Krishna Iyer's. That in itself will be unpleasant. But more importantly when the country is plagued by so many divisions, what is the point of a future Rashtrapati, going about dividing the country's Presidential vote...? Let the electoral college decide on the basis of its knowledge of the candidates and a reading of the situation … I will keep quite.
    • Gopalkrishna Gandhi in: "The value of decency"
    • When he decided not to go on election canvssing for his candidature.

The Rediff Interview/R Venkataraman


Shobha Warrier in:The Rediff Interview/R Venkataraman, Rediff.com

  • In my opinion, the Union Government's decision to impose President's rule in UP is flawed. That some members of the House indulged in violence and unruly behaviour does not warrant the conclusion that the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
  • The House has the power to take action including suspension against those people who are indulging in violence. Again, the House has passed the vote of confidence and the decision of the House cannot be thwarted by the unruly conduct of a few people. The President's returning the proclamation is both constitutionally correct and praiseworthy.
    • His opinion On the decision of President K R Narayanan's returning the Cabinet recommendation on imposition of central rule in Uttar Pradesh (UP).
  • There are two things to remember. If the President is asked to do something against the Constitution, the mere fact that the Cabinet has reiterated its earlier decision may not be binding on him. If it is an administrative matter, then the reaffirmation of the earlier decision by the Cabinet will, of course, be binding. But no government and no Cabinet can ask the President to do something that is unconstitutional. So, this line of distinction will have to be drawn.
    • On the issue of Constitutional right - if Constitutionally was it right of the President not to give the Cabinet recommendation.
  • When we framed the Constitution, we adopted the British model. Therefore, the President acts as the crown. You see, Britain has no written constitution. So, there is nothing unconstitutional there. But in India we have a Constitution and any legislation even by Parliament contrary to the Constitution is void. As the Constitution now exists, the President has to follow the British precedent in many matters. Unfortunately, there is no British precedent in this matter.
  • Coalition: If the political developments in the country have created a situation like this, then it is for the country to decide whether they should have this Constitution or frame something which will take care of such situations. But as the Constitution stands, we cannot ask the President to do many things. The Constitution as framed is inadequate to deal with situations of the kind that have risen since the framing of the Constitution.
  • A country is not born as a democracy. It evolved and matures into a democracy. We are only in the infant stages of the democracy.

Commissions and Omissions by Indian Presidents and Their Conflicts with the Prime Ministers Under the Constitution: 1977-2001

Presenting awards

Janak Raj Jai in:Commissions and Omissions by Indian Presidents and Their Conflicts with the Prime Ministers Under the Constitution: 1977-2001, Daya Books, 2001

  • I had just returned from an official trip to Botswana in my capacity as Vice President of India about one year before President Zail Singh’s term was scheduled to end. That was when I first received a hint from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that he intended nominating me as the Congress party’s candidate for the high office of the President of India.
    • In: P.127.
  • I ruled out any discussions on the subject [on the constitutional issue of raising any issue on the exchange of letters between Prime Minister and the President, in the Parliament], upholding the principle of confidentiality of communication between the President and the Prime Minister …a significant constitutional precedent.
    • In: P.128.
  • About the Bofors issue: He (Rajiv Gandhi) said that he was quite ready to get all the details regarding payments to Indian nationals, but then Bofors Company did not want to violate commercial secrecy as it would affect its future deals. I told Rajiv, as Deface Minister I knew that all arms manufacturers were employing agents and remunerating them under different names. Therefore, it would be unrealistic to think that foreign arms dealers did not have agents. But utmost care should be taken to see that they did not influence our decisions.
    • He had advised Rajiv Gandhi to make a statement in the parliament
    • In: p. 143.
  • I am deeply shocked to learn of the physical assault on you; Thank god you have not been injured. Such are the hazards of waging peace.
    • He went to receive Rajiv Gandhi at the Airport breaking protocol as the latter had been attacked by a soldier at the Airport parade in Colombo.
    • In: P.140.
  • I, however, saw substance in the plea that the defeated ruling party should not be asked to form the Ministry as it had forfeited the mandate of the people. But I also saw the danger of vesting discretion without objective criteria in the President. While the monarchy in Britain is hereditary and unconnected with parties, the President of India is elected by the majority party and his actions could be partisan or liable to be questioned as partisan. On the other hand, if he followed strictly the criterion of calling the largest party, he would avoid the charge of partisanship. Besides, the President would not be able to play politics by calling a party other than the largest on the basis of his subjective assessment that such a party, in his opinion, was capable of providing a stable government.
    • His assessment when the Congress Party headed by Rajiv Gandhi had lost the elections (in November 1989) but was still the largest party.
    • In: p. 153.
  • Unfortunately, people in office develop a rigidity or a false sense of prestige that the Government should not yield to pressure. I was no exception to it during my earlier career in charge of vital departments. Wisdom dawns when it is too late or the situation is beyond redemption.
    • In: p. 161-62.
  • Outside support has always been a danger for the smooth working of the governments. If the President assertively persuades the parties concerned extending outside support to join the government, then such type of most unfortunate situations could have been avoided. If Rajiv Gandhi’s party had joined this government, this crisis would not have occurred.
    • When Congress Party withdrew outside support to Chandra Shekar who had to resign having lost majority in the House
    • In: p. 170.
  • Violence and terrorism has no place in any civilized society much less in India which is home of ahimsa. The perpetration of violent acts, especially on innocent victims, therefore, causes the greatest sorrow to us. But wisdom lies: in refusing to let the acts of a few provoke us into any form of rancor or ill will between communities or regions. The people of India have a deep faith in a peaceful, democratic order. This faith of our people must be zealously protected and strengthened.
    • In his pre-Republic day Speech in:p.178.
  • The vocabulary of growth must be held in position by the grammar of financial discipline and the punctuations of a social ideology.
    • In: p. 180.
National Flag of India hoisted at Red Fort on Independence Day.
  • Remember, under this Flag National Flag of India, there is no prince and there is no peasant, there is no rich no poor. There is no privilege; there is only duty and responsibility and sacrifice. Whether we be Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs or Zoroastrians and others, our Mother India has one undivided heart and on indivisible spirit. Men and women of reborn India, rise and salute this Flag!
    • In His speech to the nation on the day prior to the Republic Day (in 1989), p. 181-82
  • Adult franchise is the most powerful instrument devised by man for breaking down social and economic injustice and destroying barriers of caste, creed and religion. It has given the right to the people to choose a government through the democratic process of elections.
    • In: p. 183.
  • In a healthy democracy both the ruling party and the opposition have a responsibility to the country and surely the people will judge them in the discharge of that responsibility.
    • In: P.184.
  • Three basic postulates for ideal citizen laid down by Srinivasa Shasttri are:1) a sense of public spirit, meaning thereby the desire to sink one’s own personal ends in the larger ends of the community, 2) a practical common sense meaning thereby an ability to cope with and overcome the challenges to individual and collective life that arise from time to time, and 3) an ability to understand and appreciate what constitutes the welfare of the society, that is, what are the different elements that go make up the welfare.
    • In: p. 184-45.
  • The welfare of the weaker sections of our society has been entrusted to the nation’s collective care by the founding fathers of our polity. Their advancement must, therefore be regarded by the nation as its privilege.
    • In: P.185
  • The developing world to which we belong, above all, needs peace, because it is engaged in a historic task – the task of rectifying the imbalances created by colonialism; the task of clearing the debris of departing empires. It is, therefore, necessary to work towards a world order that is democratic and truly multilateral and based upon equity and justice.
    • In: P.194.

Quotes about Venkataraman

Giving awards to outstanding people
  • His active participation in the trade union activities at the grass root level was the foundation stone and the first staircase of his successful career up to the Rashtrapathi of the Rashtra (nation). Like his predecessors, in his early age, he who at the beginning reached the position of a trade union leader, courted imprisonment during the Quit India Movement with many other dedicated sons of the soil. He started his career in the Congress as an ordinary worker, and later, as an office bearer before entering Parliament. He in fact climbed all the ladders step by step before he reached the highest position.
  • He was a versatile personality, a grass root worker, a labour leader, an able lawyer, and above all a good parliamentarian. His active and outstanding participation in Parliamentary proceedings therefore, attracted the attention of the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The net result of this was that Nehru assigned him the coveted job representing India as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.
    • Janak Raj Jai in: "Commissions and Omissions by Indian Presidents and Their Conflicts with the …", P.125.
  • Worthy successor to Dr. Radhakrishnan though Radhakrishnan was a towering scholar while he started out as a labour lawyer, both had the common traits of dignity and fairplay.
    • Janak Raj Jai in: "Commissions and Omissions by Indian Presidents and Their Conflicts with the …", p. 127.

Venkataraman presided over the change to era of coalitions


Vinay Kumar in: Venkataraman presided over the change to era of coalitions, The Hindu, 28 January 2009

  • During Indira Gandhi’s second innings in particular, he became part of the core decision-making process, and was a member of the powerful Parliamentary Board at a time when the Congress had a powerful political and electoral presence all over the country.

Venkataraman responsible for shaping missile programme: Kalam

As Defence Minister, he was personally responsible for bringing me from space programme to missile programme, shaping the missile programme to cover the entire missile systems needed by the nation and naming it as Integrated Guided Missile Development Program - A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam in:Venkataraman responsible for shaping missile programme: Kalam, The Hindu, 27 January 2009.

  • He was a great teacher for making people aware of good aspects of politics and leadership. management. He was well known for sowing the seeds of making Tamil Nadu as an industrially advanced state.
  • During my regular morning walks under the 14 banyan trees nurtured by him, I am reminded of his purity of life.

The value of decency


Gopalkrishna Gandhi in:The value of decency, The Hindu, 4 December 2010

  • If he showed it was good to be intelligent, he also showed it was intelligent to be good.
  • Valued as an exceptionally intelligent lawyer-turned-freedom fighter with a commitment to social equity, he was known as one who had spent two years in jail for participating in the Quit India movement and on his release diligently taken up with cerebral passion issues pertaining to labour.
  • ...to join the State Cabinet, the trade unionist politician with strong egalitarian views showed another mettle — economic planning, turning a State not known for industries into one that became a model for industrialisation at all levels, small, medium and large. And he did that with almost zero attention being allowed to come to himself.
  • Victory was won with a major propriety observed, life shown to be larger than politics, and a worthy opponent left free to lose the election — that was his prerogative — but not his prestige.

Goodbye headmaster


Gopalkrishna Gandhi in: Goodbye headmaster The Hindustan Times, 3 December 2010

  • As chairman of the Rajya Sabha to be equally cordial and firm with everyone across the benches, pulling members up for inadvertencies as much as for intentional misconduct during Question Hour, the 'hour' that he scrupulously spent in the House. Prolixity, additional supplementaries, 'irregular' Calling Attention Notices, Adjournment Motions would be summarily put down. "Nothing will go on record, nothing…" was heard in the familiar high-pitched voice on the Chair whenever someone broke the decorum of the proceedings by speaking without authority. Members doing a 'walkout' would invariably hear the Chairman saying with a smile "Walking out? All right, anyway attendance is optional…" making the MP look and feel utterly un-heroic. Predictably, he earned the left-handed title of 'Headmaster'.
  • As president, seniority - the first attribute of a teacher - came to be virtually imposed on him by virtue of him being a good deal older than most in the government and in the political class of the day. His strained eyesight, which required him to wear high-correction lenses, and his pure silver hair helped perpetuate the Headmaster image.
  • He was as fallible as any human being. He made errors of assessment, of judgment, often in the way he reposed trust in people who deserved less. And, in the larger interest, sometimes 'looked the other way'. But in our times when mala fide intent exceeds 'honest error', he was something of an oddity.

Former President Venkataraman passes away


Bhaskar Roy in: Former President Venkataraman passes away, The Times of India, 28 January 2009

  • In the years of long retirement, he at times shocked and surprised his admirers by statements that often appeared to be at odds with his personality. He once found fault with K. R. Narayanan, then president, for not accepting Sonia Gandhi's claim for prime ministership in 1990.
  • Again, he later veered drastically towards the BJP camp and issued statements in support of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Perhaps, those were attempts by an elderly statesman to fight oblivion and assert his relevance in a changing situation.

Former President R Venkataraman passes away


Agencies, in: Former President R Venkataraman passes away, The Indian Express, 27 January 2009

  • A copybook president, he skilfully guided the country through a testing period of coalition politics in its nascent days that saw three prime ministers in two years.
  • In his stint as the country's eighth President he held office from 25 July 1987, which coincided with the period when the Indian electorate threw up a fractured mandate and politically the country was yet to accept coalition governments as a means of governance.
  • Steeped in the Gandhi-Nehru tradition, he had propounded the theory that the President in the Indian context was like the 'emergency light' which automatically came on when the normal flow of power was broken and went out after normal working was restored.
  • He had also made a conscious suggestion for establishing a national government during a fractured verdict.

A salute to a great statesman


Madhur Tankha in:A salute to a great statesman, The Hindu, 5 April 2012

  • Despite having a large unmanageable population and complexities, India's democracy has strengthened. A great contribution to strengthen our country's democracy goes to his credit.
  • I admire his intellect. It was always a pleasure to speak to him. When he was President I would meet him quite frequently...he was a great Constitutionalist.
  • He was not one thing to his voter, another to his Chief Minister, one thing to colleagues, another to the Prime Minister. He was not one thing to the Shankaracharya of Kancheepuram, another to Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation. He was not weak to the strong, he was not strong to the weak.
  • He had respect for first principles that go beyond oneself. And these first principles included awareness of the fact that politics is larger than a political party and that the country is larger than politics. This awareness was his greatest asset in the steering of India's Presidency...his procedures will be a reference point, a benchmark, on which future Presidents can confidently rely.
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