R Venkataraman, RIP

Constitution-maker, defence minister, president

Former president Ramaswamy Venkataraman passed away in New Delhi today, aged 98. He was a member of the constituent assembly and rose to become president of the republic during a critical period in its history. His contribution to India’s strategic security is less well-known, but very significant. As defence minister in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet in 1983 he set-up a unique committee consisting of the three service chiefs, the top defence ministry bureaucrats and the top scientists in charge of India’s nuclear and missile development programmes. The biggest decision he made was to ask Dr V S Arunachalam and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam to accelerate the ballistic missile development programme by running five projects in parallel. It was Mr Venkataraman who allocated Rs 388 crores for the Integrated Guided Missiles Development Programme (IGMDP) that gave India the Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag missiles.

In Wings of Fire, Dr Kalam writes: “He advised us to list all the resources we needed to achieve our goals, overlooking nothing, and then include in the list our own positive imagination and faith. “What you imagine, is what will transpire. What you believe is what you will achieve,” he said.”

8 thoughts on “R Venkataraman, RIP”

  1. The best way to judge a successful person is to see how many people he pulled up with him.

    Are there good books on him, or perhaps Indira Gandhi that have those books?

  2. A decent, uncorrupt man. The INC in those days attracted and promoted such people. PVN Rao was another such gem who manned the helm at a crucial juncture again.

  3. Amazing how long he was around, right from the days of the Constituent Assembly and ending it as President. From the Indian Express, this quote “We should find means by which splinter parties do not enter Parliament and ruin democracy”. Did he see it coming or what.

  4. @Sud

    By “those days”, I hope you are referring to the pre-Indira Gandhi days.or it was Indira who single-handedly destroyed this great political institution called the Congress which till then attracted a galaxy of brilliant people from various walks of life and varying ideologies. Thanks to her perennial feelings of political insecurity and inferiority complex, she reduced the great party to a family business.

  5. Indira Gandhi was a master at foreign policy but she failed domestically on two obvious issues – Operation Bluestar and The Emergency.

    You have to add some nuance with such characters.

  6. Shri .RV did a lot to industrialise Tamil Nadu, under CM Kamaraj (or, perhaps under Bhaktavatsalam, I am not sure). Further, as FM, he began the liberalisation process in 1982. That has been hardly mentioned in recent years as the attention has been on Shri. (Dr.) MMS.

    But, to be fair, lion’s share of the credit should go to Shri V.P.Singh as FM under Shri .Rajiv Gandhi.

    Not-so-insignificant trend-setter was Shri RV from 1982 (or even 1981) budget, after Mrs. Indira Gandhi came back to power. Shri. RV praised price stability achieved under H. M. Patel, FM in the Janata Government in his budget speech.

  7. RIP indeed. I remember recently on the 10th year of Pokharan II, he came out publicly to congratulate Sri Vajpayee even as the UPA establishment was mostly silent.

    I am curious if anyone read his autobiography and have any thoughts on the book itself.

  8. All I can remember about R Venkataraman was his moist eyes, when Rajiv Gandhi was killed. I was in 5’th Std & still remember, we had got full 14 days leave.
    My parents were commenting, how only President was ushering tears and tears were missing (not visible) in others.

    I’ve read the below about him.
    1) He was long time ally of kamaraj and set the tone for small scale industries in Tamil Nadu.

    2) He was picked by Indira Gandhi for finance ministry, when she won back and she asked him, “What is your first priority?”. Venkataraman’s answer was bring inflation from double digits to single digit.

    3) He was denied access/entry to Arunachaleshwara Temple in Chidambaram, while he was a President. The priest, had mentioned something like “You may be president, but there are rules in this temple & you are bound to follow them”.

    4) Last, he created the entity that is HOSUR. Resources of karnataka will be used up, but taxes and revenue will accrue to Tamil Nadu. Smart isn’t it.

    He was looking very fit, compared to Narasimha Rao & Shankar Dayal Sharma.
    I don’t remember anything about his days as President, He seemed a President (compare to the current one), some one who could stand for 4-5 hours on Republic day. 🙂
    Plz feel free to correct me.


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