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August 23, 2000
Politician with a heart of gold
I learnt with a heavy heart early on Wednesday morning that my friend Rangarajan Kumaramangalam is no more. I still find it very hard to believe that Ranga, as we lovingly called him, is not among us. I had known him for two decades.
There were three things about him that stood out.
He was a politician who had a heart of gold, he was essentially a good human being and he was a politician with a difference as he was not cold-blooded or ruthless. He was not instinctively scheming, too.
These traits are considered extremely good for a politician, but they are not the qualities a good human being would like to inherit. And Ranga was indeed a good human being.
He was successful in politics because of his genes; he came from the Kumaramangalam family. But he was neither heartless nor ruthless. His great grandfather Bala Gounder was a general of Tipu Sultan, who awarded his forefathers with the state of Kumaramangalam.
He was a great practitioner of trade unionism. He continued his trade union activities even during the time of Rajiv Gandhi. He gave it up when he became a minister in the Narasimha Rao government in 1991.
He used to wear his heart on his sleeve. Anybody who was cold and calculative would not have resigned from the Rao government, like Ranga did in 1993.
He was instinctive and he paid a heavy price for taking this step. He was out of the government for five years. He held the Centre responsible for failing in its duty to protect the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
Even his joining the Bharatiya Janata Party was an emotional decision that was made on the spur of the moment. He was not sure whether it would work out, but once he took any decision, there was no going back on it.
He gave his whole to the party. This was why he was able to make his place there. But for his sad and untimely demise he would have blossomed into a star politician.
He was technology savvy. He was one of the few I have seen in politics who had a teleconference facility at home. He knew everything about mobile telephones, computers, dot.coms and satellite channels. It is a pity that the BJP and Congress failed to use his skills properly.
He was a politician who had the knack of understanding latest technology.
Soon after Ranga was discharged from Apollo Hospital and he continued to be unwell, doctors there arranged for a teleconference with doctors in Harvard (Boston).
As a friend, he was warm-hearted and there was no change in attitude, irrespective of whether he was in power or not. He had no ego hassles. He would come on the line immediately and he was helpful too.
Unlike a successful man who changes, Ranga was normal. He was down-to-earth and continued to remain what he was. When out of power he mellowed down. He started taking stock of his actions.
He would often wonder if he had taken the right decision or whether he was going in the right direction. These issues troubled him. But despite the heavy odds he kept smiling.
That is why Ranga was, as a friend would say, head and shoulders above the rest of his political fraternity.
K Srinivasan, a senior journalist and a close friend of Ranga,
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