Sir Panaganti Ramarayaningar KCIE also known as the Raja of Panagal, was a zamindar of Kalahasti, a Justice Party leader and the Chief Minister or Premier of Madras Presidency from July 11, 1921 to December 3, 1926. Ramarayaningar was born in Kalahasti on July 9, 1866. He did his schooling in Madras and obtained degrees in Sanskrit, law, philosophy and Dravidian languages before plunging into politics. He was one of the founder-members of the Justice Party and served as its President from 1925 to 1928.
From December 17, 1920 to July 11, 1921, Ramarayaningar served as the Minister of Local Self-Government in the first Justice Party government led by A. Subbarayalu Reddiar. He served as the Chief Minister of Madras Presidency from July 11, 1921 to December 3, 1926. He introduced a number of reforms during his tenure. The Theagaroya Nagar locality in Chennai was developed during his Chief-Ministership. Ramarayaningar resigned as Chief Minister in 1926 when the Justice Party failed to obtain a majority in the 1926 elections to the Madras Legislative Council. He, however, continued to remain active in politics and served as the President of the Justice Party until his death on December 16, 1928.
Ramarayaningar was regarded as an advocate of democracy and a staunch supporter of empowerment of the depressed classes. Historians generally attribute the decline of the Justice Party in the mid 1930s to the absence of charismatic leaders in the Justice Party following his death.
Ramarayaningar was born in a family of landlords. He belonged to the Velama community. The Velamas claim to be the earliest Kshatriyas to settle in the Telugu country. Ramarayaningar’s family, in particular, patronised Brahmins and the Raja had his early education in the household of Calamur Sundara Sastri, the father-in-law of C. P. Ramaswami Iyer. He completed his schooling from Triplicane High School in 1886 and graduated in Sanskrit from the Presidency College in 1893 with Advanced Chemistry as his optional subject. He graduated in B.L. and M.A. (Philosophy and Dravidian Languages) in 1899. In 1919, he was appointed a fellow of the Presidency College.
Early political career
Ramarayaningar got his first taste of politics when he was appointed to the district board of North Arcot. In 1912, he was nominated to the Imperial Legislative Council of India and represented the landlords and zamindars of South India. He served as a legislator until 1915. During this period, Ramarayaningar earned the praise of the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge. He actively supported reforms in the Hindu society. In 1914,
Ramarayaningar moved a legislation for the creation of separate Provincial departments for the welfare of depressed classes. In 1915, he was elected President of the Third Andhra Congress.
In 1914, the Madras Dravidian Association was established by C. Natesa Mudaliar. Ramarayaningar was elected as the first President of the Association. On July 19, 1917, at a conference in Coimbatore presided over by the Ramarayaningar, the four different non-Brahmin associations got together to form the South Indian Liberal Federation, unofficially known as the Justice Party. In 1921, Ramarayaningar was sent along with Kurma Venkata Reddy Naidu and Koka Appa Rao Naidu to lobby on behalf of the Justice Party before the authorities in England.
Ramarayaningar was also active in the All-India Non-Brahmin movement. He was a friend of Shahu Maharaj and was closely associated with the former’s Satya Shodhak Samaj. He attended the All India Non-Brahmin Conference held at Belgaum on December 26, 1924 and presided over the Second All-India Non-Brahmin Conference held at Victoria Hall, Madras on May 25, 1925.
When the Government of India Act was passed in 1919, provisions were made to hold elections in the Madras Presidency for the first time in history. The Justice Party unanimously decided to contest the elections and was elected to power in the province. A. Subbarayalu Reddiar became the first Chief Minister of the Madras Presidency. Ramarayaningar served as Minister of Local Self-Government in the Subbarayalu Reddiar Government. When Subbarayalu Reddiar resigned, citing health reasons, Ramarayaningar was appointed Chief Minister.
As Chief Minister of Madras
Ramarayaningar served as the Chief Minister of Madras from July 11, 1921 till December 3, 1926. A. P. Patro of Berhampur was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by Subbarayalu Reddiar’s resignation, and he took the portfolio of education
As President of the Justice Party
Theagaroya Chetty, the founder-President of the Justice Party died in 1925 and the Raja, then Chief Minister of Madras succeeded Chetty as the second President of the Justice Party. The Raja served as the President of the party until his death in 1928
Bollini Munuswamy Naidu Ramarayaningar was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire on June 5, 1926. In the Assembly elections which took place on November 8, 1926, no party was able to get a clean majority. The Swarajya Party won 41 of the 98 seats and emerged as the single largest party while the Justice party won 21. The Raja resigned as the Chief Minister of the Presidency as the popular verdict appeared to be against the Justice Party. As no party had a clean majority and the Swarajya Party which was the single largest party in the assembly was reluctant to form the government, the Governor appointed P. Subbarayan as the independent Chief Minister and nominated 34 members to the Council to support him.
In 1927, the Simon Commission which was appointed to report on the working of the progress of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms landed in India. The Swarajya Party moved a resolution to boycott the Commission and this was passed 61 to 50 with 12 remaining neutral. The Justice Party and the Swarajists supported the resolution while the Chief Minister P. Subbarayan opposed it and requested his ministers to resign. However, Lord Goschen, the Governor, was able to obtain the support of the Raja of Panagal by making a Justice Party member, M. Krishnan Nair, a Cabinet minister. Led by the Raja of Panagal, the Justice Party switched sides and lent its support to the Subbarayan government. Soon afterwards, the Justice Party passed a resolution welcoming the Simon Commission. The Simon Commission visited Madras on February 28, 1928 and February 18, 1929 and was boycotted by the Swarajya Party and the Indian National Congress. However, the Justicites and the Subbarayan Government accorded the Commission a warm reception
Death and legacy
Ramarayaningar died on December 16, 1928 of influenza. He was succeeded as the President of the Justice Party by P. Munuswamy Naidu. On his death, leading newspapers and magazines poured accolades on him. S. Srinivasa Iyengar, a political opponent of the Raja, said of him:
The Rajah Sahib had singular gifts to leadership, tact and of high diplomacy. He had not only led his party with remarkable success but he fought the bureaucracy with even greater skill and courage.
The Hindu paid rich tributes to the Raja
Essentially a conservative by instinct and training, he showed remarkable ability to perceive the trend of the popular upheaval in our province no less in social than in political matters and he showed consummate strategy and great ability in maintaining the influence and integrity of his party, when the mantle of leadership fell on him after the death of Sir P. Theagaraya Chetti a few years ago. In many respects he was a contrast to the other leader who was frank, outspoken and vehement in his lift and conduct. The Rajah Saheb was, on the other hand, reserved and restrained, tactful and polished to a degree and his courtesy and consideration to friends and opponents alike has always been marked.
Despite his aristocratic birth, Ramarayaningar was known for his egalitarian views. Despite the fact that he was regarded as a communalist and anti-Brahmin, he nominated a Brahmin, T. Sadasiva Iyer as the Commissioner of the Hindu Religious Endowment Board. Ramarayaningar, however, strongly opposed what he perceived as the monopolisation of education by Brahmins. On being interviewed by Katherine Mayo, he responded:
What did the Brahmans do for our education in the five thousand years before Britain came? I remind you: They asserted their right to pour hot lead into the ears of the low-caste man who should dare to study books. All learning belonged to them, they said. When the Muhammadans swarmed in and took us, even that was an improvement on the old Hindu régime. But only in Britain’s day did education become the right of all, with state schools, colleges, and universities accessible îo all castes, communities, and peoples