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S V Raju – a ‘good’ true liberal

For several years I have been suggesting experts on budget to work on a model budget and present it for discussion and consideration around December/January. For several years, noted jurist N A Palkhivala reviewed the salient features of a budget, post its presentation. His addresses drew large crowds and in quick time evolved as a regular talk show in several cities. With the advent of the news television, this circus shifted to the mass media as a form of entertainment and also attracted lot of sponsorships and revenues through advertisements.

I was, therefore, happy this subject receiving attention at the hands of SV Raju (SR), Editor, Freedom First, Honorary Secretary of the Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom and a past President of the Indian Liberal Group. Over a decade ago, he assembled 20 budget specialists including economists, senior retired civil servants and other public-spirited at Nashik. These laboured to produce a draft liberal budget and presented it to the policymakers.

Raju was Executive Secretary of the Swatantra Party for 14 years between 1959 and 1973 and worked closely with Rajaji and Minoo Masani (He authored a political biography of Masani). The Freedom First, now on its 64th year of publication, was a strong platform for liberal thought.

Raju found a kindred soul in Prof S Radhakrishan. He worked along with SR in the project for economic education. I remember the several meetings this project organised in Chennai presided by Raju. Self-effacing and humble, Raju never intruded the viewpoints of the speakers. Former Finance Secretary K P Geethakrishnan, who lent his expertise in the formulation of the liberal budgets, traced the early years of Raju at Coonoor, his shifting to Mumbai and getting deeply immersed in the liberal movement.

In my visits to Mumbai, I have been dropping in at Army Navy Building that housed the Freedom First office of Raju. The octogenarian, himself of frail health, was taking great care of his ailing wife. Raju was greatly concerned over the failure to cultivate a sense of bi-partisanship in the political arena. He suggested that the Speaker of the Parliament should not be from the ruling party or the major opposition. He suggested that these parties should, before the elections, agree on a person with sound training, wisdom and discipline (preferably a retired judge or jurist) to be elected Speaker. He used to ruefully remark that even Nehru did not encourage bipartisanship and referred to his contemptuous rejection of Swatantra Party’s support on the basis of its coming from “a right reactionary party of farmers and rich businessmen.”

Raju was the author of several books on democracy, liberalism, elections… His biographies on Masani and M R Pai and the several essays on the Swatantra Party are reference papers on liberal thought. His recent demise is a blow to liberal thought.


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