Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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20-12-2006 : Thrissur
Inspiring Leadership

I deem it a privilege to be here today to inaugurate the Birth Centenary Celebrations of Panampilly Govinda Menon. That the Government and the people of Kerala have decided to celebrate his birth centenary is not only a tribute to that great personality, but a tribute to the objectivity and political sagacity of the people of Kerala themselves. I congratulate them for the same.


A great Statesman

I have not had the good fortune to personally know or interact with the late Panampilly Govinda Menon, but I have read and heard enough about him to make my head bow in salute to his greatness and statesmanship. It has been truly said that he touched none which he did not adorn. Such personalities are rare. But when they arrive, they make such an impact on the entire society irrespective of caste, creed, religion or politics. This is the greatness of such individuals who are able to soar high above narrow and parochial considerations, and that distinguishes them from the lesser mortals. By all accounts, Shri Panampilly Govinda Menon was one such noble soul.


An Eminent Lawyer

As a lawyer, Shri Menon excelled himself right from the word go and earned fame and name for sheer legal proficiency not only in the State, but nationally. Logical thinking and reasoning had been his fort? and that combined with erudition naturally made him the brilliant lawyer that he was.


Freedom Fighter

I was thrilled to learn that like many of our national leaders who had totally involved themselves in India's freedom movement against the British and subjected themselves to immeasurable suffering for a noble cause in spite of their otherwise high standing in life and comforts available which they eschewed voluntarily and willingly with the exalted objective of securing freedom for the nation. Shri Panampilly Govinda Menon plunged himself into the freedom movement and had been imprisoned for his stand against the British government. I have read that even from his school days, he had been an ardent freedom fighter.


Development Politician

In the field of politics, he exalted himself far above the levels to which an ordinary politician would be susceptible to fall and this was possible only because of his innate traits of farsighted wisdom and tremendous will power. After "Prajamandalam", he joined a National Party and true to his potential, became an active politician with a totally national outlook. I found that he was elected to the Cochin State Assembly at a very young age and also became the Prime Minister of the princely State of Cochin. Before he joined the Central Cabinet as Minister of Law, he was also the Chief Minister of the then Travancore-Cochin State.

A study of Shri Menon's sojourn in politics would clearly show what distinguishes a statesman from a politician. To be able to see beyond the narrow confines of a party's political agenda is what characterises a true statesman. Shri Menon was that. Being in the saddle of power, he used his unquestioned intellectual brilliance to bring in reforms in various fields. I have read that the first legal reforms in the field of education were brought about by him. He was singularly responsible for giving a noble status to the language teachers. As a Cabinet Minister in the Union Cabinet, he initiated and saw through the enactment of various important legislations including those relating to stoppage of Privy Purse, bank nationalization, etc. His knowledge of law and legal implications obviously helped him tremendously in these ventures.


Powerful Orator and multifaceted personality

I have read that Shri Menon was an extremely powerful orator. His speeches have been extolled by one and all and are frequently quoted by eminent Parliamentarians of today. His art of oratory attracted massive crowds. He educated the masses through his speeches which were full of facts, put across with tremendous sense of humour. His style was inimitable; it was his own and bore the stamp of his tremendous personality.

Gifted with a brilliant brain, and a capability to use it untiringly, Shri Menon had shown his interest in different fields including literature. He was also a connoisseur of arts particularly music and Kerala's own Kathakali.


Conclusion: Politics = Political Politics + Developmental Politics

Panampilly Govinda Menon was an intellectual giant. People all over the country respected him not only for his intellect but also for the manner in which he used it for the welfare of the masses cutting across party lines and partisan considerations. A multifaceted personality, he was veritably an icon for the multitudes. He left an indelible mark wherever he trod and that remains even today for others to follow and emulate. It is sad that a brilliant life was cut short at the early age of 64 years and the State of Kerala and the nation stood poorer for this loss. There was a lot to learn and there still is, from what Shri Panampilly Govinda Menon lived and worked for and that obviously is the prime reason for today's function which has been organized, as I mentioned in the beginning, by the State Government and the people of Kerala without cramming themselves into any narrow considerations and rising well above such feelings and emotions with a totally open mind and objectivity that have always characterized the people of Kerala known for their educational enlightenment which is an ideal ground for practicing developmental politics.

When we are remembering Panampilly Govinda Menon, it is apt to think of an useful political system for the national development. In politics there are two dimensions, the first one is the political politics and the other is the developmental politics. Political politics is required during the election process. Immediately after the election all parties must converge on developmental politics with a common mission. Translating this into action, all parties have to work with zeal to uplift the 220 million people living below poverty line and remove the illiteracy and unemployment. I would like to visualize a situation in which the political parties perform in the environment of developmental politics in our country, competing with each other, in putting forth their focused developmental vision through their manifesto.

Our 540 million youth, who are below 25 years of age, should see an imprint of great leaders in every action of the parliament members and legislative members. They can become their role models to bring a dynamic change in politics and the developmental missions. Here, I am reminded of the famous statement by Swami Vivekananda "the basis of all systems social or political rests upon the goodness of men. No nation is great or good because parliament enacts this or that, but its men are great and good."

My greetings to all the people participating in this function for paying tribute to such an exalted personality as Panampilly Govinda Menon. With these words I inaugurate the Birth Centenary celebrations of Panampilly Govinda Menon.

May God bless you.




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