Kamaraj’s political influence began to descend in 1967 when he was defeated for a seat in Parliament, and the DMK, now respectable, captured control of the Madras government. An increasingly independent Indira Gandhi continued as prime minister, and a conflict ensued between the government and Kamaraj’s group. The party formally split in 1969 with Kamaraj as part of the old guard that tried, unsuccessfully, to remove Gandhi from power. In the same year Kamaraj was elected to Parliament in a by-election and began to rebuild his Madras base.

Although Kamaraj was fluent only in the Tamil language, with English or Hindi being the power tongues of India, his political skills and the timing of crucial events combined to make him a respected national leader. His own low-caste birth helped him to bring others of comparable social order into the Congress fold. Kamaraj devoted himself to the affairs of his home state of Madras until his death there on Oct. 2, 1975.