Sunday, May 18, 2014

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy - Biography

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was born on 19 May 1913.

He had a long political career as member of Congress, held several key offices, that included the posts of Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and President of India. He is also the only person to be elected to the office of the President of India unopposed.

Reddy was born in Illur village in the present day Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. He had his primary education at the High School run by Theosophical Society Adyar, Madras. He joined the Government Arts College at Anantapur, then an affiliate of the University of Madras for his higher studies.

Reddy joined the freedom struggle following Mahatma Gandhi's visit to Anantapur in July 1929. In 1931, Reddy gave up his studies to become an active participant in the nationalist struggle. He was closely associated with the Youth League and participated in a student satyagraha. In 1938, Reddy was elected Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee and he held that office for 10 years. During the Quit India Movement, he was imprisoned and he was in jail many times  between 1940 to 1945.

Reddy was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1946 and became the Secretary of the Madras Congress Legislature Party. He was also a Member of the Indian Constituent Assembly which framed the Constitution of India. From April 1949 till April 1951, he served as the Minister for Prohibition, Housing and Forests of the then Madras State.

In 1951 he was elected President of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee. When the Andhra State was formed the following year, T. Prakasam became its Chief Minister and Sanjeeva Reddy the Deputy Chief Minister. When the state of Andhra Pradesh came into being by incorporating Telengana with Andhra State, Sanjeeva Reddy became its first Chief Minister serving from November 1956 to January 1960. He was Chief Minister for a second time from March 1962 to February 1964.  Reddy was MLA from Sri Kalahasti and Dhone respectively during his stints as Chief Minister during this period.  The Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam multipurpose river valley projects were initiated during Reddy's tenure as Chief Minister. In 2005, the government of Andhra Pradesh  renamed the Srisailam project as the Neelam Sanjiva Reddy Sagar in his honour.  Reddy first term as Chief Minister ended in 1960 after he resigned as Chief Minister on being elected President of the Indian National Congress while in 1964 he resigned voluntarily following adverse remarks made against the Government of Andhra Pradesh by the Supreme Court in the Bus Routes Nationalisation case.

Reddy was elected President of the Indian National Congress thrice consecutively at its Bangalore, Bhavnagar and Patna sessions from 1960 to 1962. At the Congress session at Goa in 1962, Reddy's speech stating India's determination to end the Chinese occupation of Indian territory and the irrevocable nature of the liberation of Goa was enthusiastically received by attendees.As ar Rajya Sabha member, from June, 1964 Reddy became  Union Minister of Steel and Mines in the Lal Bahadur Shastri government. He also served  as Union Minister from January 1966 to March 1967 in Indira Gandhi's Cabinet.

In the general elections of 1967, Reddy was elected to the Lok Sabha from Hindupur in Andhra Pradesh. On 17 March 1967, Reddy was elected Speaker of the Fourth Lok Sabha.  Upon his election as the Speaker, he resigned from the Congress Party, to underline the independence of his office.

In 1969, following the death of President Zakir Hussain, Reddy was nominated as the official candidate of Congress party. In particular he was seen as the candidate of the old guard of the Congress. The Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was opposed to Reddy's candidacy. She asked Congress legislators to "vote according to their conscience" rather than blindly toe the Party line, in effect giving a call to support the independent candidate V V Giri. In a tightly contested election held on 16 August 1969, V V Giri emerged victorious, winning 48.01 per cent of the first preference votes and subsequently getting a majority on counting the second preference votes. In the final tally, Giri had 4,20,077 votes against the quota of 4,18,169 votes required to be elected President and Reddy 4,05,427 votes.

Subsequently, Reddy retired from active politics and moved back to Anantapur where he took to farming.[

In response to Jayaprakash Narayan's call for a Total Revolution, Reddy emerged from his political exile in 1975. In January 1977 he was made a member of the Committee of the Janata Party and in March of that year, he fought the General Election from the Nandyal constituency in Andhra Pradesh as a Janata Party candidate. He was the only Janata Party candidate to be elected from Andhra Pradesh. Reddy was unanimously elected Speaker of the Sixth Lok Sabha on 26 March 1977.

The presidential election of 1977 was necessitated by the death in office of the incumbent Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. Sanjiva Reddy was elected unopposed, the only President to be elected thus, after being unanimously supported by all political parties including the opposition Congress party. At 65, he became the youngest ever person to be elected President of India.

Barely a month into office Reddy announced, on the eve of India's thirtieth anniversary of Independence, that he would be moving out of the Rashtrapati Bhawan to a smaller accommodation and that he would be taking a 70% pay cut in solidarity with India's impoverished masses.

Following mass defections from the Janata Party and from the cabinet, Morarji Desai's 30-month old government ended in July 1979 after he handed in his resignation to President Reddy before a no-confidence motion could be tabled against his government in Parliament.

As President, Reddy appointed Charan Singh as Prime Minister following the fall of the Morarji Desai government with the condition that Singh prove his majority on the floor of the House before the end of August. Charan Singh was sworn in on 28 July 1979 but never faced Parliament to prove his majority when the President convened it on 20 August. This convention of appointing a Prime Minister in a hung House but with conditions on time to prove majority was later adopted by President R Venkataraman. After discussions,  he went along with Charan Singh's advice and dissolved Lok Sabha, calling for mid term polls with Charan Singh as the caretaker prime minister. Reddy's decision was met with angry denunciations and protests by members of the Janata Party who even threatened to have him impeached.

In the elections of 1980, Indira Gandhi's party the Indian National Congress (I) was returned to power winning 351 seats in the Lok Sabha.

After his presidential term, Reddy retired to his farm in Anantapur. He died of pneumonia in Bangalore in 1996 at the age of 83. His samadhi is at Kallahalli near Bangalore. Parliament mourned Reddy's death on 11 June 1996.

Reddy authored a book, Without Fear or Favour : Reminiscences and Reflections of a President, published in 1989. In 2004, a statue of his was erected at the Secretariat in Hyderabad. The character of chief minister Mahendranath in former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao's novel, The Insider, draws on Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy's career in Andhra Pradesh and his political rivalry with Kasu Brahmananda Reddy.

The Postal Department of India released a commemorative stamp and special cover in honour of Reddy on the occasion of his birth centenary. The Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy College Of Education in Hyderabad has been named after him. As part of the centenary celebrations of his birth, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has announced that it will rename the Andhra Pradesh State Revenue Academy, Reddy's alma mater the Government Arts College, Anantapur and the Government Medical College, Anantapur after the former president. (Were they done?)

Speech of the President Pranab Mukherjee on the occasion of Centenary Celebrations of Neelam Sanjiva Reddy


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