Neelam Sanjiva Reddy

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Neelam Sanjiva Reddy : biography

19 May 1913 – 1 June 1996

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (19 May 1913 – 1 June 1996) was the sixth President of India, serving from 1977 to 1982. Over the course of a long political career, Reddy held several key offices, as the first and two-time Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, a two-time Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Union Minister. He remains the only person to be elected to the office of the President of India unopposed.

Retirement and Death

Reddy was succeeded as President by Giani Zail Singh who was sworn in as President on 25 July, 1982. In his farewell address to the nation, President Reddy criticised the failure of successive governments in improving the lives of the Indian masses and called for the emergence of a strong political opposition to prevent governmental misrule. Following his presidential term, the then Chief Minister of Karnataka Ramakrishna Hegde invited Reddy to settle down in Bangalore but he chose to retire 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 June 11, 1996 and members cutting across party lines paid him tribute and recalled his contributions to the nation and the House.

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. While the book portrayed him as a serial fornicator, Ramnika Gupta, a CPI(M) trade unionist and politician, accused Reddy of having raped her when she met him at an AICC session to discuss the nationalisation of mines in Dhanbad.

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.

Education and Family

Reddy was born in Illur village in Madras Presidency 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. Much later, in 1958, the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws was conferred on him by the Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati.

Reddy was married to Neelam Nagaratnamma. The couple had one son and three daughters.

Political career

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.

Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh

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 thus serving in all for over 5 years as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Reddy was MLA from Sri Kalahasti and Dhone respectively during his stints as Chief Minister. The Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam multipurpose river valley projects were initiated during Reddy’s tenure as Chief Minister. In 2005, the Chandrababu Naidu led government of the Telugu Desam Party renamed the Srisailam project as the Neelam Sanjiva Reddy Sagar in his honour. The Congress governments under Reddy placed emphasis on rural development and agriculture and allied sectors. The shift towards industrialisation remained limited however and was largely driven by the central government’s investments in large public sector enterprises in the state. 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.