Neelam Sanjiva Reddy

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Neelam Sanjiva Reddy : biography

19 May 1913 – 1 June 1996

Congress President and Union Minister

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. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha twice. From June, 1964 Reddy was Union Minister of Steel and Mines in the Lal Bahadur Shastri government. He also served variously as Union Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation, Shipping and Tourism from January 1966 to March 1967 in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet.

Speaker of the Lok Sabha

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. He thus became only the third person to be elected Speaker of the house on serving his first term as its member. Upon his election as the Speaker, he resigned from the Congress Party, to underline the independence of his office. As Speaker he admitted, for the first time, a No-Confidence Motion to be taken up for discussion on the same day as the President’s address to a joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament. It was during his tenure that the House for the first time sentenced a person to imprisonment for Contempt of the House. The establishment of the Committee on the Welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was another achievement of Reddy’s speakership. Although he described himself as the ‘watchman of the Parliament’ and conducted himself with dignity and handled parliamentary business in an orderly and effective manner, he had several hostile encounters with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the House that proved costly when he became, two years later, the Congress Party’s nominee to succeed Zakir Hussain as President.

Presidential Election of 1969

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. Although she had nominated Reddy as the Congress party’s presidential candidate, 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 August 16, 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. The election led to much discord within the Congress Party and culminated in the historic split of 1969 and the subsequent rise of Indira Gandhi in Indian politics. The 1969 Indian presidential election remains the most closely fought in independent India’s history.

Subsequently, Reddy, who had resigned as Speaker of the Lok Sabha to contest the election, retired from active politics and moved back to Anantapur where he took to farming.

Return to active politics

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 non-Congress candidate to be elected from Andhra Pradesh. Reddy was unanimously elected Speaker of the Sixth Lok Sabha on 26 March 1977. However he resigned four months later to contest in the presidential elections of July 1977. Reddy’s second term as Speaker remains the shortest tenure for anyone to have held that post.

Presidential Election of 1977