Neelam Sanjiva Reddy

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Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
నీలం సంజీవరెడ్డి
6th President of India
In office
25 July 1977 – 25 July 1982
Prime Minister Morarji Desai
Charan Singh
Indira Gandhi
Vice President Basappa Danappa Jatti
Mohammad Hidayatullah
Preceded by Basappa Danappa Jatti (Acting)
Succeeded by Zail Singh
4th Speaker of the Lok Sabha
In office
26 March 1977 – 13 July 1977
Preceded by Bali Ram Bhagat
Succeeded by Kawdoor Sadananda Hegde
In office
17 March 1967 – 19 July 1969
Preceded by Sardar Hukam Singh
Succeeded by Gurdial Singh Dhillon
Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
In office
12 March 1962 – 20 February 1964
Governor Bhim Sen Sachar
Satyawant Mallannah Shrinagesh
Preceded by Damodaram Sanjivayya
Succeeded by Kasu Brahmananda Reddy
In office
1 November 1956 – 11 January 1960
Governor Chandulal Madhavlal Trivedi
Bhim Sen Sachar
Preceded by Burgula Ramakrishna Rao (Hyderabad)
Bezawada Gopala Reddy (Andhra)
Succeeded by Damodaram Sanjivayya
Personal details
Born (1913-05-19)19 May 1913
Illur, Madras Presidency, British India
(now in Andhra Pradesh, India)
Died 1 June 1996(1996-06-01) (aged 83)
Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Nationality Indian
Political party Janata Party (1977–Till end)
Other political
Indian National Congress (before 1977)
Alma mater Government Arts College, Anantapuram, University of Madras
Religion Hinduism

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy ( Telugu: నీలం సంజీవరెడ్డి ) About this sound pronunciation  (19 May 1913 – 1 June 1996) was the sixth and youngest ever 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.[1] He is the only person to have variously held the posts of Chief Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Union Minister and President of India.[2]

Education and family[edit]

Reddy was born in Illur village in Madras Presidency in the present day Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.[3] 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.[4] Much later, in 1958, the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws was conferred on him by the Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati.[5]

Reddy was married to Neelam Nagaratnamma. The couple had one son and three daughters.[6]

Freedom fighter[edit]

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 was mostly in jail between 1940 to 1945. Released in March 1942, he was arrested again in August of that year and sent to the Amraoti jail where he served time with T Prakasam, S. Satyamurti, K Kamaraj and V V Giri till 1945.[7][8]

Political career[edit]

Reddy was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1946 and became the Secretary of the Madras Congress Legislature Party.[9] He was also a Member of the Indian Constituent Assembly which framed the Constitution of India.[10] From April 1949 till April 1951, he served as the Minister for Prohibition, Housing and Forests of the then Madras State.[11]

Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh[edit]

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.[12] Reddy was MLA from Sri Kalahasti and Dhone respectively during his stints as Chief Minister.[13][14][15] The Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam multipurpose river valley projects were initiated during Reddy's tenure as Chief Minister.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19][20]

Congress President and Union Minister[edit]

Reddy was elected President of the Indian National Congress thrice consecutively at its Bangalore, Bhavnagar and Patna sessions from 1960 to 1962.[9] 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.[21][22] 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.[11][23]

Speaker of the Lok Sabha[edit]

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.[24] 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.[11] It was during his tenure that the House for the first time sentenced a person to imprisonment for Contempt of the house.[25] The establishment of the Committee on the Welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was another achievement of Reddy's speakership.[11] 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.[26][27]

Presidential election of 1969[edit]

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 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 420,077 votes against the quota of 418,169 votes required to be elected President and Reddy 405,427 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.[28][29][30]

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.[31]

Return to active politics[edit]

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.[32][33] Reddy was unanimously elected Speaker of the Sixth Lok Sabha on 26 March 1977. However he resigned a few months later to contest in the presidential elections of July 1977.[11] Reddy's second term as Speaker lasted 3 months and 17 days and remains till date the shortest tenure for anyone to have held that post.[34][35]

Presidential election of 1977[edit]

The presidential election of 1977 was necessitated by the death in office of the incumbent Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. Although Prime Minister Morarji Desai wanted to nominate danseuse Rukmini Devi Arundale for the post, she turned down the offer.[36] 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. He was also the only serious presidential candidate to have contested twice – in 1969 against V V Giri and in 1977.[37][38] 37 candidates had filed their nominations for the presidency of whom 36 were rejected by the returning officer. Following these disqualifications, Reddy remained the only validly nominated candidate in the fray which made elections unnecessary. Reddy thus became the first person to be elected President of India without a contest.[39] He was the fourth President to be elected from South India and the third from Andhra Pradesh.[40]

President of India[edit]

President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy led 7 state visits between 1980 and 1982. He visited USSR, Bulgaria, Kenya, Zambia, UK, Ireland, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Ireland and Yugoslavia.[41][42]

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was elected, unopposed, on 21 July 1977[33] and was sworn in as the sixth President of India on 25 July 1977. Reddy worked with three governments, with Prime Ministers Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Indira Gandhi,[43] during his term of office. 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.[44][45]

Morarji Desai government[edit]

Relations between Reddy and Desai soon soured over the latter's promotion of his son, Kanti Desai, in politics and over Desai's communication with Chief Ministers Vengala Rao and Channa Reddy on the issue of land ceilings in Andhra Pradesh.[46] 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.[47]

Charan Singh government[edit]

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.[48] 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.[38][49] Following Charan Singh's resignation, Reddy summoned Chandrashekhar and Jagjivan Ram to Rashtrapati Bhavan to look into the possibility of forming an alternate government but convinced that they would not be able to form one, he went along with Charan Singh's advice and dissolved Lok Sabha, calling for mid term polls.[50][51] Singh was asked to continue as the caretaker prime minister till a new government was sworn in after the elections. Reddy's decision was met with angry denunciations and protests by members of the Janata Party who even threatened to have him impeached.[52]

Indira Gandhi's return to power[edit]

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 with neither the Janata Party nor Charan Singh's Lok Dal winning the 54 seats needed for recognition as the official opposition in Parliament.[53] Indira was sworn in as Prime Minister by Reddy for what would become her last term in office in January 1980.[54][55] As president, he signed an ordinance that gave the new government wide powers to jail people for up to a year without trial under preventive detention[56][57] and ordered the imposition of President's rule in nine opposition ruled states on the advice of the government.[58]

Retirement and death[edit]

Reddy was succeeded as President by Giani Zail Singh who was sworn in as President on 25 July 1982.[59][60] 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.[61][62] 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.[63] He died of pneumonia in Bangalore in 1996 at the age of 83.[64] His samadhi is at Kallahalli near Bangalore.[65] Parliament mourned Reddy's death on 11 June 1996 and members cutting across party lines paid him tribute and recalled his contributions to the nation and the House.[66]

Reddy authored a book, Without Fear or Favour : Reminiscences and Reflections of a President, published in 1989.[67] In 2004, a statue of his was erected at the Secretariat in Hyderabad.[68] 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.[69] 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.[70][71]

The Postal Department of India released a commemorative stamp and special cover in honour of Reddy on the occasion of his birth centenary.[72] 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.[72][73]


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Political offices
Preceded by
Burgula Ramakrishna Rao
as Chief Minister of Hyderabad
Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
Succeeded by
Damodaram Sanjivayya
Preceded by
Bezawada Gopala Reddy
as Chief Minister of Andhra
Preceded by
Damodaram Sanjivayya
Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
Succeeded by
Kasu Brahmananda Reddy
Preceded by
Sardar Hukam Singh
Speaker of the Lok Sabha
Succeeded by
Gurdial Singh Dhillon
Preceded by
Bali Ram Bhagat
Speaker of the Lok Sabha
Succeeded by
Kawdoor Sadananda Hegde
Preceded by
Basappa Danappa Jatti
President of India
Succeeded by
Zail Singh