Born On: May 19, 1913
Born In: Illuru, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh
Died On: June 1, 1996
Career: Political Leader, Preseident of India
India remembers Neelam Sanjiva Reddy as the sixth President of India and a veteran statesman and administrator. Right from his childhood, Reddy had been actively involved into the freedom movement and hence, held several eminent positions before and after India attained independence. Political leaders in our nation are assumed to play an unfair game when they hold the position of a speaker while electing for parties from the same ticket. In Reddy's case, he was the first person to formally resign from his political party after being elected to office. Further, he is the only elected President of India without any opposition who brought about distinctive changes to public life through his intense commitment towards parliamentary democracy and its essential norms. His active participation in the freedom struggle landed him in prison but that did not stop his faith, determination, and passion for nation's independence.
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was born in a well-to-do peasant family in the village of Illuru in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. He received his early formal education at Theosophical High School at Adyar in Madras. He later joined the Government Arts College at Anantapur to pursue his higher studies. It was Mahatma Gandhi's visit to Anantapur in 1929 that changed the course of his life and left a great impact on Reddy. As a result, he left his studies midway and gave away his foreign clothes only to dress himself in khadi.
Association With Congress
Reddy joined the Indian independence movement in 1931. He joined the Congress Party and was active in the student Satyagraha. At a young age of 25 years, Reddy was appointed as the Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee in 1938. He remained in the office for 10 years. For most of the period from 1940-45, Reddy spent time in prison. Though he was released in March 1942, was re-arrested in August. During this tenure in Amraoti jail in Madhya Pradesh, he met Shri Prakasam, Shri Satyamurti, Shri Kamaraj, Shri Giri and others, who along with him remained imprisoned until 1945. 1946 was a turning point for Reddy when he was elected to the Madras Congress Legislature Party and became the Secretary in 1947. In the same year, he was elected as a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly.
Reddy served as the Minister of Prohibition, Housing, and Forests in Madras from 1949 to 1951. He then resigned from this post in 1951 to contest for the election of the Presidentship of Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC). Eventually, he won. In the following year in 1952, he was elected as a member of Rajya Sabha. During this period, his 5-year old son met with a tragic accident and died which left Reddy deeply shocked. He was so moved that he resigned from the post of President of APCC though he was forced to withdraw his resignation later on. He became the Deputy Chief Minister in the cabinet of T. Prakasam and became the leader of the Congress Legislature Party. In 1955, he was re-elected to the Legislature Assembly and assigned the post of Deputy Chief Minister under B. Gopala Reddi's cabinet.
On the declaration of a new state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, Reddy became its first Chief Minister in October the same year. He was honored with the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws by the Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupathi in 1958. However, he resigned from his post in 1959 to proceed over the Presidentship of Indian National Congress, a position he served from 1959 to 1962. Fortunately, he was again elected as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1962. On June 9, 1964, Reddy was appointed as a member of the Union Cabinet, formed by Lal Bahadur Shastri, and was assigned with the portfolio of steel and mines. In November the same year, he was chosen as a member of Rajya Sabha.
Tenure As President
Reddy was nominated as the official candidate of Congress party after President Dr. Zakir Hussain's death. Even though he was a strong candidate for the post of President of India, he resigned considering that he was assumed to take advantage of the position since he was already holding a position in hand. Further, Indira Gandhi, knowing that it would be hard to make Reddy follow her line of belief and thought, asked the electors to vote for one person, amongst Reddy and V. V. Giri as to who was suitable for the position. As a result, Reddy lost and Giri won the elections. Post elections, Reddy devoted much of his time towards agriculture, his fore-fathers occupation. But he re-entered politics in 1975, with support from Jayaprakash Narayan. He fought elections as a Janata Party candidate for Lok Sabha from Nandyal constituency in Andhra Pradesh in March 1977. Surprisingly, he was the only non-congress candidate to win from Andhra Pradesh and hence, was even elected as speaker of Lok Sabha on March 26, 1977. He served his term dedicatedly and passionately that led him to the title of the best speaker ever in Lok Sabha of Indian parliament. He even stated that he would prove to be one of the most influential and dynamic presidents India has given. True to his statement, he was nominated for the post of President of India and won the elections in July 1977. At this time, he was the youngest President and the only unanimous Indian President till date.
Reddy served as Union Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation, Shipping, and Tourism from January 1966 to March 1967 under Indira Gandhi's cabinet. He was elected to Lok Sabha from Hindupur constituency in Andhra Pradesh. He was chosen as the speaker of Lok Sabha on March 17, 1967 that gave him immense recognition and admiration.
Reddy married Shrimati Nagarathnamma on 8th June, 1935. The couple gave birth to one son and three daughters.
On completion of his tenure as the Indian President, Reddy retired back to his village of Illuru and continued with agriculture. He passed away on June 1, 1996 in Bangalore, at the age of 83.
1913: Born in Illuru, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh
1929: Impressed and motivated by Mahatma Gandhi's visit to Anantapur
1931: Joined Congress party for Indian freedom movement
1935: Married Shrimati Nagarathnamma
1938: Selected as Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee
1946: Elected into Madras Congress Legislature Party
1947: Became Secretary of Madras Congress Legislature Party
1949-51: Served as Minister of Prohibition, Housing, and Forests in Madras
1951: Became the President of Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee
1952: Became member of Lok Sabha
1955: Selected as Deputy Chief Minister under B. Gopala Reddi's cabinet
1956-59: Served as first Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
1959-62: Took over the Presidentship of Indian National Congress
1962-64: Re-elected as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
1964: Appointed a member of Union Cabinet for steel and mines
1964: Appointed a member of Rajya Sabha in November
1966-67: Served as Union Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation, Shipping, and Tourism
1967: Elected as speaker of Lok Sabha
1977: Became the 6th President of India in July
1982: Successfully completed his tenure of Indian President
1996: Died in Bangalore on 1st June, aged 83.