Birthday: May 19, 1913
Died At Age: 83
Sun Sign: Taurus
Born in: Illur, Anantapur District, Madras Presidency, British India
Famous as: Sixth President of India
Spouse/Ex-: Neelam Nagaratnamma
Died on: June 1, 1996
place of death: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was an Indian politician, freedom activist, and the sixth President of India. He was the youngest President of India and remained in the office of the President from 1977 to 1982. India was under the British rule in the 1930s and Neelam dropped out of college to join India’s freedom movement. He participated in the ‘Quit India Movement,’ and was later jailed. He joined the Congress Party and kept working toward the ultimate goal of the Indian freedom struggle – freedom from the British rule.. In 1953, after India got its independence, he became the deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and three years later, he became the first Chief Minister of the newly formed state of Andhra Pradesh. He stayed in the office until 1960. He again held the office as Chief Minister in 1962, and continued until 1964. He also served as Speaker of the ‘Lok Sabha’ and as a minister in the union cabinet. He was elected as the sixth President of India unopposed in 1977 and served until 1982.
Childhood & Early Life
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was born on May 19, 1913, in Illur, Anantapur district, British India into a Telugu-speaking Hindu family. Anantapur district is located in the modern day Andhra Pradesh.
He was very good in academics and studied at the Theosophical High School, Adayar, Madras (present da Chennai). Before the independence of India, the entire Telugu speaking region, along with the Tamil speaking region, was part of the Madras Presidency.
Following his high school graduation, Neelam moved back to his hometown and enrolled at the ‘Government Arts College’ in an undergraduate course. It was one of the most well reputed colleges in the area and affiliated to the University of Madras.
During the 1930s, the whole of India was engrossed in the freedom struggle. The freedom movement was at all-time high and leaders such as Gandhi and Nehru were national heroes. Inspired by these leaders, Neelam became interested in joining the movement and dropped out of college.
Mahatma Gandhi toured the Anantapur district in 1929 and this had a huge impact on him. He went on to join the Congress Party two years later in (1931) and became its full-time member.
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Role in the Freedom Struggle
His role in the Indian independence movement began as a youth leader. He was associated with a ‘student satyagraha.’ He was active in the freedom movement throughout the 1930s. In 1938, he became secretary of the ‘Andhra Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee.’ APPCC was the local wing of the Indian National Congress. Neelam worked as secretary of the APPCC for the next ten years.
In the early 1940s, the Congress Party under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi launched the ‘Quit India Movement.’ It was a nationwide movement aimed at forcing the British out of India.
Although it was a peaceful protest movement, the British government used suppressive means and jailed several congress leaders. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, too, participated in the movement and was jailed several times between 1940 and 1945. He was finally shifted to the Amraoti Jail, along with other freedom activists, including V.V. Giri and K. Kamaraj.
In 1947, the British decided to leave India and the country gained its independence after decades of struggle.
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1946. He also became a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly from the state of Madras.
In April 1949, he served as the Minister for Prohibition, Housing, and Forest of the state of Madras. He contested the 1951 election to the Madras Legislative Assembly but lost to Tarimela Nagi Reddy, a communist leader.
In 1951, he contested for the post of the President of Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee and won. In 1953, Andhra state was formed and Neelam became its first deputy Chief Minister. Later, Andhra Pradesh state was formed merging Andhra and Telangana and Neelam became the first CM of the state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
He was the MLA from Sri Kalahasti, during his first tenure as the CM. He held the chair until 1960. He quit after becoming President of the Indian National Congress (INC). In March 1962, he became the CM yet again, this time he was MLA from Dhone. His second term continued until 1964, after which he resigned, following an investigation on his government by the Supreme Court of India.
His term as the CM was quite effective. The Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam river valley projects were taken up during his reign. Later, the government of Andhra Pradesh named the project after Neelam.
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The core focus of his government was the development of agriculture sector, along with rural development. Industrialization and urban development somehow took a backseat.
He was elected to the Lok Sabha in the general elections of 1967 from Hindupur, Andhra Pradesh. In March 1967, he was elected Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
During the Presidential election of 1969, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was openly against Neelam Sanjiva Reddy and he lost the presidential election to V.V. Giri. Following this, Neelam took retirement from active politics and took to farming in Anantapur.
In 1975, Indira Gandhi imposed ’Emergency’ in the country. Many opposition parties came together to form the Janata Party. Neelam was invited to become a part of it; he came out of his exile to join the party and contested the Presidential elections of 1977.
Neelam was elected unopposed when his main rival Rukmini Devi Arundale backed out. He was 64 at that time and became the youngest President of India. He still remains the only Indian President who was elected unopposed.
As the President of India, he worked with several Prime Ministers, including Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, and Indira Gandhi. In 1982, he took retirement from active politics and moved to Anantapur to pursue farming.
In his farewell speech to the nation, Neelam called for the need of a strong opposition. He further added that governments were not able to work for the benefit of the masses.
Personal Life & Death
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was married to Neelam Nagaratnamma. The couple had one son and three daughters together.
He passed away of Pneumonia, in Bangalore, on June 1, 1996. He was 83 years old at the time of his death.