Indian National Congress

B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya

President: 1880-1959 (Jaipur, 1948)

Better known as the historian of the Indian National Congress, Dr Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya was born on 24 December 1880 in a poor Andhra Niyogi Brahmin family and took his M.B. & C.M. degree in 1901 from the Madras Medical College. Soon after his education Sitaraimayya moved to Masulipatnam and set up practice as a physician.

When the partition of Bengal in 1905, sent a wave of protest throughout the country, the leaders of Masulipatnam including Sitaraimayya strove hard to awaken the national feelings of the people through the press and by organising lectures and Harikathas. The youthful Sitaraimayya was at first inclined towards extremism and became an admirer of the 'Lal-Bal-Pal' school (i.e. of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal).

He soon became a member of the Home Rule League of Dr Annie Besant and ultimately became a Gandhian. Sitaraimayya made Masulipatnam the centre of his activities. Here in 1919, he started, an English nationalist weekly, the Janmabhumi. The Janmabhumi continued functioning till 1930. At Masulipatnam he started the Andhra Bank.

His association with the Indian National Congress goes back to his college days. In 1916 he became a member of the All India Congress committee and gave up his medical practice. Soon he was elected a member of the Congress Working Committee and continued in that position until 1948.

On the issue of Dominion Status vs Complete Independence Sitaraimayya, like Jawaharlal Nehru, favoured the latter. He was elected President of the Andhra Purna Swarajya Sangam.

In the Calcutta session of the Congress in 1928, he voted against the 'All Party Resumption' demanding Dominion Status. On the eve of the Salt Satyagraha campaign in March 1930, Dr Pattabhi toured the villages of the East Krishna district and spoke to the villagers about the campaign.

He himself broke the Salt Law in April 1930 by leading a batch of volunteers to the sea-shore near Masulipatnam and making salt. He was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for a year and a fine of Rs 1,100. In October 1933, he was again arrested while picketing a shop selling foreign cloth and sentenced to six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 500.

Towards the close of 1938 Gandhi ji nominated him for the Presidency of the Congress when there was a growing extremist wing in the Party, but he was defeated in the election.

When Gandhi ji launched his campaign of Individual Satyagraha in 1940 - 41, Sitaraimayya was chosen to participate in it. He was also arrested during the Quit India Movement. He was released in June 1945. In December 1946 he was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Madras to work on a new Constitution under the Cabinet Mission's Plan.

In 1948, he was elected President of the Jaipur session of the Indian National Congress. He was the Governor of Madhya Pradesh from 1952 to 1957. He passed away on 17 December 1959.

Though Sitaraimayya was a popular Congress leader and held in high esteem by Gandhi ji, he did not hanker after office and did not take part in elections to the Provincial Assemblies or the Central Legislature. He took pleasure in working for the organisation and in writing and publishing books. His earliest publication was 'National Education' (1912), of which K. Hanumantha Rao was co - author.

In the subsequent years he wrote and published 'Indian Nationalism' (1913), 'The Redistribution of Indian Provinces on a Linguistic Basis' (1916), 'Non-Cooperation' (1921), 'History of the Indian National Congress' (Vol. 1 appearing as the Golden Jubilee Volume in 1935 and Vol. 2 in 1947), and many more works.

“During its long history of struggle for the attainment of India's freedom, the National Congress was naturally absorbed in this struggle and could not pay much attention to foreign affairs. Nevertheless as far as the early twenties we find the Congress passing resolutions about foreign policy.

In spite of our absorption in our national struggle we always viewed it as a part of the struggle of all oppressed and colonial people. Because of this we sympathised with all other peoples in the world who might be suffering from exploitation or the domination of a foreign power.

We were anti - Imperialist not only in India but in the rest of the world also. Inevitably we became anti - Fascist. Whether it was in China or Spain or Abyssinia or Czechoslovakia, the National Congress raised its voice against Imperialist and Fascist forces and Governments.”

From the Presidential Address - Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya I.N.C. Session, 1948, Jaipur.