President: 1913 - 1996 (Bangalore, 1960 Bhavnagar, 1961 Patna, 1962)
Former Indian President Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, one of the foremost political leaders from Andhra Pradesh, was born on May 19, 1913 in Anantapur district. He came from a respectable and well-to-do family.
He had his early education at Adyar, Madras, and then at the Arts College at Anantapur. While still in college he gave up his studies to participate in the freedom struggle launched by Mahatma Gandhi.
He first took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1931. Within a few short years he came to national prominence as an influential peasant leader. He participated in various struggles against the British and was imprisoned several times. Sanjeeva Reddy took an active part in the Quit India Movement. In 1946 Sanjeeva Reddy was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly and later on he became the Secretary of the Congress Legislature Party in Madras.
He was also elected to the Constituent Assembly in India. Sanjeeva Reddy held various important positions in the Congress and became a member of the Andhra Provincial Congress Committee. He was in the Congress Working Committee and the Central Parliamentary Board.
He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1952 and served as a member for little over a year. When the Andhra Province was separated from Madras and T. Prakasam became the Chief Minister of Andhra, Sanjeeva Reddy was appointed Deputy Chief Minister. When the new state of Andhra Pradesh was constituted Sanjeeva Reddy became its first Chief Minister and served in that capacity from November 1956 to December 1959.
In December 1959 he was elected President of the Indian National Congress and he continued in that office till May 1962. He again became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1962 for one year. Later he was appointed to the Central Cabinet.
Sanjeeva was speaker of the Lok Sabha from 1967 to 1969. He then contested for the office of the President as the official Congress candidate against V. V. Giri who was then the Vice-President. The Presidential contest proved to be of momentous significance in the history of the Congress, resulting in the split of the Congress with an overwhelming section siding with Smt Indira Gandhi, who had rebelled against the old guard, headed by Shri Nijalingappa, which came to be known as the Congress (O).
Thus the Congress came to be divided into the Congress (O) and Congress (R) parties. The Presidential election went in favour of Mr. V. V. Giri. The, split in the Congress gradually widened. In the 1971 mid-term election, the Congress (R) had a landslide victory and the Congress (O) was reduced to a party of little significance.
After the defeat of the Congress (R) in the Lok Sabha elections of 1977, Sanjeeva Reddy was elected with the backing of the Janata Party as the President of the Republic. He would retire in 1981.
“The Congress has not only to discharge the governmental functions but has also other responsibilities. There is plenty of constructive and nation - building work which Congressmen have to attend to apart from the dissemination of Congress ideology. The Congress ideology has been built up through the eventful decades of our recent history and contain the best answer to all the challenges of democracy.
If this ideology is not effectively propagated wrong ideas and wrong approaches will take its place exposing the country as also our infant democracy to new dangers. Among the steps we should take to restore an effective measure of discipline in the Congress is the inculcation in Congressmen of a fresh sense of mission so that the practical tasks that await them are tackled with vigour.
The coming elections also enforce the need to close up our ranks so that the people are able to concentrate on what we stand for, on our objectives and are not diverted by our petty internal differences.”
From the Presidential Address - N. Sanjeeva Reddy I.N.C. Session, 1961, Bhavnagar.