PC-the Telugus desk

  The Telugu World    column# 11                                  

3 Presidents, 3 Speakers, Only 1 PM

The Telugu state, AP, had three Lok Sabha Speakers. Madabhushi Ananthasayanam Ayyangar (Feb.4, 1891–March19, 1978) was Deputy Speaker when Ganesh Mavalankar, a Maharashtriyan from Gujarat, was the first Speaker of Lok Sabha. Then he became Speaker. And just as Mavalankar was a total Gujarati, Ayyangar, a Tamilian settled in Tirupati, was fully Telugu and was never considered an outsider. The other two were Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and G.M.C. Balayogi (of Telugu Desam Party when Congress was out of power, Three Presidents – Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (claiming to be more Tamilian than Telugu, he added an ‘n’ to his name to sound Tamlian), Varahagiri Venkata Giri who was a Telugu from Odisha’s Barampuram (now Berhampur) and Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy who was more fluent in Tamil and preferred to spend his last days in Karnataka. All of them studied outside the state. So did the only Telugu Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao. 

PV studied and got his law degree from Nagpur University and spoke excellent Marathi. Incidentally, in Nagpur he stayed in one of the lanes named Modi lanes 1, 2 and 3 — long before Narendra Modi came on the political scene. Earlier I wrote about the Maharashtran ‘war’ family names of migrants of Telugu origin. He stayed with such a Telugu-Marathi Marpakwar family.

Neelam, who had excellent man-management skills and a sense of humor, was considered one of the best Speakers of the Lok Sabha.  Like Speaker, Parliamentary Affairs ministers too need to have good rapport with Opposition members.  A Telugu, Kotta Raghuramayya. was Parliamentary Affairs minister for some time in the 1970s (before pandemonium became a daily routine in the Lok Sabha). I used to see him manage MPs like Hukumchand Kachwai of the (then) Jana Sangh who raised too many points of order or sought divisions (making a head count necessary when most Congress MPs were in the canteen or the Central Hall).  An ex-railway porter of Gwalior who learnt to read and write from a journalist friend of mine, Kachwai had a good grip on parliamentary procedure somehow. Once there was an innocent-sounding question. Reading the written answer, the minister guessed embarrassing supplementaries may come up. I saw Raghuramayya put a hand on the shoulder of Kachwai and take him out for a cup of tea as if they were close friends. The question came up and the written answer was read out. There was no point of order or supplementary with Kachwai away. 

Though Giri was brought up in Odisha and had contested there, he was a victim of the caste politics of Tamil Nadu (as much of that state was\as in Madras Presidency)  where the Justice Party was the predecessor of the anti-Brahmin Dravaidian movement. When he was touring the neighbouring district of Srikakulam along with Gandhiji, the Raja of Bobbili (which was then in that district) had organised pelting of stones at them. So tone pelting originated not in Kashmir valley but in Bobbili whose ‘king’ was a Justice Party leader. Giri, studying in Ireland, was active in Ireland’s freedom movement.  On a visit to England, Gandhiji noticed the firebrand young man and brought him to India to organise India’s first trade union at Ahmedabad, Majoor Mahajan. So the movement was not started by the Communists in Mumbai, as claimed, but in capitalist Gujarat by Giri, a Telugu Brahmin. Giri’s grandson, Palagummi Sainath, is an eminent environmentalist, winner of ‎Ramon Magsaysay Award‎ and author of the famous book ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought ‘.  He was a journalist with the late Karanjia’s famous tabloid, Blitz, The Hindu daily and UNI news agency.  He is the founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India, a step towards social responsibility among journalists.

Journalism, which was part of the freedom movement with Gandhiji’s Young India and Harijan, Lokmanya Tilak’s Kesari and Prakasam’s Swarajya  may have now been plagued by fake news, paid news and TRP war in the media.  Similarly Rajas and Zamindars were anti-peasant landlords. Most of them fought the first general election as Congress candidates and all won. But Himmatsinhji, an ex-Raja of Mansa near Gujarat’s new capital of Gandhinagar, fought an election in Banaskantha against S.K. Patil, a symbol of Indian capitalism, even when he knew he would lose.  Similarly, the Vizianagaram Maharaja in AP,  who had given his private palaces for a college and started the first music college of the South, was a member of the Socialist Party. One of his sons, Ashok Gajapati Raju was a TDP minister in the Modi government till TDP walked out of the coalition.  

He was one of the active Telugu ministers at the Centre, but they were very few.


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