Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Hyderabad’s first popular Chief Minister

Hyderabad’s first popular Chief Minister
By Narendra Luther

After the Police Action, Hyderabad was placed under a military governor. After about a year a civil government was constituted under an ICS officer, MK Vellodi. Some prominent local freedom fighters were made members of his appointive cabinet. This lasted until early 1952 when first General Elections were held in the country. Hyderabad also had elections and the Congress Party won the elections. It constituted the first popular government and Burgula Ramakrishna Rao became the first popular Chief Minister of the State. The Nizam became the titular head as the Raj Pramukh of the state.

Burgula Ramakrishna Rao was born under the Zodiac sign of Pisces. Fish is its ruling symbol, and Neptune its ruling planet. People born under this last of the twelve signs are supposed to have something of the quality of each of the dozen signs. That spells versatility. They are dainty, says an authority, and are seldom tall. They are gentle dreamers, sensitive, creative, understanding, friendly and reliable. They also have a great sense of pity.

Versatile Personality

Born on 13 March 1899 at Burgula village of Shadnagar taluk of Mehboobnagar district, Ramakrishna Rao seemed to have all the important characteristics of Pisces. His father was a liberal maqtedar, that is, a small jagirdar. The family had a tradition of learning and so while the elder brother, Venkateshwara Rao went in to study the Physical Sciences, the younger; Ramakrishna Rao took up Humanities. He went to Poona for his graduation and then to Bombay from where he obtained a degree in law.

Ramakrishna Rao was a polyglot. He was proficient in Telugu, Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Persian, Tamil and English. So, not only in the tri-lingual state of Hyderabad but virtually anywhere in the subcontinent of India he was at home. He wrote a good deal of poetry in Telugu, both devotional and lyrical, and some in English.

He also translated the quatrains of Omar Khayyam direct from Persian into Telugu and wrote a history of Persian literature in Telugu. His articles used to be published in Bharati, a prestigious Telugu monthly published from the then Madras. His translation of Sufi Sarmad's works from Persian into Telugu is rated very high.

Entry into Politics

He became one of the founder members of the Andhra Jana Sangh in 1921 and from then on became involved in active politics. He presided over the second session of the Andhra Mahasaba Conference in 1931. He was a member of Provisional Committee when it tried unsuccessfully to set up the Hyderabad State Congress in 1938. He was often arrested for his politics and, when after the Police Action, a civil administration was set up under the chief ministership of Vellodi in 1950, he was appointed Minister for Revenue and Education.

Reformist Chief Minister

After the first General Elections of 1952, he was elected the first popular Chief Minister of Hyderabad. He remained in that job until the formation of Andhra Pradesh in November 1956.

On assuming office, most radicals turn conservative. With Burgula the case was reverse. As a Congress leader, he was considered a liberal as compared to Swami Ramananda Tirtha who was a radical, but after he became first a Minister and then Chief Minister, he was responsible for the most radical reforms in the state which were way ahead of the rest of India. He was the author of Hyderabad Tenancy Act, which provided protections to tenants. He also set up Land Commission for suggesting land reforms, which proposed a ceiling on land holding. Both were pioneering measures in India.

Soft spoken and accommodative, he was not a rabble-rouser. He shone best in the legislature. In the mid-term elections in Andhra in 1955, he was sent as a star performer and spoke in favour of a Greater Andhra. On its formation, he bowed down to make way for Neelam Sanjiva Reddy to lead the new state.

Disgust with Politics

By that time he was quite disgusted with the factional politics of the Congress and did not take much interest in the state politics. The leadership both at the Centre and the state was also cool towards him. From June 1957 until 1962, he served successively as Governor of Kerala and of Uttar Pradesh. He was very keen to go to the Lok Sabha in 1962 and again in 1967 but the new set-up did not fancy that idea. As compensation, he was made a member of the Rajya Sabha which he served from 1962 to 1966. He was very soft and emotional and would often break down when he saw man's inhumanity to man. He believed that politics was the art of the possible and so was not averse to make compromises.

Brugala had never met the Nizam before he became Chief Minister. In their discussion, he and his friend, M. Narsing Rao used to refer to the Nizam as the afeemchi -- the 'opium eater'. Even afterwards when he had to deal with him officially quite often, he kept his distance.

Whether in office or out, he maintained his interest in literature and social service and served on a large number of related organisations still his death on 15 September 1967.


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