My association with S. Jaipal Reddy started after I entered politics in 1989 and I always knew him as a very principled and upright man, with a lot of integrity. I had known him when he was a minister in former prime minister V.P. Singh’s cabinet and subsequently in both the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments (2004-14).
Reddy was always known for standing by his principles and his ideology. He was somebody that people looked up to, both in the public and also within the Congress leadership, and never minced words in expressing his opinion. As we all know, Reddy was also a very articulate parliamentarian, who always stuck by whatever decisions he took as a minister. Whether it pleased somebody or not, he always went according to his beliefs.
As a fellow parliamentarian, he always expressed himself without compromising on whatever he believed in and he chose very specific words in his speeches, as journalists would recall. Personally for me, Reddy was very encouraging and supportive in my political career.
My recollections of him as a Union minister are from cabinet meetings, as we were not in any common committees. He held the urban development and petroleum ministries, while I was given the defence and human resource development (HRD) portfolios during both the UPA governments. During the cabinet meetings, he was always clear on his decisions and uncompromising as always.
I was only disappointed with him over one thing after the Telangana statehood issue took centre stage (from 2009 onwards till 2014 when the state was bifurcated from Andhra Pradesh). As somebody who believed in an integrated state, eventually he also succumbed to the pressure of divisive forces. It was an unfortunate situation, which I feel was against his beliefs.
But due to the local (pro-statehood) sentiment he went with it. While we did not actually discuss the issue of Andhra Pradesh’s division as such, I once told Reddy that as someone who believed in the joint state, I was disappointed with him taking a pro-Telangana stand. His response was that the sentiment had gone into the public of Telangana and so he had to take a stand on the issue accordingly.
After the 2014 general elections, Reddy was probably deeply disappointed that he lost his seat by a narrow margin. The loss may have impacted him as he was a popular leader. What everybody will recall about the man is that his disability (Reddy was stricken with polio at a very young age) never stopped him from attending any meetings, even if those were held on the second or third floor of buildings which did not have lifts.
Reddy was not bothered about those things, as he did let any such thing deter him. Even after the division of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, we would meet at social functions. We had our own challenges in our states, but the bifurcation did not impact our cordiality and affection.
M.M. Pallam Raju is a former Union minister who held the portfolios of defence and HRD in the UPA-1 and UPA-2 governments at the Centre.