Kiran Kumar Reddy: Sonia Gandhi’s hand-picked chief minister turns a rebel

Kiran-Reddy-resigns-6

Hyderabad, Feb 19: From being the hand-picked choice of Sonia Gandhi as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister to sitting on a dharna in Delhi against division of the state, Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy has turned from a Congress regional leader to a disgruntled rebel in his nearly 39-month tumultuous tenure.

He became the first Congress Chief Minister in the history of the grand old party to stage a sit-in in the heart of the national capital against the high command decision to carve out Telangana, embarrassing it in no small measure. 53-year-old Reddy might have earned the wrath of the Congress leadership for his strident stand against division of AP, but he has now positioned himself as a champion of ‘Samaikyandhra cause’ seeking to upstage the likes of charismatic and resourceful Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, who is also fighting for the same political space.

He was anointed as Chief Minister on November 25, 2010 after septuagenarian K Rosaiah, who held the fort for Congress for over an year following the death of towering Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in a chopper crash in September, 2009, resigned. The selection of Reddy for the post of Chief Minister was surprising even to Congress insiders in 2010 as he had never been a minister and not known to be a mass leader.

Political analysts had predicted that the cricketer-turned- politician would not remain in office for more than a few months given the fluid political situation in Andhra Pradesh on account of the raging separate Telangana agitation and the Jagan factor. Reddy’s government had faced a serious threat to its stability with Jaganmohan Reddy, the aggressive and charismatic son of late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, once declaring famously in Delhi that the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh was at his mercy.

The government, however, survived the no-trust motion on the floor of the House due to the merger of actor-turned- politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam with Congress and Jagan being jailed in an alleged corruption case. The separate statehood stir, spearheaded by TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao, reached a new high during the tenure of Reddy and the government often came under tremendous pressure with ruling Congress legislators and ministers from the region joining the popular agitation.

The detention of some party MPs by the police for participating in the pro-Telangana agitation did not go down well with them, who accused Reddy of being high-handed and vindictive. The 16th Chief Minister of the State stood the ground, held on his own and virtually emerged unscathed as the parties and outfits supporting the separate statehood demand organised massive protests like ‘Million March’, ‘sakala janula samme’ (strike by all sections of people) for 42 days, ‘Telangana March’ and Telangana ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs from the region resigning en masse.

Despite dealing in a surcharged atmosphere, Reddy went on to acquire the image of being a tough administrator by refusing to budge from his position though pressure mounted on him over emotional grounds. From a political perspective, Reddy was targeted by the YSR Congress president for allegedly “diluting” the numerous welfare schemes launched by late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy such as tuition fees reimbursement, Rajiv Arogya Sri health insurance scheme and social security pension.

Reddy, however, introduced several new schemes including Mee Seva citizen services, Bangaru Thali for girl child and Amma Hastham as he sought to expand his base among the masses. During his tenure, the Congress suffered reverses in bypolls held in Telangana and Seemandhra regions at the height of the separate state agitation and following the death of Rajasekhara Reddy, but shrugged off despondency showing impressive results in the elections to cooperative bodies and local bodies last year.

Reddy, who had been a loyal Congressman, turned a rebel, albeit with a cause, by voicing opposition to the Congress Working Committee’s decision in favour of separate Telangana on July 30, 2013. Highlighting that division would cause immense damage to both Seemandhra regions and Telangana, Reddy had demanded that the Centre reconsider its decision. His battle against division reached a climax as he took it to the national capital and staged a sit-in at Jantar Mantar on February 5.

Born on September 13, 1960 at Hyderabad, he did his schooling in the Hyderabad Public School at Begumpet, Hyderabad. He did his Intermediate Course from St.Joseph’s Junior College, Hyderabad. Later he did his graduation in Commerce from Nizam College and LL.B from Osmania University.He was a promising cricketer during his student days and represented the State and even South Zone in National and international tournaments.As a cricketer, he came close to getting a place as a wicket keeper batsman in Indian team.He is a four-time Member of Legislative Assembly. He was Govt Chief Whip for five years (2004-09) and then Speaker of the Assembly for one and half turbulent years (May, 2009 to November, 2010).

Reddy, as Speaker of the 13th Andhra Pradesh Assembly, was firm in dealing with the proceedings in the House. Reddy earned praised for the way he handled both the jobs of Chief Whip and Speaker, and later the mass resignation of MLAs in the Assembly deftly. Kiran Reddy’s father late Nallari Amarnath Reddy was a strong and respected politician from Chittoor and also a close aide of former Prime Ministers late Indira Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao. Amarnath Reddy was a minister in Congress cabinet from 1978 to 1982.

Reddy was first elected to Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly from Vayalpadu constituency of Chittoor district in 1989. Though represented Pileru constituency in Chittoor district of the Rayalaseema region, Reddy is a Hyderabadi to the core, having born and studied throughout in Hyderabad. He also showed early signs of political leadership, by getting elected as President of Nizam College Students Union in the early 1980s.

Reddy is married to Radhika Reddy and the couple have two children — son N. Nikilesh Reddy and daughter N Niharika Reddy. PTI