President Pranab Mukherjee Monday paid rich tributes to former president Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, describing him as a role model in government and politics.
Addressing the concluding programme of the birth centenary celebrations of the late leader at Anantapur, the president said Sanjeeva Reddy combined three good qualities of a party leader, an administrator and a parliamentarian.
Mukherjee devoted a major part of his life in the Congress organization and shifted seamlessly from it to government and vice versa, he noted. "He was true son of the soil and a farmer till his last breath," Mukherjee said and recalled his exceptional leadership qualities.
Sanjeeva Reddy, who served as the president between 1977 and 1982, died in 1996 at the age of 83.
Mukherjee pointed out that Sanjeeva Reddy had many records to his credit. He was the youngest president and the only person who served as a chief minister, the Lok Sabha speaker, union minister and president.
Born in a farmer's family, Sanjeeva Reddy was the first chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh. He served as the chief minister twice, became the speaker the year he was elected to the Lok Sabha and held the post twice.
Mukherjee recalled that Reddy's tenure as president was a period of unparalleled political turmoil and saw him swear in three governments led by Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Indira Gandhi as well as taking historic decisions on a number of important issues.
Sanjeeva Reddy set high standards by resigning from the Congress as soon as he was elected the speaker. It was during his tenure that for the first time a man was imprisoned for contempt of the house for raising slogans and throwing pamphlets from visitors' gallery, noted Mukherjee.
He said the late leader had great compassion for the poor. He was also deeply concerned about the weakening of traditional values that have enabled diverse Indians live together in peace for centuries.
"Dr Reddy's message continues to be of relevance today as we confront the challenges that our society is facing. They remind us of the important responsibility that we have as citizens of India," he said
The president said Sanjeeva Reddy, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's leadership, joined the freedom struggle at the young age of 16. During 1940 and 1945, he was imprisoned many times, including during the Quit India Movement.
Describing Sanjeeva Reddy as the main architect of modern-day Andhra Pradesh, Mukherjee said as the first chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh in 1956, he found solution to many problems which arose following Telangana's merger with then Andhra state.
"He is credited with giving shape to the plans for construction of the Nagarjuna Sagar, Srisailam, Sriram Sagar and Vamsadhara projects which are, among the most important milestones in the development of this region. If today, Andhra Pradesh is hailed as the granary of South India, much credit is due to Dr. Sanjeeva Reddy."
Reddy served as chief minister from November 1956 to January 1960 and again for a second time from March 1962 to February 1964.
Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, some state ministers and senior officials were present.