Konijeti Rosaiah: a politician par excellence
If we take a survey of the politicians most easily accessible to people and especially the media, Konijeti Rosaiah, the former chief minister, governor, MP, MLC, etc. in a career spanning nearly 7 decades should be among the first.
In his passing today at the ripe age of 88, the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and Cong (I) have lost a great and committed leader. Rosaiah, with her frame over 6 feet tall, always wore her signature white dress. He was knowledgeable, known for his lively and sometimes biting humor. All of these traits have made him one of the most visible leaders in the ranks of the opposition as well as the government.
Belonging to the old school of people’s representatives who echoed and worked on public issues for much of their careers, he made a record by presenting 15 budgets as finance minister. Cuvée of the pre-independence era and close to Acharya NG Ranga, Rosaiah entered politics from the district of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh in the early 1950s.
In a career of constant ancestry, Rosaiah has held many positions. His thunderous voice, his insightful interventions and speeches in the Legislative Council stood out. He has served several chief ministers in key positions, most notably as Minister of Finance, where his contributions are also recalled by many experts.
However, his moment of judgment in politics came under very difficult circumstances in Andhra Pradesh politics when the strong leader and CM, YS Rajasekhar Reddy died in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009. Rosaiah a been forked in the CM headquarters. But, problems immediately confronted him with K Chandrasekhar Rao, sitting on a “death fast” for a state separate from Telangana and facing the challenge of putting himself in the shoes of the YSR in a party that is falling apart. divided on regional lines.
After a turbulent year in office, Rosaiah was dislodged from the CM “hot seat” in November 2010 by the UPA government led by Dr Manmohan Singh and President Sonia Gandhi. With Union Home Minister P Chidambaram announcing the intention of the UPA government to give Telangana a separate state on December 9, 2009 (coincidentally, Sonia Gandhi’s birthday), the position of Rosaiah became difficult, as he was not a mass leader and was not equipped to quell the unrest of a YS rebel Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of YSR and the Telangana leaders within the Cong (I) and to outside. Besides, his heart was for a ‘United AP’. The Cong (I) high command proposed a young leader, in particular from Rayalseema, to meet the challenges and Mr. N Kiran Kumar Reddy was appointed CM of the PA.
After a period of uncertainty, Rosaiah was rewarded with the post of governor of Tamil Nadu in August 2011. He completed the full five-year term and managed to maintain a cordial relationship with the powerful, temperamental and controversial J Jayalalithaa, the chief minister. He was busy attending social, cultural, and film gatherings where he was also comfortable given his associations and understanding of issues, which he could connect and articulate well.
Bring Sam Pitroda to Tenali
The first time I met Rosaiah was as a junior reporter for the Press Trust of India in 1984. He came to our office in Hyderguda to meet the bureau chief Sham Rao Harnur. He walked into the journalists’ room and immediately struck up a conversation with Jamaluddin Ali Khan, our senior reporter and I too, discussing Indira Gandhi, state and national politics. Subsequently, over the next three decades, I often interacted with him in Hyderabad and during his tenure as an MP in New Delhi.
Rosaiah’s bond with Guntur remained strong and he was comfortable with the cultural, artistic, cinematographic, musical and literary activities of Tenali, which was the hub. I remember a key role he played in leading the world famous computer tsar, Dr Sam Pitroda, to deliver the Y Nayudamma Memorial Lecture in 2006-2007.
The organizer, MP Vishnumurthy and the Nayudamma Trust faced the daunting challenge of getting Dr Pitroda (who had health issues) to fly from Hyderabad to Guntur and back to facilitate the event. They didn’t have the resources and the air connectivity was not as good at the time. The only person who could do it was YSR, the chief minister.
It turns out that Vishnumurthy, a retired teacher, shares great goodwill with Rosaiah. So the small trusted committee headed by Vishnumurthy and accompanied by me as honorary advisor approached Rosaiah with this rough proposal to convince the CM to agree to send Sam Pitroda to Tenali. It was Rosaiah’s persuasive skills and YSR’s generosity that ensured the IT guru’s visit as the state’s official guest to get to Guntur by helicopter. A few thousand young students and the who is who of Tenali and Guntur benefited from Sam Pitroda’s lecture. Rosaiah, who accompanied him, presided over the ceremony.
The way Rosaiah has endeared herself to the media, especially print journalists of all ages, is perhaps a prime example of her communication skills, public relations, knowledge and skills. his ability to explain problems in a straightforward way on a wide range of topics. This, he was always surrounded by a dozen media people in any district he visited at any given time, who were informed was a common sight.
There was a common saying that when Rosaiah garu traveled by train from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam, he ended up briefing groups of reporters at every major railway station en route. True to her closeness, as Minister, CM or Governor, Rosaiah has published journalist books, attended events, including weddings with their families. Gifted with a good memory, he often identified scribes by name.
His relations with the media, his understanding of state issues and his commitment to Congress Indira-Sonia Gandhi have enabled him to be consistently represented in key positions and to serve in the Legislative Assembly. Hailing from Vemuru in Guntur District, Rosaiah was not strong as a popular leader, so portrayed as an MLC in most terms. However, he won as an MP for Narsaraopet in the second half of the 1990s.
YSR helped, cornered Naidu
That Rosaiah was a featured speaker in the Legislature is not news. But, he peaked between 2000 and 2008, as a staunch supporter of YSR and as finance minister, and toppled N Chandrababu as CM and later opposition leader with his full criticism of “Barbs , statistics and biting sarcasm ”. More often than not, YSR left Rosaiah to demolish Naidu.
The most unforgettable words I can remember are his constant refrain to Naidu that “People have given you rest for working too hard but not for their sake.” This was in response to Naidu’s constant claims that he worked tirelessly 16 hours a day, led from the front lines, including sweeping the roads and taking on other responsibilities for the welfare of the people.
Rosaiah’s political career has not been completely smooth. He loses the elections to the Legislative Assembly. He faced controversy and allegations of favoring his son in some projects in Hyderabad as well as the initial management of the metro project. His handling of state affairs in the face of the Telangana movement has also attracted much criticism.
After, the end of his mandate as governor of TN in 2016 and briefly, additional charge of Karnataka, Rosaiah gradually slowed down her commitments. In his death, the Telugu States lost a quintessential politician, rooted in the people.
Somasekhar Mulugu, former Deputy Editor and Bureau Chief of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known Hyderabad-based political, business and scientific writer and analyst.