Paladugu, a leader with a difference

  • A staunch Nehru-Gandhi loyalist
  • Anti-status quoits, pro-farmer
  • Book lover, writer, avid reader
  • PV’s most trusted aide in AP
  • Man of values, commitment and integrity

Paladugu Venkata Rao was a politician with a difference. He was a class apart. He always assumed that he has a special mission to fulfill. He told himself that he should not end up as any other politician. He was fond of books. He had a library that matched any library of an accomplished author or journalist.

Paladugu Venkata Rao, who passed away at Hyderabad on Monday morning, was against status quo. He loved revolution though he was not a revolutionary himself in the sense he never believe that power flows through the barrel of gun. But he was aggressive and radical among the Congressmen. He fought against the MR Apparao, a landlord of Nuzvid in Krishna district. He led Bhookranti (Land revolution) movement aimed at getting land for the poor. He admired the Naxalite leaders. He was one of those politicians who were instrumental in arranging a dialogue in 2004 between Congress government led by YS Rajasekhara Reddy and the Maoist leaders led by Ramakrishna (RK).

In his residence at the Old MLA Quarters here, the drawing room has imposing photos of Nehru, Indira, Arafat and PV Narasimha Rao. He belonged to Nehru school of politics. He admired Arafat for the valiant way he fought for the rights of Palestine. He was a staunch follower of Indira Gandhi whom he adored. The Congress blood flowed in his veins and his loyalty to Nehru-Gandhi family was unshakeable. He was a long-term follower of PV. He held PV in high esteem for his scholarship, erudition, political sagacity and the qualities of mind and heart. He remained a PV loyalist till the end. He did not seek any favours from PV when the latter was prime minister.

Paladugu read Marx, Lenin, Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and many other political philosophers. He was interested in political history. He stood for some values throughout his career as a politician. He used to view current developments in historical perspective. Writing for newspapers whenever there was a remarkable development in the country or in the state was his way of expressing his views. To express his opinion and to give constructive suggestion, he used to travel to Delhi and meet presidents, prime ministers and Congress leaders. He was a regular visitor to Rashtrapathi Bhavan after Pranab Mukherjee became president. He was a staunch integrationist. He blamed the successive chief ministers who hailed from Andhra and Rayalaseema for not fostering amity among the people of different regions in the undivided Andhra Pradesh. There was no sincere attempt to promote a sense of integration and oneness, he used to complain. He argued that the leaders of Coastal Andhra have to make sacrifices to convince the people of Telangana that the latter’s interests would be safe in undivided state. He never ridiculed anyone or spoke ill of any politician. Even when provoked to make a comment he used to smile and keep quiet. But on questions of policy he argued vehemently and forcefully without mincing words.

At the peak of the movement for a separate Telangana, he publicly questioned the decisions of Congress president Sonia Gandhi who cleared four important nominations in the State. He asked as to why the leaders of Seemandhra should take all the four important positions- chief minister (Kiran Kumar Reddy), PCC President (Botcha Satyanarayana), Speaker of Assembly (Nadendla Manohar) and chairman of Legislative Councli (Chakrapani). It was after his strident criticism that Damodara Rajanarasimha , a Dalit leader from Medak district , was made Deputy CM. He wrote articles in Andhra Jyothi daily attacking the attitude of the Congress high command in appointing Ponnala Laxmaiah as PCC president in Telangana. He wanted clean and efficient politicians with vision to get into important positions.

Paladugu and his wife Susheel had no children since they believed that children would be a burden in public service. They adopted a son who died very young. He has his own house at Nuzvid in Krishna district. He also has some farm lands. He was not for making easy money through politics. He always wanted to formulate policies that would benefit the poor and the down trodden. Once he brought Central leader of the Congress Rajesh Pilot to Nuzvid and made him open farmers house which he got built.

As though he had intuition about his death, he organized a big public meeting at Vijayawada to release his book on the patriots he came across in his life. All the profiles he selected and wrote about were of persons who made sacrifices for the country, who participated in freedom struggle and who lived a pure and frugal life although they had opportunity to make tons of money. To this meeting, he invited persons he respected most. Senior most IAS officer who worked as special secretary to three prime ministers, KR Venugopal, Dr N Bhaskar Rao of CNS, Delhi, Dr K Ramachandra Murthy, editorial director of Sakshi , Justice Bhanu Prasad and many others were on stage when his book was released on January 9.

A staunch Congress man, Paladugu never switched parties. When many of his colleagues in politics were enamored of NTR, the popular hero who founded Telugu Desam Party (TD), he never entertained the idea of leaving his mother party for the sake of power or pelf. The younger generation of politicians would do well to emulate him in commitment, service and values.

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