Hyderabad: Konijeti Rosaiah, who breathed his last on Saturday morning at 8.22 at a private hospital here, was known for his devastating wit and repartee. He led a simple life although he was in some office or other for well over five decades. He was MLC, MLA and an MP. A number two in the cabinets of four chief ministers – Dr. M. Channa Reddy, K. Vijayabhaskar Reddy, N. Janardhan Reddy and Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy. The distinction of presenting most number of budgets in Assembly belongs to him perhaps after Sushil Kumar Shinde of Maharashtra. He was finance minister for a number of years and had the privilege of presenting budget for 16 times in undivided Andhra Pradesh.
Known for biting sarcasm, Rosaiah enlivened the debates in legislatures of Andhra Pradesh with his punches and diatribe which most of the times were delivered on provocation from the other side of the divide. As a journalist and editor I had opportunity to meet him a number of times over the decades. He was always kind and patient. He was a different politician who believed in old values. Whenever anyone went to him for some help, he would explain the rule position and make the visitor believe that there was nothing that the poor minister could do about it. He is not the type of a routine politician who would go out of the way to help his friends or followers. He went strictly by rules and regulations. Yet, he remained popular.
Many occasions that made us laugh come to mind when I think of the veteran politician. I would confine to a couple of them. When he was chief minister, the opposition leader Chandrababu Naidu had said the former was exhibiting his intelligence. When Naidu repeated the same accusation, Rosaiah stood up and said, “Babu garu, I am not as shrewd as you are. If I were as intelligent as you are I would have backstabbed my chief minister Vijayabhaskar Reddy or mercilessly knifed YS Rajasekhara Reddy.” He was relating to an allegation against Naidu that he backstabbed his father-in-law and former chief minister, NT Rama Rao. Naidu had nothing to say.
During the general elections in 2009, the then chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh YS Rajasekhara Reddy took a great risk. The party high command and the party observers for Andhra Pradesh such as Digvijay Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad insisted that the party should have electoral pact with the TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samiti) headed by K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). YSR was dead against it. He wanted to go it alone. Sonia was particular that the party should take no risk. YSR said it would be his responsibility to see that the party continues to be in power even after elections and he wanted freedom to fight the elections alone. He did not want to have any truck with a party whose sole aim was to create a separate state of Telangana. After a protracted discussion Sonia Gandhi reluctantly consented to give a free hand to YSR. The chief minister did his best to win the elections. He knew that if he were to fail to win, his political career would be in jeopardy. He spared no effort.
A warm hug
On the day of counting of votes, YSR was sitting on the first floor in his room intently watching TV allowing no visitors and not taking phone calls. He was eating antacid tablets and following the leads. After the last set of results were announced, someone came to him to inform that Rosaiah had arrived. YSR came down the steps and went straight to the veteran politician and hugged him tightly. It was first time for Rosaiah to see YSR so emotionally charged. He was patting on the back and remained in the hug for a few minutes. People who watched the scene said YSR’s eyes were wet. The Congress just managed to get a simple majority in the Assembly but it got 33 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats, a bonanza, making it the largest contribution from any State in India. Having achieved the goal, YSR became joyous and was happy to embrace his true well wisher.
YSR’s tragic death
The other incident to remember was on the day the helicopter carrying YSR to Chittoor district went missing. It was 2 September 2009. I was at my office in HMTV. On knowing about the development, Rosaiah was the first minister to reach the C-Block in secretariat where the CM’s office was located. He discussed the latest position with Ramakant Reddy, the then chief secretary and Arvind Rao, the addiotion DG, Intelligence. The heads of Greyhounds and CID wing also were there. He was taking phone calls from other ministers, party leaders, opposition leaders and answering them all in detail. The finance minister was assuring the callers that the chief minister would come back and he must be safe. When someone suggested that the Naxals could have kidnapped the CM, Rosaiah arranged the Greyhounds to be dispatched to Nallamala forset in full strength.
3 HMTV teams to scan Nallamala
In the meanwhile, I organized three teams of reporters to proceed to Nallamala forest from three points – Guntur, Kurnool and Tirupati. We had tribals as rural reporters in agency area. They accompanied the senior reporters as guides. By 2nd evening, it was clear that something unfortunate had happened. Rosaiah told the media that the copter was missing. He appealed to the people to inform so and so phone number should they find traces of the helicopter or the chief minister.
By the afternoon of the next day, our team had reached Pavuralagutta and went up the hill and took the videos before the Greyhounds descended to collect the bodies which were in shamble. On receiving the information, I called Rosaiah to inform him the details. He was silent without uttering a word. I heard only a deep sigh. In the same evening he took oath as acting chief minister.
At Chennai Raj Bhavan
Rosaiah was unhappy as chief minister. The movement by TRS and other protagonists of Telangana State had picked up momentum with the demise of YSR. Had YSR lived for some more months, he would have made the bifurcation difficult. When KCR went on an indefinite fast, Rosaiah went to Delhi to meet Home Minister Chidambaram. By then Sonia Gandhi had taken a decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh as the spate of suicides by the youth was heartbreaking. Rosaiah did not want to preside over bifurcation of the State. He readily agreed to resign when Chidambaram suggested it. Soon after demitting the office of chief minister, he was made governor of Tamil Nadu. He had very good equation with Jayalalithaa. He spent five peaceful years in Chennai’s Raj Bhavan. On his return to Hyderabad, he remained away from politics. He had lived full and purposeful life.