Dr Marri Channa Reddy has a special place in the hearts of the people of the two Telugu states, who recall his contribution as a minister and chief minister besides crediting him for the projecting the identity of Telangana at the national level during 1969 and 71. He was also the Governor of four states and his birth centenary is a befitting occasion to recall his years in office.
His first assignment was as Governor of UP, home state of PM Indira Gandhi, in October 1974. A year later when CM Bahuguna resigned, a national newspaper reported that at a time when the CM did not tour the entire state when in office for about two years, Dr Reddy as Governor toured all the 52 districts in just one year.
When President’s Rule was imposed for about two months, he worked for 18-20 hours a day and not even one file was ever pending. Such was his administrative acumen.
A prominent Hindi daily gave the caption “Sukh our Samman ke Saagar mei Ek Bechain Tairaak” (A restless swimmer in the ocean happiness and honour) to a story about his tenure in UP.
Next assignment was as Governor of Punjab in April 1982, at a stage when separatist elements were gaining upper hand. He immediately got down to serious business to resolve various issue. Akali leadership soon expressed full confidence in him.
His last engagement in Punjab was to inaugurate the Red Cross Hospital in Tohra village, which was constructed over three years but CM Darbara Singh prevented its opening. The reason was that it was the native village of SGPC president Gursharan Singh Tohra. I traveled to that village in the Governor’s car. As we were nearing the village we saw GS Tohra, standing there with a garland to receive the Governor. In his address Tohra said: “I am not just happy that this hospital is being inaugurated. But I am happier that it is being done by a great son of the country!”
He was appointed Governor of Rajasthan in February 1992 when the Chief Minister was BJP leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Dr Channa Reddy was in office for over a year but his term was very eventful. Even when he was dismissed as CM, Shekhawat admitted that the Governor “was a friend, philosopher and guide” to him.
Post Babri demolition, attempts were made to dissuade Dr Reddy to postpone the convocation of Udaipur University, fearing law and order problem. He, however, asked the officials to control the situation at all costs, assuring them that he will take full responsibility for any consequences. He had instilled confidence in them, who normally get blamed if things go wrong. It was totally incident free.
His last gubernatorial assignment was in Tamil Nadu in 1993, when J Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister. They started off well but it did not take much time for things to turn sour. She was unhappy as he started receiving representations from people, which he insisted he was duty found. He was clear that the “Governor will govern and the CM will rule, the line of demarcation, which he never crossed.
One of his decisions acclaimed by all was granting clearance for the plea from the then Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for prosecuting Jayalalithaa in the Tamil Nadu Small Industries (TANSI) land acquisition case, which resulted in her imprisonment for several years later.
Dr Reddy passed away as Governor of Tamil Nadu in December 1996. In conclusion I can say that as a Governor, he never violated any of the provisions of the Indian Constitution as is being done by a few present day Governors, just to please their Delhi bosses to remain in office.