The first thing that struck you the moment Jaipal Reddy spoke was his command over the English language. A man with a scholarly disposition and tremendous wit, Reddy had a remarkable ability to stress on each word with clarity. But he was equally good with Telugu and Deccani Urdu though thanks to his years as a Parliamentarian in Delhi, that aspect of his personality never got highlighted as much.
Jaipal Reddy passed away around 1:30 am at the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology in Hyderabad on Sunday. He was 77.
His was a remarkable journey, from a student leader of Osmania University in the turbulent 1960s to an MLA in the 1970s to a Union minister in both UPA and Third Front governments. He managed portfolios like Information and Broadcasting, Urban Developments, Petroleum and Science and Technology.
In the mid-1970s, he was known for his opposition to Indira Gandhi for the Emergency, making him one of the young leaders of the Janata movement. He in fact, contested against Indira Gandhi in 1980 from Medak Lok Sabha constituency but lost the election.
Though Reddy’s family hailed from Mahbubnagar, he was born in Nalgonda. That perhaps explained his choice of constituencies – Miryalguda, Chevella – not letting himself get tied down to one part of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
As Union petroleum minister, he was not afraid to take on Reliance despite the corporate’s immense political clout. As his friend Mohan Guruswamy points out in a Facebook post, Reddy did not agree to the Reliance demand that gas excavated by Indian companies be paid international rates. He was shunted to the Science and Technology ministry, seen in political circles as a demotion.
During the Telangana movement, his name was briefly under consideration for the chief minister’s post in order to placate the Telangana region. But the plan never took off, again due to Reddy’s image of being a very Delhi-rooted politician. Two, Reddy himself was not too keen to move from the relative comfort of central politics to the turbulence of state politics, then rocked by the Telangana agitation. Three, Reddy despite his vast political experience, was not in public consciousness seen as a mass Andhra leader.
Struck by polio when he was a child, Jaipal Reddy used crutches to walk. But he never allowed them to become an impediment in his walk to the corridors of power. His oratory more than compensated for his physical disability.