He strode Telangana like a colossus. He was an embodiment of exemplary struggle. He was a visionary who walked through the slums, the labour unions, Movements and corridors of power with a mission. From dreaming a separate state of Telangana, fighting for it both on the ground and at the highest political level and till its realization, Gaddam Venkata Swamy’s life is full of struggle.
The state is remembering the yeomen services of G Venkata Swamy on the occasion of his 87th birth anniversary today (October 5)
Born exactly on this day in 1929 in a poor family to Pentamma and Mallayya in Hyderabad, Kaka, as he is fondly addressed, had seen the plight of labourers from close quarters while he was very young. His father worked sometime in Nizam’s army and walked out opposing the oppressive policies. He then worked as a construction labourer to eke out a living.
Venkata Swamy was attracted towards the Telangana armed struggle against the atrocities of Nizam and worked for some time in Arya Samaj initially and later joined the Youth Congress under the leadership of Swami Ramananda Teertha. Venkata Swamy has fought against the British during Freedom Struggle and participated in Satyagraha too. He was jailed and India attained Independence while he was in jail. Police action in Hyderabad has also taken place while Kaka was imprisoned in another case. After the annexe of Hyderabad into Indian Union, Kaka quit politics to stand by the family.
His life took a turn when he had taken a sub-contract to supply timber for Ramagundam Fertilizers. After settling financially, he returned to Hyderabad and entered into the political arena again.
Venkata Swamy was a leader of the masses and worked for the welfare of the poor and the down-trodden for decades. For the first time in the country, he started “National Huts Union” and through it he launched an agitation for providing shelter to the homeless poor. In the process he earned a name of “Gudisela (Huts) Venkata Swamy” and through his struggle, he could arrange a shelter for nearly 75,000 slum dwellers in Hyderabad. Even now, poor and lower middle class remember Venkata Swamy and treat him as God by having a photo of the great leader in their drawing hall.
He has a tremendous following among the weaker sections of the society. Not just the construction sector labourers, he worked for the benefit rickshaw pullers, workers in unorganized sector and daily labourers. He headed over 100 unions in almost all frontline industries in Hyderabad and across Telangana including Allwyn, IDPL, and Hyderabad Asbestos etc. He fought for the rights of workers and did his best to enhance their pay pack and also their living standards.
He entered Congress party as an activist and rose to the level of becoming one of the trusted lieutenants of Prime Ministers. Though he got a chance to contest in the very first election in 1952 itself, he could not do it because of lower age limit. He then contested in 1957 after the formation of Andhra Pradesh state and won in the Assembly polls.
Venkata Swamy contested for Lok Sabha in 1967 for the first time successfully from Siddipet in Medak district under Congress symbol and got re-elected in 1971 under Telangana Praja Samithi banner at the height of Telangana Movement. He later re-joined Indian National Congress and got elected five times to the Lok Sabha.
He was brought back to the state by Marri Chenna Reddy when Congress came to power in 1978 and he was made minister. He held the portfolio of civil supplies in T Anjaiah’s cabinet too. He extended the benefit of getting essential committees to lesser price to 35 lakh poor families. He was instrumental in starting the Annapurna canteens providing meals at cheaper rates.
He got a rare distinction of leading the Indian delegation to the International Labour Organization (ILO) meeting in Geneva in 1978- when he was minister in a state government.
Kaka headed the state congress unit for two years from 1982-84.
He returned to Centre in 1989 and won successively for three times from Peddapalli and again in 2004-09. He then gave way to his younger son Vivek who contested form the same seat and emerged victorious in 2009.
Known as a staunch loyalist of Congress party, Kaka was close to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was made minister for civil supplies, labour and rehabilitation. He again became minister during PV Narasimha Rao regime and made minister for rural development and textile. He exerted pressure on the government and ensured a massive allocation of Rs 30,000 crore for rural development.
During the course of his tenure as member, he headed various House committees- including SC and ST welfare- and his recommendations have always been centred around the welfare and social justice for the down trodden.
He played a stellar role in the revival of hundreds of sick industries which faced economic hardships and extended financial benefits. Thousands of textile mills were also got a fresh lease of life during his tenure as minister.
One of his greatest services to the working class is providing minimum pension after their retirement. When he visited Allwyn company in 1995, he found one old, retired employee begging. He was moved and that resulted in a thought of providing some economic assurance to the workers post retirement. He conceived the idea of providing pension from the PF accounts. The then finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh objected to it but Venkata Swamy was hell bent on it and ensured a law. Following the enactment, thousands of workers have been able to get some pension even after their superannuation. This idea has been appreciated by the Communist government in China and they took him to Beijing, got the details and enacted a law on similar lines later.
Venkata Swamy will be long remembered by Singareni workers as it was he who ensured a financial package of Rs 400 crore through NTPC. His efforts for reviving the Ramagundam Fertilizer unit have earned him all round appreciation. It was Kaka who prevailed over the NTPC for a 1200 MW power plant in Jaipur.
He was founder president of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Education Society which was later converted into Public Education Trust and inaugurated by the then President of India V.V. Giri in 1973; under this society 9 Colleges are running without taking donations.
At one point of time during UPA-II, Kaka’s name was actively considered for the post of President post but the internal politics of Congress have come in the way.
Struggle for Telangana
Whatever he did, Telangana was upper most in Kaka’s mind. At first he participated in the Ghair Mulki Agitation for local rights in 50s.
Venkata Swamy jumped into the Telangana Movement in 1969 and suffered bullet injuries in police firing during the course of an agitation at Musheerabad jail. He was the first people’s representative to suffer bullet injuries. He was one among the 11 MPs to have won on Telangana Praja Samiti banner soon after the Movement.
He has actively participated in the second phase too, tried to hard to convince the Congress High Command to accept the popular demand. He raised the slogan of Jai Telangana in CWC (Congress Working Committee) meeting and brought the desire of four crore Telangana people to the High Command. He urged Sonia Gandhi not to precipitate the matter since people’s anger had been swelling each passing day. Kaka played a key role in getting an electoral alliance with TRS. He was even walked out of CWC once in protest against not passing a resolution in favour of creation of Telangana state. He went on to criticize Sonia Gandhi for ignoring the sentiments of people.
Kaka stated that he would die only after seeing the formation of Telangana state and his desire has become a reality.
Kaka breathed his last on December 23, 2014 after a brief illness. He has two sons- Vivek and Vinod and three daughters- Viswashanti, Veena and Vijayalakshmi.
Venkata Swamy was a distinguished parliamentarian and an eminent leader. His crusade for the upliftment of weaker sections has no parallels in contemporary politics. He worked with a missionary zeal and an iron will for the betterment of the needy and the down-trodden and ensured social justice. Kaka’s legacy lives on as his sons continued to promote his ideals in various forms in a big way.