Prakasham Panthulu – The Lion of Andhra
Tanguturi Prakasham Pantulu was an Indian freedom fighter and the first Chief Minister of the state of Andhra. He was widely revered as ”Andhra Kesari”( The Lion of Andhra) .
Prakasham Panthulu was born on 23 August 1872 to Subbamma and Venkata Narasimham in a Niyogi Brahmin family in Guntur district . When he was 11, his father passed away and his mother had to run a boarding house (restaurant) at Ongole to make ends meet and ensure that her kids had good education. When E. Hanumantha Rao Naidu, his mentor and teacher at school, shifted to Rajahmundry, he took Prakasham along with him as that place had better opportunities for education. Though interested in becoming a lawyer since childhood, Prakasham failed to clear his matriculation examination as he fell into bad company and regularly entered into brawls apart from devoting a lot of time to acting in plays. He however managed to go to Madras and become a second-grade pleader. He became a successful lawyer in Rajahmundry and made a lot of money in a short time. He also became well regarded in a short period of time and was elected as the Chairman of Rajahmundry when he was 30. This was the beginning of his stint in public life.
Prakasham reached England in 1904 and successfully passed the barrister examination. In England he joined the Indian Society and was associated with Dadabai Nauroji, Rameschandra Dutt, and other prominent National leaders. Prakasham contributed his bit for the election of Dadabhai Naoroji ( The Grand Old Man of India), a famous Nationalist, to the parliament. This association with the National leaders opened the doors for him to enter the arena of politics in full swing. After completing the barrister course with a certificate of honor in England Prakasham relocated to Madras high court. He was one of the prominent Telugu barristers to be successful; until then, most of the successful lawyers were either Europeans or Tamilians.
Sri Tanguturi took an active part in the non-cooperation movement in 1921. He started the daily news paper called ‘SWARAJYA”. Sri Tanguturi criticized the totalitarian rule of British when Simon Commission visited India, the congress party decided to boycott it with the slogan “Simon, Go back;”. There were a host of reasons for this boycott, the most important being that the commission did not have a single Indian in its ranks. The commission was greeted with demonstration of black flags wherever it went. When the commission visited Madras, the police did not allow protests in some sensitive areas. Nevertheless, the crowd grew large and restive near the high court (Parry’s corner) and the police resorted to firing with a view to control it. However, a young man was killed on the spot. The police warned the people that they would shoot if anyone tried to come near the body. At this time, Prakasham grew enraged and tore open his shirt, baring his chest and daring the police to shoot him. Understanding the circumstances the police gave away to him and other supporters. After this incident people respected him with the epithet of “Andhra Kesari” ( The Lion of Andhra).
In 1937, Congress Party contested the provincial elections and achieved majority in Madras Province among others. Though Prakasham was in the running for the Chief Minister’s post, he made way for Rajaji, who returned to active politics as per the wishes of the Congress Working Committee and joined as the revenue minister in that ministry. Sri Prakasham prepared a memorandum for the abolition of the Jamindari system.
Prakasham was the first prominent leader from South India to offer individual Satyagraha against the war effort in 1941.He was arrested and kept in jail for more than three years for participating in the Quit India movement of 1942. After his release in 1945, he toured South India to get back in touch with the masses. In 1946, Congress party again contested and won in the Madras Presidency. This time, Prakasham became the Chief Minister as he and Kamaraj Nadar, a Tamil leader, were against Rajaji – the choice of leaders such as Gandhi and Nehru – becoming the chief minister. However, the government lasted for only 11 months, as it was felt that Prakasham was not accommodating enough to various varying interests since he put forward some reforms against the capitalists, as a result of which the rich were angry with him and uprooted his Government. He leveled corruption charges against the new ministry. However, he was more interested in the welfare of common people and visited Hyderabad state during the Nizam rule in 1948 without heeding warnings for personal safety by Jawaharlal Nehru. He met Qasim Rizvi, the leader of Razakars (who were allegedly under the pay of Nizam and terrorized general public) and warned him about pushing his luck too far. The Razakars were impressed by his courage and accorded him a march of honour 1952. He formed the Praja Party (People’s party) and ensured that all the sitting ministers of the Congress Party were defeated. However, Praja party could not come into power by its own and the coalition that he cobbled up collapsed even before a show of strength could be contemplated.
Meanwhile, in December 1952, Potti Sriramulu left for heavenly abode fasting for the cause of a separate state for the Telugu-speaking people. On 1st October 1953, the state of Andhra was created and Prakasham, due to his reputation, was made the Chief Minister. However, due to opposition from the communists and halting support from the socialists, the government fell after a year. Mid-term elections were held in 1955 by which time Prakasham had more or less retired from active politics. On 1st November 1956, the erstwhile Hyderabad state was merged in the Andhra state to form Andhra Pradesh. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, a staunch follower of Prakasham became the Chief Minister. Though retired from politics, Prakasham was active in touring the state. On one such visit to Ongole, he suffered from severe sunstroke. He was admitted in a Hyderabad hospital and passed away on 20 May, 1957. Another glowing star amidst the bright galaxy of Andhra Geniuses is Sri Tanguturi Prakasham Pantulu and his legacy as a freedom fighter is cherished even today in Andhra Pradesh.
Source Courtesy: Various Websites
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