Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, the sixth President of India, was a veteran statesman and administrator. He held many eminent positions in public life both before and after independence. Born in a peasant family at Illuri village in the Anantapur District (Andhra Pradesh) on May 19, 1913, Shri Sanjiva Reddy had his early education at the Theosophical High School at Adyar in Madras and later joined the Arts College at Anantapur. In 1931, the young Sanjiva Reddy gave up his studies to take part in the freedom movement. His student days were marked by Youth League and other nationalist activities. In fact, he first came into limelight when he participated in a student satyagraha. At the age of 25, Shri Reddy was elected Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee and remained in that office for 10 years. He was in prison for a greater part of the period 1940-1945.
In March 1942, he was released for a while but in August, the same year he was re-arrested and kept in Amraoti jail in Madhya Pradesh along with Shri Prakasam, Shri Satyamurti, Shri Kamaraj, Shri Giri and others till 1945. In 1946, Shri Reddy was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly and became the Secretary of the Madras Congress Legislature Party the following year. In 1947, he became a Member of the Indian Constitutent Assembly. From April 1949 to April 1951, he was Minister for Prohibition, Housing and Forests in the composite state of Madras. In 1951, he resigned this office to contest the Election for the Presidentship of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee which he won. It was during this period that Shri Reddy suffered a terrible tragedy in the death of his five year old son in a motor accident. This shocked him so deeply that he resigned the APCC Presidentship. Later, however, he was prevailed upon to withdraw his resignation. In 1952, he was elected Member of the Rajya Sabha. In 1953, he accepted the post of Deputy Chief Minister in the Cabinet of the late Shri T. Prakasam, even though he was elected the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party. He was again elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1955 and became Deputy Chief Minister in Shri B. Gopala Reddi's cabinet. Shri Reddy became the first Chief Minister to the new State of Andhra Pradesh which was formed following the reorganization of the States in October, 1956. In 1959, he resigned the Chief Ministership to take over the Presidentship of the Indian National Congress. On the expiry of his term of office in March, 1962, he again became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. In February 1964, he voluntarily resigned the office of Chief Minister in order to set high standards of public life.
He was, however, re-elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party but he recommended to the Governor to invite Shri K. Brahmananda Reddy, a colleague of his to form a new Ministry. On June 9, 1964, Shri Reddy was appointed a Member of the Union Cabinet formed by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri and took over the portfolio of Steel and Mines. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in November, 1964. Shri Reddy was Union Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation, Shipping and Tourism from January 1966 to March 1967 in the Cabinet formed by Shrimati Indira Gandhi. In the General Elections in 1967, he was returned to the Lok Sabha from Hindupur constituency in Andhra Pradesh. He was elected Speaker of the Lok Sabha on March 17, 1967, an office that won him unprecedented acclaim and admiration. Shri Reddy resigned the Speakership of the Lok Sabha on the 19th July, 1969 to contest the Presidential election on the basis of his nomination as a nominee of the Congress filed by Shrimati Indira Gandhi. It is now common knowledge that after filing this nomination Shrimati Indira Gandhi subsequently organized his defeat in the elections by unethical means. After 1969, Shri Reddy devoted his time to agriculture, which has always remained his first love. However, on May 1, 1975 he entered active politics again by addressing a public meeting at Hyderabad along with Shri Jayaprakash Narain. In March 1977, he fought the Lok Sabha election from Nandyal constituency in Andhra Pradesh as a Janata Party candidate. He was the only non-Congress candidate to get elected from Andhra Pradesh. Shri Reddy was unanimously elected Speaker of the Lok Sabha on March 26, 1977. He relinquished this office on July 13, 1977 to file his nomination for the Presidentship of the Indian Union. He was unanimously sponsored as the consensus candidate for the Presidentship by all political parties, a rare even in recent political history. He was declared elected unopposed on July 21, 1977. The degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws was conferred on Shri Sanjiva Reddy by the Sri Venkateshwara University in 1958.Shri Sanjiva Reddy married Shrimati Nagarathnamma on June 8, 1935 and they had one son and three daughters.