Ramakrishna Ranga Rao of Bobbili

20 Feb 1901
10 Mar 1978
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Raja Sri Ravu Svetachalupati Sir Ramakrishna Ranga Rao KCIE (February 20, 1901 – March 10, 1978) was an Indian politician and zamindar who served as the Chief Minister of Madras Presidency from November 5, 1932 to April 4, 1936 and August 24, 1936 to April 1, 1937.

Ramakrishna Ranga Rao was born in the royal family of Bobbili zamindari in 1901. He succeeded his father Venkata Kumar Krishna to the throne of Bobbili and ruled as zamindar from 1921 to 1948 and as the titular “Raja of Bobbili” from 1948 to 1978. He set up trusts and patronized sports and education.

Ramakrishna Ranga Rao joined the Justice Party in 1930 and was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly. He served as the Chief Minister or Premier of Madras Presidency from 1932 to 1936 and 1937. He resigned as Chief Minister in 1937 when the Justice Party lost the elections. From 1946 to 1951, he served as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India which framed India’s Constitution. In his later years, he also served a term as a member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly for the Bobbili assembly constituency.

Ramakrishna Ranga Rao married Lakshmi Subhadrayamma in 1921. He had a son Venkata Gopala Krishna Rao who succeeded him as Raja in 1978. Ramakrishna Ranga Rao is mostly remembered for his contribution towards framing India’s constitution and for his service to society in establishing colleges. He is also held responsible by analysts for the defeat of the Justice Party in the 1937 assembly elections which is blamed upon his despotism and anti-people measures.

Ramakrishna Ranga Rao was born in Bobbili in Madras Presidency (now a part of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh) in the Bobbili royal family. The royal family belonged to the Velama community. He was the son of the heir-apparent, Venkata Kumar Krishna Ranga Rao and the grandson of Raja Venkata Ranga Rao of the Bobbili zamindari. He had an elder sister Victoria Venkata Ramanamma, born on October 10, 1899.

In his childhood, he was tutored by H.C. Leclare, D. Gordon, F.H.J. Wilkinson and Ramalingaswamy. He used to play badminton and billiards in the palace.

Ramakrishna married Lakshmi Subhadrayamma, a princess of the Tallaprole Zamindari in 1921. He succeeded to the throne as the 13th Raja of Bobbili.

Ramakrishna Ranga Rao made his entry into politics when he was nominated a member of the Council of State, the upper house of the Imperial Legislative Assembly of India in 1925. He served as a member of the assembly till 1927.

Ramakrishna Ranga Rao contested the Madras general elections of 1930 from the Vizagapatam constituency as a Justice Party (India) candidate against the Nationalist Party nominee, C.V.S. Narasimha Raju, and polled 28,000 more votes than his opponent.

He also attended the second Round Table Conference held in London in 1931 as a representative of the Indian landholders.

Bobbili rapidly rose in power and position during the tenure of B. Munuswamy Naidu. As Naidu began to alienate the zamindars by omitting eminent and powerful people like Muthiah Chettiar from his cabinet, these disgruntled zamindars favoured the Raja of Bobbili as an acceptable alternative. Gradually, the leadership of the party passed on from Naidu to Bobbili. When both his ministers in the cabinet resigned, Naidu was forced to step down as Chief minister. Subsequently, the Raja of Bobbili took oath as Chief Minister on November 5, 1932.

During this period, the Raja’s personal secretary was C. N. Annadurai who later served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu from 1967 to 1969.

The Raja of Bobbili became the Chief Minister on November 5, 1932 at the age of 31 and except for a short span of 4 months when he was on a trip to England, served as Chief Minister until April 1, 1937. During his tenure, Madras was in the grips of the Great Depression. The Raja did introduce some measures in order to relieve the burden on the poor peasant. But by and large, the rapid depreciation of the economy remained unchecked and the government showed little concern towards the plight of the poor peasant. The Justice Party lost badly in the 1937 elections. The Raja’s policies are believed to be the main reason.

The Mayoralty of Madras came into existence when the Corporation of Madras was established in 1688. The first mayor was Nathaniel Higginson, who resigned after a period of six months to take over as Governor of Madras. The post of mayor was abolished in 1801.

The post of mayor was revived by the Raja of Bobbili government on January 17, 1933, by the City Municipal Act. The first mayor after its revival was the prominent Justice Party Leader, L. Sriramulu Naidu who was followed by Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar.

In August 1933, despite the vehement opposition of zamindars in the Madras Presidency, the Raja of Bobbili passed an amendment to the Estates Land Act of 1908 which safeguarded the rights of the cultivators and freed them from the bondage of middlemen or inamdars. However, despite this legislation and a few others benefitting the cultivator, his regime was regarded as one which largely supported the interests of zamindars.

The term of the legislature expired on November 5, 1933. However, the elections to the Madras Legislative Council were delayed by a year. Meanwhile, the Indian National Congress had decided to participate in the elections at a meeting in Patna in May 1934 and hence, when the elections took place in November 1934, the Justice Party lost miserably. However, the Raja of Bobbili adopted contingency measures by immediately convening a meeting and conducting negotiations between the different factions of the party. The Swarajya Party which won a majority in the Assembly once again refused to form the government in accordance with its policy of wrecking the dyarchy. So, the Raja of Bobbili was elected Chief Minister for a second term though he did not command the majority of the house.

Justice Party stalwarts R. K. Shanmukham Chetty and Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar had lost their seats as the chief whip of the party Muthiah Chettiar withdrew his support for their candidature. Ramakrishna Ranga Rao responded by dismissing Muthiah Chettiar as the leader of the party in the Assembly. Muthiah moved a no-confidence motion against the ministry but the motion was defeated. However, the differences between the Raja of Bobbili and Muthiah Chettiar was soon patched up and the Raja made the latter a minister in the cabinet.

Kumaraswami Reddiar resigned his ministry post due to ill-health in 1936 and he was replaced with Muthiah Chettiar in a move to wipe out differences in the party. With the permission of the Governor, the Raja also created a new Ministry of Home in order to accommodate disgruntled factions in the party. Mohammad Usman served as the first Minister of Home followed by Sir A. T. Paneerselvam.

On April 1, 1936, the Ganjam district was separated from Madras Presidency and constituted in the newly created province of Orissa.

The Raja briefly returned to politics in his later years and contested as an independent from Bobbili assembly constituency in the 1967 elections to the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly at the age of 66. He was subsequently elected by a margin of 28,561 votes over his nearest rival, L. Thentu of the Indian National Congress. The Raja served as a member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly from 1967 to 1972. He did not stand for a re-election when his term came to an end in 1972.

Ramakrishna Ranga Rao died on March 10, 1978 at the age of 77. Ramakrishna Ranga Rao was succeeded as the titular Raja of Bobbili by his son Venkata Gopala Krishna Ranga Rao.

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