Freedom fighter and veteran of Telangana movement Konda Lakshman, popularly known as 'Bapuji', passed away on Friday morning at his residence at the age of 97. Bapuji was hale and hearty till the other day and actively participated in the installation ceremony of the famous Khairatabad Ganesha idol on Wednesday. He died when arrangements were afoot for his next birthday on September 27.
Born in Wankhidi village in Adilabad district on September 27, 1915, Bapuji participated in ‘Vandemataram’ and Quit India movements and fought against the Nizam’s rule for the liberation of Hyderabad State. Later, he participated in the ‘non-mulki’ agitation in 1952 and gave up his Minister’s post in support of the demand for statehood to Telangana in 1969.
He was active in the Telangana agitation till his death and even tried to convince the leaders of Seemandhra on the need for a separate State. Bapuji was elected to the Assembly four times – twice each from Adilabad and Nalgonda districts -- with his last term being during 1972-78 from Bhongir. He served as a Minister in the Cabinets of Kasu Brahmananda Reddy and Damodaram Sanjivaiah and as Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.
In a statement, the Governor expressed grief over the death of Bapuji and said his death was a loss to the people of the State. Meanwhile, the State Legislature paid rich tributes to Bapuji with Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy announcing that a statue of Konda Laxman Bapuji would be installed and a memorial constructed here in his memory. His cremation will take place with State honours.
Konda Lakshman was the first minister to quit the Kasu Brahmananda Reddy cabinet for the Telangana cause. Till then the Telangana movement was being run by the students of Osmania University and some young intellectuals of Hyderabad. Alleging that the Gentleman's Agreement of 1956 was violated, Bapuji, who was information and labour minister, had quit the cabinet to join the nascent Telangana Praja Samithi (TPS).
It was his entry that transformed the hitherto student and youth movement into a political struggle for a separate state. Earlier, 'Bapuji' brought about a split in the AP Congress by forming the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee with the support of dozens of MLAs from the region. He was deputy Speaker for some time. Bapuji was born in Wankidi village in Adilabad district in 1915 into a weaver's family, and was an arch rival of another T-veteran and TPS president Marri Channa Reddy. Then CM Brahmananda Reddy used to say that he was confident that the Telangana movement would not move forward as long as Channa Reddy and Bapuji were at the helm of affairs. Their presence polarised the movement ideologically into Reddys and non-Reddys.
An inveterate fighter, the grand old man of T never gave up his separate statehood demand even for a day. At 96, he sat for an indefinite fast in Delhi's Parliament Street demanding Telangana bill in Parliament last November. He organised round table meetings, padayatras, sadbhavana yatras and all-party meetings for the cause of T. Without any hesitation, he made himself available to every forum, party and individual fighting for Telangana state.
Another issue he constantly fought for was the plight of the weavers from Telangana. He was instrumental in mobilising weavers across the country for their rehabilitation in the face of mills' onslaught.
Bapuji's political career began with his participation in the Quit India movement in 1942. It took a Telangana turn in 1952 through the Mulki agitation. He transformed himself into a T-leader in 1969 by becoming the first minister to resign from the cabinet. Bapuji first contested unsuccessfully from Munugodu Assembly constituency in 1962. However, later he represented Bhongir Assembly constituency for two terms (1967-78).
Kiran pays tribute
The Chief Minister paid glowing tributes to the veteran freedom fighter. After adopting a condolence motion both the Houses observed a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to the departed soul. Leader of the Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu recalled the role of Bapuji in the movement for separate Telangana and for political power for the weaker sections. Ministers K. Jana Reddy and B. Saraiah embarrassed the Chief Minister by stating that Bapuji’s soul would not rest in peace unless he facilitated creation of Telangana by addressing a letter to the Centre and adopting a resolution in the House.