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A symbol of sacrifice

The freedom struggle threw up many a stalwart who were symbols of sacrifice, famous for their tenacity of purpose. After Independence, a good number of them did not rest on their oars but continued to serve the nation. To that galaxy belonged Tenneti Viswanatham, `the proud son of Andhra'.

``Bliss was it to be at that dawn, and to be young it was heaven,'' wrote William Wordsworth. And Tenneti enjoyed that bliss and heaven as he was just 52 when India became free. It was not the enjoyment of fishes and loaves of office for him. He served the nation, in or out of the portals of power. He was Parliamentary Secretary (1937) and Chief Parliamentary Secretary (1946) to Andhra Kesari Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu and later Minister for Finance, Law and Endowments in the first Andhra Ministry of 1953. He was also the Visakhapatnam Municipal Chairman in 1947.

Born on September 21, 1895, in Lakkavaram, Visakhapatnam district, Tenneti was a product of Mrs.A.V.N. College and the Madras Presidency College (BA Hons. in literature). Later he took his law degree in Trivandrum.

As a student, he was inspired by Annie Besant, Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi. He enrolled himself as a lawyer in Visakhapatnam in the 1920s, and when the Mahatma launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, he gave up practice and moved to Sabarmati Ashram. He was on the staff of the Gujarat Vidyapeeth of which Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the Vice-Chancellor, and Acharya J.B. Kripalani was a colleague.

After his father's demise, Tenneti returned home and became the president of the District Congress Committee. He took part in all Congress campaigns and was imprisoned several times. He was also an AICC member.

In Free India, he was elected as MLA and MP a number of times, and Jawaharlal Nehru utilised the services of Tenneti, though he had left the Congress and was with the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party, as the Chairman of the Company Law Advisory Commission and the Coffee Board. As a Minister, he was instrumental in the setting up of Sri Venkateswara University, Prakasam Barrage and Nandikonda (Nagarjuna) Project.

Tenneti will ever be remembered for his relentless crusade to achieve the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. He fought against the Emergency and was detained under MISA.

A polyglot, Tenneti was also fluent in Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, Persian and English. He was a prolific writer and a playwright, and authored the four-volume biography of Prakasam. Founding the Visakha Saraswata Vedika in 1960, he promoted literature and culture. He passed away peacefully on the night of November 10, 1979, after lecturing at the Vedika on the greatness of the Ramayana.

The grateful people of Visakhapatnam erected a statue for Tenneti, who was a humanist and concentrated all his energies on alleviating the distress of the less privileged, at Jagadamba Junction. It was rechristened Tenneti Square, but none calls it so. There is a statue for him at Tenneti Park in Ukkunagaram.

R. Sampath

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