HYDERABAD: S.V. Prasad, former chief secretary of undivided Andhra Pradesh, who passed away on Tuesday, will go into the annals of history as the only bureaucrat who had the privilege to run the state administration for about two decades.
Yet, he remained “ajata satru” so much so that none of the dozen-odd senior
officials, who were overlooked by the then Chief Minister K. Rosaiah to make
this ever smiling and friendly bureaucrat the Chief Secretary, murmured, leave alone questioning the decision in 2010.
Everyone in the administration felt that Prasad was destined to become Chief
Secretary and that it was only a continuation of what he had been doing earlier, running the state administration, after a short break during the Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy regime.
The 1975 batch officer began his career as a sub collector like any other
pass-out from the Mussorie-based Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of
Administration, but soon made his mark with his administrative skills and
positive approach in resolving issues. He entered the power corridors when N. Janardhan Reddy was Chief Minister in the early 1990s and gained enormous confidence of two more Chief Ministers down the line – Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy and N. Chandrababu Naidu. Like the longest serving Chief Minister record of Naidu, he too served as principal secretary to the Chief Minister for a record nine consecutive years.
“His success lay in his ability to grasp the issues concerning the state, guess the positive and negative impacts of a decision and communicate the same to the political bosses in an unbiased manner,” says retired IAS official Balasubrahmanyam, who was part of Naidu’s CMO and a close associate of Prasad.
There is no surprise that Prasad, who always wished to keep a low profile, may never get the credit for giving the country one of the finest and impactful Presidents – Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. As revealed by Balasubrahmanyam to this correspondent, while mourning the death, it was Prasad, who suggested Kalam’s candidature to Naidu who in turn took it up with the then powerful BJP duo of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K Advani. The rest of course is chronicled history.
Known for not losing his wit despite being in the thick of tense moments, Prasad, tongue in cheek, told Naidu that he would end up as the youngest Prime Minister of India. This was when his view was solicited by his boss at about 3 am at AP Bhavan, New Delhi, on the day the exit of H.D. Deve Gowda as PM became certain and Naidu was under pressure to accept the crown of thorns.
Insiders say he did not mince words, again in his own witty style, in opposing Naidu’s decision to advance Assembly elections post Naxal attack on him at Alipiri en route to Tirumala. When Naidu was jubilant over schoolchildren thronging his residence with roses in their hands to express solidarity, his principal secretary was said to have reminded him that the visitors, unfortunately, can’t vote.
Prasad was always there for officials or politicians to share their joy, fears, anguish or anger. Even ruling Congress leaders felt suffocated over the YSR’s CMO not being as friendly as Prasad-headed CMO during the TD rule towards them. He stood by juniors when they looked at him. “Sir backed my decisions as Warangal collector despite political pressure,” pointed out Adityanath Das, Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh. As Vigilance Commissioner, Prasad was liberal in punishing the lower rung officials particularly when they don’t have mala fide intentions.
This correspondent had opportunity to interact with him on numerous occasions for more than a decade and developed an insight into various administrative decisions. But, the disappointment over Prasad not heeding to the repeated suggestion to pen an autobiography that would have a potential to become a text book to the civil servants of his next generations will remain forever. “Rayalandi (I have to write one day),” was his reply every time with the trade mark disarming smile largely writ on his face, perhaps unmindful of extraordinary situation in the form of Covid and losing battle to the fatal virus.