Had it not been for Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Union minister A Sai Prathap would have continued to be a mine owner. Big business and big money, though, considering that his grandfather, A Krishnappa took up mining way back in 1920 in Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh.
The story goes something like this: His grandfather’s Man Friday was a guy named Tipu Sultan. The sound of his rubber chappals annoyed a British officer. Irked, he sent him to Pulivendula jail in Andhra Pradesh. Pulivendula is currently Prathap’s buddy-turned-Chief Minister Reddy’s political constituency.
When Prathap’s grandfather went to seek his release, he chanced upon a woman doing rangoli (floral design) with powder. The whiteness of the powder intrigued him and he enquired where she got it from. “From the rocks,” she replied.
He found it to be a fine quality of Barite mineral. He went to the district head and said he needed permission to explore the area.
“Lots of people have failed. Try your luck,” said the officer.
He did so after selling off his property to be able to afford mining. He discovered the first mine in 1925 and never looked back.
He was also the first to export high quality asbestos to Belgium, France and Japan. Later, a geologist from London Dr King hailed Krishnappa as a pioneer in the mining sector.
Forty years later, history repeated itself. Prathap, then studying medicine, was home on vacation. His grandfather had failed to get high-grade asbestos. When Prathap said he could, his grandfather shot back: “Try your luck”. He did and within a week came back with a truckload.
If Krishanappa is the family’s first miner, Prathap is its first politician -- completely unplanned. Rajasekhara Reddy, then state Congress chief, was struggling with names of candidates for the 1984 elections. The decision to field Prathap was sudden and without his consent. It was only after Rajiv Gandhi cleared Prathap’s name that Reddy told him to fight elections.
“Good man and has no enemies,” MLA K Srinivasulu said about him.
First elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989, Prathap is a six-term MP. Said his political adversary and former minister C Ramachandriya, “He is non-assertive, non-corrupt and non-controversial. A good man whose strength is the chief minister.”
Add to that his single-minded devotion to Sri Sathya Sai Baba whose blessings, Prathap believes, see him through. There are several mystical experiences including a garland from nowhere, which he found around his neck one morning.
“People forget that there is a power above us. It touches me to see how devoted he is. He believes in Sai Baba and is constantly tuned to God -- a rare sight among people these days,” said J Geeta Reddy, a minister in the Andhra Pradesh government.