Residents of the region, watered by Krishna in Andhra Pradesh are Intelligent, industrious and enterprising. Ammanna the paternal grandfather of Raghavendra Rao, a well to do ryot in Pedamaddali of Krishna district became a contractor in the erstwhile Central Provinces and prospered. Leaving his son Naganna to look after his business there, he returned to the native Village. Naganna acquired buildings, sites and lands at Kamptee and Bilaspur and also accumulated considerable cash. Edpuganti Raghavendra Rao was born as his only son on August 4, 1889.
Living in Hindi speaking area, he learnt Telugu and Sanskrit through a private tutor. In the school, he was far a head of others in Hindi and other subjects. After Matriculation, he studied at Allahabad and Nagapur. He sailed for England in 1909 to study Bar-at-Law. With his withlord reading, the then Governor General, and saw that the erring officer was punished. Realising the futility of continued non- cooperation, he decided to accept office and successfully held the posts of Chief Minister, Home member and Acting Governor under diarchy with credit and distinction.
on his return to India he plunged into public life as an ardent nationalist and disciple of Lokamanya Tilak. He was Chairman of the Bilaspur Municipality for 11 years. Participating in the Home Rule movement of Annie Besant, he ripened into a responsive co-operator. Joining the Swaraj Party, he became a favourite of C.R.Das and Motilal Nehru. He was elected to the Provincial Legislative Counsil in 1923 and 1926 and he created deadlock after deadlock and embrassed the adminsitration.
Central Provinces in those days was divided into three regions, namely, Hindi speaking, Marathi speaking and Berar with problems and leaders of their own. Nagpur, the stronghold of Bhonsles, was the capital. Marwaris held the purse-strings. It is a romance of history that Raghavendra Rao with no roots in the native soil, could dominate with few to equal and none to surpass. His popularity was sought to be curbed by filing a criminal case against him. But he was honourably acquitted by an English Magistrate.
He ordered the use of Khadi uniforms by the employeed in the local bodies and declared birthdays of Tilak and Gandhi as holidays. He was President of Mahakosal (Hindi speaking C.P) Congress Committee from 1920 till he left the party in 1222.
In any gathering, he was a marked man in Khaddar dhoti and shirt with a Gandhi cap. When a European Police Officer burnt Gandhi Cap, he took up the matter with Lord Reading, the then Governor - General, and saw that the erring Officer was punished. Realising the futitity of continued non-cooperation, he decided to accept the office and successfully held the posts of Chief Minister, Home member and Acting Governor of Central Province and Berar under dyarchy from 15 May 1935 - 11 Sep 1936, with credit and distinction.
It is remarkable that he participated in the boycott of Simon Commission while holding office. In 1932 he sponsored the Agricultural Debt Relief Act – first of it’s kind in India. As an administrator and diplomat, he was on a par with Raja of Panagal of Madras Presidency and Fazil Hussain of Punjab. He was an adept in hurling devastating pharsed like political alcoholism, dissolute pretenders of truth and non-violence, serpentine politics and psychic domination of monkish forces. It is no exaggeration to say that the moral fervor of Gladstone, ruthless efficiency of Curzon, tumultuous energy of Fox, intellectual ability and aristocratic detachment of Balfour, artistic temperament of Roserberry, personal and political courage of Churchill, diplomatic ability and personal elegance of Anthony Eden were present in him in admirable proportions.
When some army personnel misbehaved by setting fire to a village, as home member, he brought them to book, in spite of pressure from higher-ups, and got them prosecuted. When a European Officer proceeded to Simla to participate in a conference with out the previous permission, he recalled him by wire while the Office was still in the way. He moved on terms of equality with stalwarts like Harisingh Gour, B.S.Moojee, Tambe, D.P.Mishra, Ravi Sankar Shukla and others.
When the Congress party contested elections for the provincial legislature in 1937 under the government of India Act of 1935 and got massive majority, he stood as an independent and defeated the Congress candidate to the surprise of all parties. On the initial refusal of the Congress Party to form the ministry, failing to get assurance regarding the use of special powers, he stepped in and formed the interim ministry to carry on the administration. Later he declined the offer of Dewanship in the premier States of Indore and Jaipur. But he accepted the membership of ‘Secretary of States’ India Council in 1939 to exert his weight in favour of Constitutional reforms. In unison with his Muslim colleague, he used to twist his English colleague saying that in the Indian Council, only they two ere Indians while the rest were Anglo-Indians. Ultimately he became a member of the Viceroy’s Executive council in the latter part of 1941 and held the portfolio of civil defence.
When Sir Stafford Cripps came to India with his proposals, he demanded handling over of defence to Indians completely. He criticized Cripps for meeting Indian leaders individually and telling different persons different things. He frankly advised him to meet Indian leaders and concerned officials collectively to arrive at an agreement. Though he was a teetotaler and a non-smoker with simple habits, he used to entertain European and Indian guests lavishly.
He supported the claim of Andhras for a separate province. While he was in India office at London, Rajaji as Premier of Madras, while forwarding the resolution of the legislature favouring the formation of the Andhra Province, warned in the covering letter that the implementation of the resolution would lead to bloodshed in Madras. Raghavendra Rao conveyed the contents to Prakasam through Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, who was then a Professor at Oxford. Prakasam revealed this duplicity of Rajaji in the open session of Andhra Mahasabha held at Visakhapatnam in 1941. Subsequent denial by Rajaji did not carry conviction.
As a believer in prohibition, during his regime under diarchy, he introduced total prohibition in a district as a precursor. He was responsible for location of High Court, Central College for Women and Police school at Nagpur. He founded Gondwana club for the elite among the Indians, as the Central Provinces club was not open to Indians. He was scholarly by disposition and a great lover of books. His personal library was the finest, which was subsequently donated to Nagpur University.
He passed away on June 15, 1942, at the age of 52. His portrait was unveiled by M.R.Jayakar in the premises of Andhra Maha Sabha at Madras. A high school at Pedamaddali and a college at Gudlavalleru, a hostel in the Loyola college in Vijayawada and a public hall, Post Graduate Science College and State Library at Bilaspur bear his name. There is a professorial chair in politics at Nagapur University to perpetuate his memory.
His combined statesmanship, administrative ability, sincerity, resourcefulness and patriotism to a degree is rare in our public life. He was a realist as well as pragmatist. Though a careerist, he was without pelf, since he liquidated considerable portion of his paternal property in the process. He never compromised on the issue of self-respect, much less ever let down the interests of the country. If he were alive in free India, with his exceptional capacity, rich experience, ripe wisdom and sound judgment, he could have held positions of responsibility and trust and also of opportunity and honour with eminence and distinction, rendering yeoman service to the country.