Sunday, 6 September 2009

Obituary: Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy, the man of people



"Ayana chanipoledu, makosam tappaka vastadu" (He is not dead, he will
return for us). This was the immediate reaction from people after the State
government confirmed the death of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy in a
helicopter crash.

For a while, many did not believe that their dear leader is no more. It took
long for people to recover from the shock and come to terms with the reality.

Slogans like "YSR amar rahe," "Pedala pennidi, YSR," and "Badugula aasha
jeevi, YSR," reverberated all over the State, even as countless admirers and
followers set up Rajasekhar Reddy's portraits and pitched black flags at street
corners, to express their love for the leader, who endeared himself to one and
all.

Every half-a-kilometre stretch of major roads in the State was marked by the
typical Andhra tombstone, with portraits of smiling Rajashekhar Reddy with
a red turban, and groups of people gathering around to mourn the leader they
so obviously love.

The portrait with the red turban tells all. It encapsulated the man. The man of
the masses, the leader, who championed the cause of the farmer and the
economically backward, the underprivileged and minorities.

"YSR jaisa aur koi nahi hoga. Garibo ko bohut madad kiya," says a taxi
driver, unable to control his emotions. Even those who had never met
Rajasekhar Reddy personally felt a deep sadness and personal loss at his
untimely death.

Rajasekhar Reddy, was nicknamed "Kadapa puli", and not without cause as
he was quite a fiery and fierce leader, who was unafraid to demonstrate his
displeasure or voice his dissent. This earned him grudging admiration and
slowly real admiration.



But even the people, who backed him as a chief minister, had underestimated
the vision of the man. Most certainly he came up with some of the most
original and workable social schemes that touched the lives of almost every
household that was socially or economically backward.

Rajasekhar Reddy endeared himself with every section of society. "He is the
first chief minister who had really done something concrete for Muslims in
the last 60 years. He gave benefits to the community directly," says Shaik
Yakub Hussain, as he drives his autorickshaw, financed through AP
Minorities Finance Corporation.

And with his death a political era has come to an end. He was the chief
minister with a deep concern towards people and gifted with a rare vision to
turn Andhra Pradesh into a well-developed State.

If there was any other leader in the State after NTR, whose death had shocked
the people so much, it's YSR. In fact, YSR had surpassed NTR in populist
schemes and development programmes. But unlike NTR, Rajasekhar Reddy
had no filmi charisma. He came up from the bottom of the political ladder,
climbing rungs one by one and in the process creating a halo around his
personality, all by his tireless efforts. Perhaps, Rajasekhar Reddy was the
only Congress chief minister in the State to have completed five years in
office without a sign of dissidence.

His exemplary devotion and dedication to the uplift of the downtrodden and
neglected segments of society endeared him to millions of people, cutting
across caste, regional and religious barriers. He was a man with an
extraordinary character of coolness, trademark smile and devotion to God.

"Oka illu ichchadu, kadupu ninda bhojanam pettadu and pillala chaduvulaku
dabbu ichchadu. Rogavaste vaidyam cheinchadu," Bhanothula Pulamma, one
of the beneficiaries of Indiramma scheme in the city outskirts. Her remarks
put a daunting task before YSR's successor. Rajasekhar Reddy's schemes
centered around "roti (Rs 2 a kg rice scheme), pani (irrigation-Jalayagnam),
makaan (Indiramma housing), kaam (guaranteed employment), taleem
(education - fee reimbursement), and sehat (health under Argoyasree).

Even as thousands of people wished him long life, Rajasekhar Reddy knew
that God had given him just six decades of life on the earth. Way back in
2004, he had declared that "I will not continue in politics after I complete 60
years". It may have been a political statement, but it had unfortunately turned
true.

Rajasekhar Reddy created history in Andhra Pradesh politics when he took
decisions, which his predecessors dared not step in on. The Jalayagnam
programme, reservations for Muslims, Arogyasri, fee waiver scheme for the
underprivileged, Rs 2-a-kg rice scheme, free power to farmers and low
interest rate for women groups will go down in the history of the State as
unique welfare schemes that turned the fortunes of millions of families.

He believed in the Gandhian principle of padayatra to seek redressal of
people's grievances. His 150-km padayatra in Kurnool district in 1999 and
1400-km-long padayatra under scorching summer sun in 2003 catapulted him
from the stage of a dissident leader to the status of a political hero, who cared
for the have-not's.

The padayatras had reformed him so much so that he started taking criticism
in his stride. He believed that people were solidly behind him, whatever the
criticism of his political opponents be. Even his political opponents
vouchsafe that Rajasekhar Reddy had "turned soft" after his padayatras.

Rajasekhar Reddy, affectionately called Raja by his close followers, will go
down in political books as the mass leader, who spent the maximum time
with people. He also created a history of sorts by surrendering his family's
1000 surplus lands to the State government.

As his confidante KVP Ramachandra Rao puts it, "Raja never deviated once
he took a policy stand. It sometime became difficult for us to convince
officials to do it even in if rules had to be bent or faced with financial
constraints". He has profound belief in his decisions and confidence in his
actions. It was this confidence that compelled him to take up the Rs 60,000
crore worth irrigation projects, even as the State exchequer was empty. His
confidence-instilling words "beg, borrow or steal" have subsequently attained
political trademark.

YSR's often used to say, "my mission is to make Andhra Pradesh
Annapurna of India and IT hub of the world". And unfortunately, he left in
the midst of this great mission, raising doubts in the minds of people whether
his successor would be able to carry on the daunting task and fulfil Raja's
dream.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Abba!

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