With YS Rajasekhara Reddy's death, the Congress party will not only miss its most powerful regional satrap but also its mascot of good governance, whose work Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi cited almost everywhere they went, say political analysts.
Andhra Pradesh is a critical state for the Congress and the party does not have a person of Reddy's stature to replace him. His initiatives as the chief minister became a showcase of the party's claim to good governance during the Lok Sabha poll campaign.
"His clout and control over the state was such that he ran the Congress like a regional party. There was no mass leader like him for the party anywhere across India," analyst GVL Narasimha Rao told IANS.
He said, "This is one state that has become critical for the party even nationally, not just in south India." YSR's death may give way to internal bickerings in the party, which the Congress just cannot afford, Rao said.
Political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan said: "Reddy was the last of the regional satraps of the Congress. There is hardly any leader like him at the grassroots in the entire country. They have national leaders, but nobody down the line."
He catapulted the Congress to power after 10 years of hibernation and took it to a second consecutive term this year, besides winning 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state. It was a single-handed feat, the seeds for which were sown by his historic 64-day 'padayatra' or walkathon in 2003.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday underscored the leader's political acumen and development initiatives.
Gandhi told reporters that when the party was planning the strategy ahead of the April-May Lok Sabha elections, Reddy asked the party leadership not to worry. "I have full faith in the people of Andhra Pradesh and our work," Gandhi quoted him as having said then. Manmohan Singh spoke of YSR's "innovative programmes" and that he depended on him for "support and ideas".
Rangarajan also cited how he crushed Maoist insurgency in the state completely with his Greyhounds, an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh raised in 1989. The Greyhounds have been quite effective in subduing the Maoists who at one time controlled 23 of the state's 26 districts.
Rangarajan said it was not just commando operation. Reddy supplemented it with a "highly targetted socio-economic programme, which is a lesson for several parts of the country plagued by insurgency".
While he has been credited with stewarding the centre's flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme most effectively in Andhra Pradesh, he also took several other initiatives.
"For instance, the Rajiv Arogyasree scheme. He got upmarket private hospitals to treat the poor. And if they did not, he would warn them with 'I can cancel your licence'. They had to," Rangarajan told IANS.
Under the health scheme, the government would foot the bills of surgeries of up to Rs.2 lakh for families below poverty line in expensive corporate hospitals. A health insurance scheme was also part of it under which the insurance companies pay the hospital bills while the government settles the premium.
There is also an ambulance scheme for rural Andhra Pradesh, added Rangarajan, under which ambulance vans are available to pick up patients from their homes and take them to hospitals. "The Delhi government is planning something like this," he said.