His death was as dramatic as the last five years of his life.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, 60, died on Wednesday when his helicopter smashed into a cliff 250 km south of Hyderabad, exploded and crashed in driving rain, 18 km east of its charted course.
An Air Force helicopter found his charred remains, and those of four others with him, in or near the mangled shell of the US-built Bell 430 chopper at 8.30 am on Thursday, about 24 hours after it had dropped off the radar.
It took troops almost another hour and a half to drop down from helicopters and recover the bodies. Reddy will be given a state funeral in his native village of Pulivendula, 400 km south of Hyderabad, on Friday.
K. Rosaiah, 77, finance minister and No. 2 in Reddy’s Cabinet, was later sworn in as the acting chief minister. But the first meeting of the new Cabinet formally passed a resolution calling upon Reddy’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy, 36, a controversial industrialist and first-time MP from Cuddappa, to become chief minister.
Following this, 120 of 156 Congress MLAs in the state and 30 of its 33 MPs, who owe their return to power to Reddy, signed a petition requesting Congress President Sonia Gandhi to appoint Jagan Mohan as his father’s successor.
The Congress is expected to decide on the issue at the end of the seven-day state mourning announced by the Cabinet.