Friend of the poor, a farmers’ Chief Minister | india | Hindustan Times
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Friend of the poor, a farmers’ Chief Minister

india Updated: Sep 06, 2009 01:10 IST
Praveen Donthi

They ploughed through wet paddy fields, jumped fences and ran like possessed on the dry riverbed. They had one thing on their mind: to reach YSR’s estate in the foothills.

More than 400,000 people converged at the Idupulapaya village on Thursday to bid farewell to YSR Reddy.

Most were dressed in white shirt and dhoti. YSR, too, dressed like them. As opposed to Chandrababu Naidu’s tech-savvy image, he projected himself as an out and out farmers’ CM.

As people walked together, strangers forged friendships discussing his welfare schemes. The farmers taking their lunch break in the fields welcomed those who were hungry. “There is very little food, but there is a lot of water if you want to drink,” said Nagaiah, a farmer.

As they quenched their thirst, they praised YSR some more for the irrigation projects he had undertaken. After waiving off farm debts, which helped limit farmer suicides in the state to an extent, YSR launched Jalayagnam, a massive project aimed at irrigating more than 10 million hectares of land, which can, potentially, benefit three-to-four million families.

Even Opposition parties concede YSR’s contribution. “Through these schemes he has gained a special place among the people,” said Kishan Reddy, sole representative of BJP in the state assembly.

It is this image of a good administrator and friend of the poor, coupled with a reputation for being ruthless with enemies that gave YSR a larger than life image — an image that has only grown following his dramatic and tragic death in a chopper accident on Wednesday.

Coming from the Rayalaseema region synonymous with factionalism, it took YSR years to ward off allegations of using strong-arm tactics against dissenters. Even his father Raja Reddy was killed in 1998, in an attack, allegedly initiated by political rivals.

Alarmed by his victory streak his rivals released booklets titled: What happens if a factionist becomes the CM? in 2004.

Till 1999, YSR was known as the perennial dissident. A term he made irrelevant after he became CM in 2004. Perhaps, the psychology of a dissident, which he understood so well, helped YSR stamp out differences of opinion within the party.

A part of YSR’s estate was cleared for his grave. After paying their tributes, on their way back, many people gave in to the pangs of hunger and uprooted the groundnut plants.

“This is his estate isn’t it,” said Mallaiah (42) who travelled from Nandyala of Kurnool district. “Then this is our anna polam (brother’s field), we can eat,” he said. On the way back Mallaiah shared the food with others coming in, all hungry and tired.

(With Prasad Nichenametla in Hyderabad)