Leader who brooked no dissent, worked for poor | india | Hindustan Times
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Leader who brooked no dissent, worked for poor

Retaining power in Andhra Pradesh and delivering 33 Lok Sabha members to the Congress’s national tally of 205, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, 60, had created a miracle of sorts in the May elections, reports Varghese K George.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2012 15:28 IST
Varghese K. George

Retaining power in Andhra Pradesh and delivering 33 Lok Sabha members to the Congress’s national tally of 205, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, 60, had created a miracle of sorts in the May elections. However, he considered it the most natural thing to happen. “You didn’t believe it, did you?” he asked a day after the results were announced.

A ruthless power-player, Reddy, or YSR, as he was popularly known, tolerated no dissent but cared for the poor of the state. During his first tenure as chief minister, a slew of welfare measures — all of them named after Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — had touched every family in the state, he said during the elections. For instance, the Andhra Pradesh government gives old age pension to 71 lakh people – that’s more than half the beneficiaries in the entire country. The people of Andhra gave him another tenure, which was evidently an approval for his first stint as chief minister.

While the welfare of the poor remained the focus of YSR’s first tenure, AP’s industrial progress continued — with special economic zones, ports and huge irrigation projects transforming the face of the state. Small towns became part of the global market. And most remarkably, the state was freed from the clutches of Maoists.

YSR’s rise in politics had taken a stormy route. In the Kadappa district of Rayalaseema region, his father Raja Reddy had a huge following and the aura of a strongman. He became an MLA in 1978 and state Congress chief in 1983. After Raja Reddy was murdered in the late 1990s, YSR inherited his legacy in its entirety. He was always under threat as the number of enemies grew as did his power and legion of admirers.

Those who crossed his path rarely got away. Ministers and MPs who challenged his authority were eased out. He controlled the government and the Congress with an iron fist. Still, the high command had little to complain about — he delivered on governance and politics. His untimely demise is a huge setback for the Congress. In his absence, Andhra politics will be different and the Congress will be substantially weakened.