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YSR - a Congress icon and a true mass leader

YSR was a true mass leader, one who ruled the hearts of people in Andhra Pradesh.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2009 17:04 IST

YSR was a true mass leader, one who ruled the hearts of people in Andhra Pradesh.

For Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, YSR in short, the end came while serving the very people who had reposed their faith in him by voting him to power for a record second consecutive term in May this year.

A doctor by profession, YSR was very close to the public pulse and carved a niche for himself by taking up revolutionary public welfare schemes, which had become a model for other states in the country.

Undoubtedly one of the most popular leaders Andhra Pradesh ever produced, YSR's death has not only created a vacuum in the state politics but dealt a major blow to the ruling Congress party.

One of YSR's main achievements was subduing the ultra-left Naxalite insurgency in the state that had one time gripped 21 of its 23 districts. In the process, the People's War Group (PWG), once the dominant Maoist group in India, was crushed beyond recognition.

YSR, who turned 60 on July 8, came up the hard way in his public life spanning three decades. He emerged as one of the strongest state leaders and also set new records in the state's political history.

By retaining power in Mah, he became the first Congress chief minister to retain power in Andhra Pradesh after serving a full five-year term.

YSR, whose popularity among masses is often compared with that of the legendary N.T. Rama Rao or NTR, proved his charisma by winning the elections on the plank of his political and administrative credibility.

Without promises of free colour televisions and cash doles and without banking on cine glamour, he proved why he was more popular among masses.

Popular as a "people's leader" among his followers, YSR was successful despite facing a hostile poll campaign from both the Telugu Desam Party-led four-party Grand Alliance and the Praja Rajyam Party of actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi. He emerged as a real hero in the election battle dominated by film stars.

Seen by political rivals as an aggressive leader but adored by followers, YSR had always been a winner.

Elected to the state assembly for the fifth time, YSR was also a four time Lok Sabha member and he held the record of never losing an election.

The man who singularly spearheaded the Congress campaign this year not only retained power but also ensured that the party gets 33 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats.

When he took over as chief minister on May 14, 2004, it was a dream came true for YSR. The leader from the badlands of Rayalaseema had come up the hard way.

Born in a middle class family in Pulivendula, a small town in Kadapa district, on July 8, 1949, YSR made a modest beginning. The eldest of five sons of Y S Raja Reddy, a dynamic local leader, he evinced interest in politics while studying at the M R Medical College in Gulbarga in Karnataka.

After studying MBBS, YSR served as medical officer at the Jammalamadugu Mission Hospital for a brief period. In 1973, he established a 70-bed charitable hospital.

He entered active politics in 1978 and was elected to the state assembly from Pulivendula. He served as state minister from 1980 to 1983 and retained the assembly seat in 1983 even when NTR swept to power with a mammoth victory.

Sensing a potential leader in him, then prime minister Indira Gandhi appointed YSR president of the state unit of Congress when he was only 34 years.

In 1989, he was elected to Lok Sabha from Kadapa constituency and held the seat till 1999, when he shifted again to state politics. From 1998 to 2000 he was president of the state Congress again.

The year 2003 was a turning point in his political career as he undertook a 64-day 'padayatra' or walkathon across the state. Covering 1,500 km in the scorching sun, he received petitions from people over their numerous problems, mainly relating to agriculture and unemployment.

It was this 'padyatra' which catapulted YSR to power. His experiences during the tour helped him shape up his policies after assuming office, as he implemented free power for farmers, waived off their loans, introduced several welfare schemes like pension for the aged, widows and handicapped, housing for poor, Rs 2-a-kg rice, a 'Rajiv Arogyasri' or community health insurance scheme and a massive programme to build irrigation projects.

Even his last visit to Chittoor district -- which never materialised as the helicopter in which he was travelling crashed Wednesday morning in bad weather -- was to launch another innovative mass contact programme to know the people's problems.