A senior Congress leader in Andhra Pradesh has termed as "bogus" the shock deaths of 600 people following the demise of chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash early this month.
Giving a bitter twist to the war of words with the loyalists of the late chief minister, who was known as YSR, Rajya Sabha member V. Hanumantha Rao said the shock deaths were a publicity stunt.
Rao, who is opposing the campaign for making YSR's son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy the next chief minister, alleged that Jagan's supporters were trying to blackmail the party's central leadership through claims of shock deaths.
The war of words between the senior leader and Jagan's camp came into the open during a television debate Tuesday night. "These are all bogus and a publicity stunt. They have included even routine deaths and suicides in their account," Rao said after senior state minister and YSR loyalist N. Raghuveera Reddy claimed that 600 people either died of shock or committed suicide after hearing the news of YSR's death.
"Was he (YSR) more popular than Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi," asked Rao, who has already received threatening calls from alleged supporters of Jagan for stating that K. Rosaiah will continue as the chief minister till 2014.
Agriculture Minister Raghuveera Reddy reacted strongly to Rao's comments and said he was insulting the feelings of the people.
"It is not just the majority of Congress leaders but also leaders from other parties and a majority of the eight crore people of the state who want to see Jagan as the next chief minister," he said, clarifying that he would abide by the decision of the central leadership on the issue.