The man who could be next chief minister of Andhra
If Congress returns to power, the credit for reviving the party should go to a doctor-turned-politician who could well become the new CM.
If the Congress returns to power in Andhra Pradesh, the credit for reviving a moribund party should go to a doctor-turned-politician who could well become the state's new chief minister.
All eyes are on Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, popularly known as YSR.
Popular as 'Cuddapah tiger', YSR lifted the sagging morale of the party, which was down and out following two successive defeats in the 1994 and 1999 elections with a missionary zeal.
As president of the state unit of the party in the last elections, he could only improve the party's tally from a mere 25 to 91 in 294-member assembly.
YSR was dejected but be refused to give up, making it clear to his friends that he would not rest until Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader and Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was ousted.
After Tuesday's first round of balloting in the state, it does seem that his dream is about to be fulfilled. Exit polls say the Congress and its allies could gain a majority in the state legislature.
As the opposition leader, YSR covered 1,600 km on foot in scorching summer last year hearing the grievances of the people, especially farmers, and blasting Naidu for making "false promises".
The response to the walkathon was so tremendous that it rang alarm bells in TDP and gave a new lease of life to the Congress.
But YSR was unlucky as five months later the momentum created by his campaign was overtaken by a so-called sympathy wave in favour of Naidu after he escaped a deadly Maoist attack.
Seeking to bank on this perceived sympathy wave, the chief minister called for early elections.
A determined YSR, who has a public image of a "militant politician", refused to give up.
Leading a 'bus yatra' and other party programmes, he kept up the pressure on TDP. At a time when most people thought Naidu would again lead his party back to power, YSR launched a 'jaitra yatra' as part of his election campaign, touching almost all assembly constituencies and drawing tremendous response.
The party's morale was low due to the hi-tech campaign used by the resourceful TDP and wrangling with allies and over ticket distribution.
The 'yatra' which has now entered YSR's home district Cuddapah, helped the party cash in on the anti-incumbency factor.
Born on July 8, 1949 at Jammalamadugu village in Cuddapah district, YSR did his medical education from M.R. Medical College at Gulbarga in Karnataka.
Married to Vijayalakshmi in 1972, he began his political career as secretary of the district Youth Congress in 1975. He was first elected to the state assembly from Pulivendula constituency in 1978 and re-elected in 1983 and 1985 even when film star-turned politician NTR's charisma was ruling the state.
As president of the party he could not help it to regain power in 1985. In 1989, YSR was elected to the Lok Sabha from Cuddapah and continued his winning streak until 1998.
The next year saw another turning point. He was asked to again head the party in the state.
He is set to win yet another election, this time to the state assembly. Facing a weak candidate in S.V. Satish Kumar Reddy of TDP, YSR's victory is a foregone conclusion.
By declaring that he would quit politics if the Congress failed to return to power in the state, he put his career at stake. He firmly believes that one should quit politics on attaining the age of 60 years.
However, if Congress does come back to power, YSR will have to contend with a few opponents for the chief minister's post.
Though a converted Christian, religion has never been a hurdle for him and he enjoys the backing of Reddys, a politically significant caste.
Former chief minister N. Janardhan Reddy, who is again contesting for Lok Sabha, has made it clear that he is not be in the race for the top post.
With the death of former chief minister K. Vijaybhaskar Reddy in 2002, YSR has no powerful rival within the party and his followers feel that time was never so good for him to become the chief minister.