The demise of chief minister Dr Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy in Wednesday’s copter crash has cast a shadow of gloom and a void over the political firmament in the sub-continent.Known for political acumen, pragmatism, Ysr’s death brings to an end a charismatic leader who combined in him administrative skills and organizational caliber needed for a owth-oriented state at a crucial juncture.
Reddy was the first Congress chief minister since the state was formed in 1956 who completed a full five-year term and retained power after elections. He entered politics in 1978 from Pulivendula Assembly constituency. He also worked as Congress president for two terms between 1980 and 1983. He brought unity in the faction-ridden Congress party circles.
It goes to the credit of Ysr that the People’s War Group (Maoists) which had a sway over 21 of the 23 districts at one time were subdued and crushed beyond recognition.He took over as chief minister for the first time on May 14, 2004 from N. Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party. He also bounced back to power a second time in the general elections the state faced in May last. Ysr made made no big promises in the elections and instead highlighted his performance versus the "poor credibility record" of his main rival N.Chandrababu Naidu.
The leader from Pulivendula in Rayalaseema had come up the hard way in his public life spanning three decades and emerged as one of the strongest leaders the Congress has ever produced in the state.Elected to the state assembly for the fifth time, Ysr is also a four-time Lok Sabha member and had never lost an election so far. He emerged as a 'people's leader' despite a vitriolic campaign launched by the TDP-led four party Mahakutami and the Praja Rajyam Party of actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi.
Banking on his performance and the numerous welfare schemes his government launched in the last five years, Ysr retained power despite a three-cornered contest.Born to a Christian middle class family at Pulivendula, in Kadapa district, on July 8, 1949, Ysr made a modest beginning. Eldest of the five sons of Y.S Raja Reddy, a local leader in his heyday, Ysr evinced keen interests in politics while studying at M.R. Medical College, Gulbarga, Karnataka. After completing his MBBS, Ysr served as a medical officer at the Jammalamadugu Mission Hospital briefly. In 1973, he established a 70-bed charitable hospital.
Ysr served as a state minister from 1980 to 1983 and retained the assembly seat in 1983 even when NTR swept to power with a historic victory. Sensing a spark of leadership in him, then prime minister Indira Gandhi appointed Ysr president of the state Congress when he was only 34.
In 1989, he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kadapa and held the seat till 1999, when he shifted again to state politics. From 1998 to 2000, he served as president of the state Congress. Though the Congress lost the 1999 state elections, Ysr emerged as the strongest leader in the party and became the leader of opposition.
In 2003, Reddy undertook a 64-day padayatra, or walkathon, across the state and covered 1,500 km. He received petitions from people about their problems, mainly relating to agriculture and unemployment. It was this campaign and a strong anti-incumbency wave against Chandrababu Naidu's government which catapulted Ysr to power. Sheer hard work and political initiatives, helped the Congress under his leadership to capture 156 of the state’s 294 seats besides securing 33 of its 42 Lok Sabha seats this time.