Y S RAJASEKHAR REDDY
A king who walked his way into the hearts of people
Destiny seldom allows a rebel to rise to rule, if that happens, history grabs that rebel into its pages. Rajasekhar Reddy is one of that rare rebels destined to rule one of the biggest states in India, Andhra Pradesh as it the most powerful chief minister so far ever ruled. This feat gets the more gigantic proportion if you consider that he was not from any regional party but a monolithic congress party, where all leaders are nothing but tiny fragments of dust at the feet of one or another Gandhi from Nehru clan. Rajasekhar Reddy was one among many when he won his Pulivendula constituency that later turned into their family’s impregnable fortress, in 1978 leaving his newly attained doctor’s white flannels to don Gandhian white khadi. In initial phases of his political career, YSR glittered like the promising loadstar but later turned into a comet of destruction for many chief ministers especially from his own party. Coupled with his father’s legacy of feared factionist background, YSR name always evoked a fear of ruthless political turmoil and his gang of supporters rallied with him as mobsters in a frenzy of destruction. Many false starts thwarted his chance of winning the most coveted post of chief minister post by an inch or two during 1989-1994 where tdp party allowed the congress party to return to taste the power before dumping congress in the state for next 10 years in opposition benches.
If we leave the initial and middle phases of Rajasekhar Reddy career as a politician, where he never held any ministry either in centre or state except for a short tenure in T.Anjaiah’s cabinet, his political ambition of reaching the pinnacle of state politics started taking a concrete shape during 1995-1999. His arch rival Chandrababu Naidu grabbed the chief minister post from his matinee idol father-in-law NTR in a five star hotel coup, and Rajasekhar Reddy was never allowed to take the centre stage of state politics until Naidu’s self inflicted strategies of reforms and IT began to distance the rural folk from telugudesam party. When Naidu started deviating from many popular schemes like Rs.2/- kilo rice and other rural oriented schemes, the party’s signature themes conceived and implemented by the legendary NTR, Rajasekhar Reddy began to move in the opposite direction of Naidu’s much publicised growth engines like IT and tourism. YSR and Naidu pitted against each other in 1999 elections on different flanks of development Vs welfare and YSR fortified his welfare champion role with a free power to farming but his congress party trounced at the hustings when naidu rode on his own image and kargil’s victory of Vajpayee Govt.
A king who walked his way into the hearts of people
Still an arrogant and over confident Rajasekhar Reddy was so sure of his party’s winning in 1999, he challenged publicly that he would resign from politics, if Naidu comes back to power. However, election results proved that Naidu was the winner and lot of flack and humiliation went to YSR. This humiliating defeat left an indelible remark on his ego and political career. It was a realisation of sorts for him as looked into the eyes of defeat, and also earnestly at his image against the mirror of public opinion, which reflected many scars of arrogance, rebelliousness on his political face. And also, this defeat bought a sense of retrospection on his audacious methods of wooing public with free goodies without a transparent and clean image in public. He started mending his ways of dealing himself on public platforms, and started to add more substance and reason while expressing his political thoughts. He also made a very crucial change of persona, during this period coupled with a practicality that goaded him to join the ranks of communists, who already fighting a bitter war against Naidu’s pro reform development process. These deft maneuvers started to reflect in his enhanced image and gained more acceptable nods from various sections of people who previously worried about his faction ridden background even though he was no blood mark on his hands. Naidu also paved way to his one time friend now turned challenger to the chief minister post with his lopsided policies of highlighting information technology and service oriented economy strengthening his newly acquired image of the wizkid of IT.
In the same time, rain gods started playing havoc with the farmers and famines started to visit the rice bowl of India, and made their homes in the state until Naidu ousted from his seat of power. In spite of his king maker image in the Delhi and CEO tag in the state, Naidu started to lose his party’s strong holds of villages by hundreds as farmers and agri labourers were worried about their next day meal, he was busy with his media bursts powered by computer presentations and power lunches with IT czars from the western world. One time associate of Mr.Naidu, K.Chandra Sekhara Rao also upped the ante with forever simmering Telengana sentiment and started to show some electoral gains in telengana region which sends more than hundred legislatures to the state assembly. But Naidu never showed any signs of discomfort and was happy with the rapid development witnessed by India during this post reform period and was very confident of retaining his top post until 2020 like Jyothi Basu of West Bengal.
After Godhra mayhem, Gujarat erupted in a Hindu retaliation and entire country accusing Modi and BJP for perpetrating violence on Muslim minorities. This forced the Mr.Naidu to prove his secular credentials as his party got a substantial base in Muslim minority in the state. Except for a few mild warnings Naidu never attempted to pull the carpet under the NDA government where his MPs support was very crucial. He thought the elections are far away to attempt a sudden change of course in between, fearing to rock the boat of NDA, with the realisation that he was no longer got any friends outside the NDA camp as his past friends were already in tuck with his past enemy congress party.
These chinks in the Naidu’s amour were visible even to the cataract patient and an eagle eyed YSR decided to attempt a long march of countryside walk to equip himself for a favourable result in his second bout against Naidu. This one single decision was a watershed event in his political career as well as state politics. It was like rags to riches story in politics as he was never short of many supporters in every district, YSR never evoked a nod of respect from the majority of common people. This was an image makeover trip which later proved that YSR gained acceptability and sympathy among the majority of people cutting across many sections. With Reebok shoes on his feet, and it’s “do it” philosophy YSR readied himself for this long walkathon of 64 days crisscrossing 21 districts to galvanize public mood with his newfound political pragmatism. He started this walkathon from Chevella, a village in Ranga reddy district, which later turned into a sort of pilgrimage point for him to start any of his programmes for public. Many people on the sidelines amused themselves how a person born with a golden spoon could walk in a sweltering summer across the state. But YSR proved all wrong with his stamina and verve even in the initial phase of the tour and his brand new humility flank started attracting hordes of crowd to express their difficulties and share their anger at Naidu. Day by day, YSR started to gain ground, and his old image of a ruffian from Rayalaseema started to fadeout for a new charismatic leader image started to replace the public memory. By the end of the tour, a long 1600 km strenuous walk YSR successfully fought his own demons as well as gained strength to challenge the mighty Naidu, who was wielding the sword of IT. This newly acquired status of YSR not only helped him to challenge Naidu in the ensuing election arena, but also put him in a league of his own, as a mass leader with enviable following and comparable only with the incomparable Telugu legend NTR. With these developments, even many groups moving in different orbits in the state congress party, started to move around YSR and they accepted him as their best bet and punted all their hopes in their bid to return to the power.
Elections are still a long way but YSR prepared well and was busy in knitting the final stitches in his election strategy for a red carpet welcome at Rajbhavan. An act of violence, a claymore mine bomb attack attempted by Naxals on Naidu, miraculously failed and left him in a dazed state, to walk from the debris safely. Waves of sympathy from various sections weaved a false sense of support; the ever calculating Naidu made his first mistake of life, by deciding to go for snap elections to ride on the popular sympathy. But lot of time was consumed as Vajpayee government at the centre also decided to join Naidu in union elections, as they were very impressed with India Shining Campaign.
A king who walked his way into the hearts of people
Like a desperate drunkard for his daily dose of elixir, congress party at Delhi started looking at every possible way to comeback to the centre of power at Delhi. The prankster and its chief strategist Jayaram Ramesh tossed an idea like a joke to copy BJP book of election alliances. Sonia and Congress decided to extend the royal hand of their party for regional minions to show the BJP its own place. This allowed the Andhra Pradesh State Congress for a tie-up with TRS a sub-regional Party besides communists which were already sat on their porch. Gulam Nabhi Ajad, a mercurial Muslim from troubled Kashmir played the pries role, for the marriage of convenience with TRS. Even though, the congress bride groom was reciting false vows of SRC instead of immediate statehood to Telengana, the hurried TRS bride went into the embrace of congress with a fear of electoral embarrassment.
YSR never took any interest of these electoral alliances and was busy with his single minded determination to put congress in the seat of power in the state. When election results came out, it was all the way for congress led alliance as it routed the TDP-BJP combine in the state. Telugu Desam party suffered its worst defeat in its history with a mere 45 members conceding full majority for congress party on its own with 200 members and its alliance securing another 40 seats.
The joys congress workers and sympathizers still yet to began their celebrations, serpentine queues of well wishers and leaders appeared before YSR’s house and it really blew away any doubts about his candidature for chief minister’s post. In one blow, YSR swept away Chandrababu’s tdp government as well as any impostors in his own party for the grand success achieved with his sweat and swollen knees. Like NTR whose mass appeal and mesmerizing ways kicked congress from the seat of power in the past, YSR also decided to celebrate his oath taking ceremony in the presence of huge crowd and he rode to Lalbahadur Stadium in the midst of Hyderabad to sworn as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. Thousands of crowd attended the ceremony, din and joy reached the sky and new king of masses arrived on the state political scene.
At the same venue, singing his oath as Chief Minister, Rajasekhar Reddy chose to sign on the free power file as his first official order like NTR who did the same thing to implement Abolition in 1994. This one occasion did reveal that YSR’s gods might be Indira and Rajeev but his idol was NTR whom he wants to imitate and follow in his future endeavors as the Chief Minister of the State. As a congress man he played the crooked game of politics in a hard way, but in public sphere he almost rivaled the NTR in reach and faith with his natural warmhearted ness and humility.
Many experts wondered whether YSR could match the administrative capability shown by his predecessor Naidu who proudly called himself as CEO of the state, but YSR never showed any signs of trouble or lack of experience in holding powerful posts in past, he just chose to be different from Naidu’s task master style. His laid back style was actually a guise for the hard politician behind him. He moved like a panther on prey to restore legislative council which was abolished by NTR to cement his place in the history as well as gaining brownie points among teachers and other intellectuals.
Rajasekhar Reddy’s tenure as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh can be divided in to three phases. In the first 18 months, he tried to live up the expectations of the people who voted him and his party to the power and used his newly acquired power as chief minister to implement many promises he made during his walkathon. Free power to farmers bought an aura of credibility to his political persona which almost made him to sit above his rival Naidu in credibility plank. He never done anything to lower his position on credibility and actually made this as his cornerstone for all his political maneuverings unveiled later. During this phase, he shocked entire state by announcing a series of irrigation projects unheard in the past, later called as Jalayagnam. Charges of corruption hurled by opposition parties along with un-sustainable budget for fund these giant dreams. But he proved a tough nut to crack on charges of corruption, but daringly ensured lion share in the budget to these projects which went well with the farmers who prefer corruption to neglect.
Politically also he made some savvy decisions like reservations to Muslims without looking for constitutional hurdles and Supreme Court’s jurisdiction which later quashed these orders, but this act won the hearts of Muslims proving his master of political calculations. Murder of Paritala Ravi, a telugudesam faction leader from Anantapur and other violent deaths of political rivals in the faction land of Rayalaseema posed some questions on his claim of reform and repentance he undergone after his father’s fearsome murder by opposing faction group. But he deftly steered clear of these questions by requesting CBI for investigation to find out the real culprits behind paritala’s murder. His son Jagan Mohan Reddy’s name first appeared during this paritala murder as an important conspirator, but YSR neither disturbed nor panicked by these allegations and asked the opposition to show some evidence about his son’s involvement. Wolks Wagan and other political scams did appeared early in his tenure but he never tried to put the blame on his ministers or officers and allowed him to take the pivotal position of opposition attack which he raveled. This strategy also gave out a message that his hand of protection never leave anybody under any circumstances. Later on he showed the same unruffled ness when his long time associate and assistant sureedu faced some serious allegations in swallowing up of SSA funds meant for universal education in the state. In the first phase of his rule, YSR very intelligently built up two important caricatures of himself like a chimera with the hide of rhino for his enemies, and the gait of a joyful jumbo for common public. This strategy almost perfected later to strengthen his image among public and decimate his rivals with relentless attack
A king who walked his way into the hearts of people
The outer ring road project initiated for the city of Hyderabad gave YSR an opportunity to test his stature and political power in a true style. Nobody knows how the HUDA the urban development agency re-drawn the road alignments and bought the acres of land owned by the media mogul Ramoji Rao into ring road project which are to be acquired for public purpose. But it proved a most defining moment in YSR’ career as well as state politics. In his initial phases ysr cleverly almost with a missionary zeal started to target the dominant papers in the state, Eenadu and Andhrajyothi whenever they reported anti-govt. reports or scoops. It was actually blown into full fledged war after paritala murder, as many in the state perceived Eenadu is the main force behind NTR’ as well as Chandra Babu’s successful image among public despite some glaring deficits on their parts. So the HUDA decision on change of alignments in outer ring road bought into focus and attacked by Eenadu claiming that many friends and family members of YSR unduly benefited by these changes. Rajasekhar Reddy already in the all out war mode took these reporting as an attack on his personal image and seethed with anger. But like a master strategist, he ordered another cbi enquiry on ORR fiasco, but decided to show his true power of authority. The financial structure of Ramoji Business Empire was dug up and attacks were mounted on the status of Margadarsi Financiers which was an investment vehicle for Eenadu group financial dealings used as a window for accepting deposits from public. The maverick of slang from Rajahmundry, Undavalli Arunkumar was unleashed on Ushodaya group and undavalli did his maximum of damage by his twisted tongue and funny smile.
Leave alone a fool, not even a madman never tried in the past to antagonize the mighty Ramoji, but YSR tried to reign in the most powerful media baron in the country who toppled the congress govt. and played king maker role in anointing Niadu after the coup against NTR . But apart from this political prowess, Ramoji Rao held a unblemished record of a successful business magnet with around 10000 crores of investments in various firms in his group. So the curtains were drawn for an epic war of power and wits. Ramoji Rao himself assured his depositors that every paise of their money would be paid back by him and promised them that he would sell his assets if any problem arose in meeting their demands . The porches of courts, RBI, Cental Governments and every important agency were busy to untangle this riddle of political battle fought in the guise of financial scam. Later on it was settled in the Courts of Law but in the same breathe, the sprawling film city built by Ramoji Rao, in the outskirts of Hydeabad also drawn in to the battle with claims of acres of assigned land were encroached upon by Ramoji Rao for constructing the Film City. True to his image Ramoji Rao, retaliated with the proofs of YSR’s family cultivating hectares of assigned land in their famous Idupulapaya estate. Everybody thought that the death knell tolled for YSR as a chief minister.
During the raucous assembly debate, YSR responded like a professional actor, just enacting his lines from a memorized script, he agreed that these assigned lands did exist in his estate, but those were acquired by his late father, which were legally inherited to his family on his death, but like a true hero, he surrendered these lands to the Government for finding suitable landless poor for further assignment. He never looked back from this ultimate show of his political daredevilry as well as shrewdness. Sakshi paper was bought into the circulation with unprecedented investments and alliances from different industrialists and YSR’s son Jaganmohan Reddy was made his dubious debut as the Publisher of Sakshi’s paper with the first day print of 13 lakhs way above than the leader of 3 decades Eenadu’s 12 lakh circulation. With this the armory and forces took their positions and lines were drawn for a fierce battle in the coming elections.
If we look back and analyse the entire episode of YSR-RAMOJI duel it clearly proved that by this single and important attack on the giant of his times, YSR gained immensely by his war with Ramoji Rao as his actions of sacrificing assigned land, bringing sakshi paper almost never questioned by common public as they were also drawn into this engrossed battle and settled in different camps. So, YSR after these suicidal adventures against a seasoned war lord like Ramoji Rao earned his own badges of honour nobody ever dared even in their dreams. He almost single handedly transformed himself from a rebel to a reigning king. On another hand, still nobody knows whether Ramoji Rao was done any thing wrong or culpable against the law, but YSR made sure that these pitted battles paid their dues handsomely in the next elections as Ramoji Rao and many influential TDP sympathizers were held in their track with the entire media and recent elections. In one single stroke, he swept all the allegations on his person or government by way side as rhetoric from his enemies. Nobody can deviate from this line of battle and either they could join him as his friends or could be termed as his foes.
Apart from waging these multi surface battles to gain political mileage, YSR never overlooked the basic duty of a gross root level leader. Despite all these shenanigans, he never deviated from the path of devoted attention towards common people. He would start his day by mingling with daily visitors in his sprawling camp office, where he can gauze the pulse of common public on a daily basis, like a seasoned political doctor. His penchant for regular contacts with public as the Chief Minister took a new turn by his Pallebata and other mass contact programmes. He displayed his warm-heartedness to the public with a touch of an elderly brother’s image. So these dual stances of slaying the opposition dragons with one hand and extending another hand to common people puzzled many pundits, but majority of common people understood his compulsions very well and stood by him in every elections conducted in the state like local bodies or co-operative societies.
A king who walked his way into the hearts of people
With his ruthless politicking, and well mounted attacks on credibility plank, most of the parties as well as its leaders were always on the back foot which enabled him to plan his next move and it was again and again proved that he was the master at the board. He engineered a split in his one time ally TRS by assuring the rebels with political goodies and almost decimated communists in their strongholds. His methods of provocation and taunts almost wrecked the coldest brain of his arch rival Chandrababu Naidu. It was like a fire by trail for Naidu as YSR almost made a ritual of sorts by challenging Naidu on various issues at the altar of credibility. This was almost like a war of mighty dragons as Naidu himself was a thoroughbred mind gamer. But to the public it was like Ganguly asking Steve Waugh for the right time for the toss. While Naidu started to re-draw his strategy by moving away from BJP and closing ranks with communist parties, YSR never looked in discomfort, but attacked left right of every party securing his position in the middle. But he made sure that every serious attempt by his rivals was nipped in the bud, by implementing Rs.2/ kilo rice scheme which was a hallmark scheme of TDP party, which Naidu proactively hinted as his intention to make it as an election promise. In this process YSR almost hijacked the legacy of NTR from TDP, leaving Chandrababu like an orphan without any legacy to speak of.
When the mega star of Telugu movie kingdom Chiranjeevi announced his party after almost a year of dilemma, all parties were hesitating about the polarization of votes due to star power and caste power and the new dynamics in the coming elections. Charismatic Chiranjeevi tried to attract many politicians from telugudesam and congress but the vulnerability of chandrababu and tdp was more visible as Chiru poached more leaders from tdp. It was a do or die situation for tdp and chandrababu naidu as he ran to his last resort of Nadamuri heroes asking Balakrishna an junior NTR to stop the train of chiranjeevi’s PRP making further in roads. While the matinee stars started their political stunts on the sets of mobile vans, Rajasekhar Reddy never showed even a flutter of self doubt, but his back room strategies almost paid off in preventing many coastal leaders joining chiru’s bandwagon. Rajasekhar Reddy made it clear that he would fight these mass heroes with his schemes for mass like free power, Arogyasree, Indiramma Houses, Rs.2/ kilo rice etc with the background score of jalayagnam. He kept his cards and calculations close to his chest, allowing his rivals in to a lull of overconfidence. But contrary to his style waging multi front attack, his election strategy was very simple and clear with a stress on his commitment and credibility.
When the crunch time came, Chiranjeevi ran for cover with allegations of sale of party tickets by his man Friday cum brother-in-law, chandrababu locked in the room with talks of seat sharing, the much expected and awaited Jrntr on a hospital bed with a broken ankle, a result of rash driving and the poor Balakrishna hurting his thighs with continuous challenges with troubled vocal cords and twirled mustaches. When all these multi-stars of Mahakutami and PRP megastar Chiru started showing signs of lack of co-ordination of their minds and tongues, YSR entered in to the podium with a straight talk and reeled out his performance numbers and regaled public with horn sounds of an ambulance.
When the elections results started coming out, it was like a tug of war as the results swayed from congress to mahakutami, but on the final count congress party and YSR romped home with simple majority of 155 members in a 294 strength assembly. But the performance of congress in Parliamentary Segments was a miracle of sorts, as 33 out of 42 seats own by Congress Candidates. It was a sensational and spell bounding victory for party and the image of YSR heralded into an hall of frame in the history of Congress. Undavalli Arunkumar, his favourite associate and the man of destruction unleased on Ramoji Rao made a spectacular turn around by winning Rajahmundry seat with a stunning majority obtained in only one assembly segment erasing the deficit of 6 assembly segments.
Now it was crystal clear for everybody that the era of Rajasekhar Reddy truly arrived in the State with this consecutive win braving many hurdles like anti-incumbency and arrival of megastar in state politics. It would be a futile attempt to compare the numbers in a multi contested fight, but the outcome was a true reflection of his political bravery and cunningness at the same time it was an affirmation from public that he was the best among the contestants, and their unstinted belief in him. Like a victorious kings returning from the war zone, he again chose LB stadium for his second sworn-in ceremony, where he stuck with the tradition of signing an order of increasing the duration of free power to farmers from 7 hours to 9 hours and raising the limit of 5 Kilos rice per head to 6 kilos of Rs.2/- kilo rice scheme which he promised during his election campaign.
Rajasekhar Reddy, started his second innings with much clarity on his priorities of Jalayagnam and other development schemes to turn the state into a power house of economic growth across agriculture and industry. Further to these efforts, he wanted to put his own mark on the governance with a well conceived “Rachhabanda” programme for goading the state machinery to attend the difficulties of public through open house meeting at Villages. He simply wanted to bring the government bureaucrats to the threshold of the public like NTR’s Prajalavaddaku Palana. But history repeated in a twist of irony as NTR also removed from Chief Minister Post after launch of this programme, YSR never made it to the venue of Rachhabanda by losing his way and life in a helicopter crash. The entire country waited with abated breath and prayed for his survival, but his remains were found on hillock near kurnool along with other officers in a debris. Later it was confirmed that the helicopter carrying him seized by raging rain and clouds during a cyclone and losing ground control, helicopter erupted in to flame after colluding a tree on a hillock.
No one believed that their favourite leader lost his life when a cruel fate turned its ugly head when he was readying for another round of regal reign, and entire country went in to mourning the loss of a great of son of India. It was a numbing experience for the people of state of Andhra Pradesh as thousands of people took their lives in grief that their sun was set forever and no tomorrow ever comes for them. Rajasekhar Reddy like an emperor, just walked into the pages of history leaving memories of a fierce warrior and a leader of masses to be cherished by present generation and many edifices of gigantic proportions, architected by him would attract the gratitude of future generations.
His memory forever lingers on,
His smile forever radiates,
His arrogance forever rankles,
He lives forever in the hearts of people.
Article written by pokiri116, he doesnt want to disclose his identity.But handsup for him.