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Till the end he remained a man of the masses

Last updated on: September 3, 2009 

Image: YSR with his family
Photographs: SnapsIndia Mohammed Siddique
Andhra Pradesh is shocked and dazed to the core, with the worst fears coming true about the fate of Chief Minister Dr Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy.

The 60-year old Dr Reddy, popularly known as YSR and Prajala Manshi (man of the masses), died when the state government helicopter he was travelling in crashed on Wednesday atop a hillock in the Nallamalla forest in Kurnool district.

The agonising wait and suspense, which started with the Bell-430 helicopter going missing while flying from Hyderabad to Chittoor on Wednesday morning, ended when the Indian Air Force search teams spotted the helicopter wreckage with five bodies. ...

YSR was dear to the masses

Image: YSR and his wife, with their grandchild
Photographs: SnapsIndia Mohammed Siddique
The news of YSR's death has stunned the millions of his followers and supporters even as they were fervently hoping and praying all night that he will return safely.

That apart from Congress party leaders and workers, the ordinary people were also weeping openly at the news is testimony to how YSR had endeared himself to the masses through hard work and a series of welfare programmes aimed at farmers and the poorer sections.

YSR made electoral history in 2009

Image: YSR in his college days
Photographs: SnapsIndia Mohammed Siddique

A medical doctor by profession and a politician from his student days, Rajasekhara Reddy was earlier known as a perennial rebel as he remained a dissident against most Congress chief ministers since he was first elected to the state assembly in 1978.

But in 2004 he opened a new chapter in his political life when he led the Congress back to power after a decade by defeating the Telugu Desam Party led by N Chandrababu Naidu. Five years later -- in 2009 -- YSR made history when he single-handedly fought off the stiff challenge from an array of opponents and led the Congress to power for a second consecutive term.

YSR sent 33 Congress MPS to the Lok Sabha

Image: YSR as an NCC cadet. He is a qualified medical doctor, but fate had other plans for him
Photographs: SnapsIndia Mohammed Siddique
By retaining power in the state and making a huge contribution to the formation of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre by sending a bloc of 33 members of Parliament, YSR had emerged as one of the most important and reliable leaders for Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

He was the only Congress chief minister to retain power for a second consecutive term, a feat earlier achieved only by TDP founder N T Rama Rao and N Chandrababu Naidu.

YSR will be remembered for his popular measures

Image: An archival photo of a young YSR with his wife
Photographs: SnapsIndia Mohammed Siddique
Born on July 8, 1949, to Raja Reddy, a Cuddapah strongman, YSR studied medicine at the MR Medical College, Gulbarga, in Karnataka and also practised for some time and later set up his own hospital. But he was destined to be a politician and was elected for the first time to the state assembly from Pulivendula, a seat which he won a record five times.

He also served twice as state Congress president and twice as the leader of the opposition in the state assembly.

Though his political opponents often described him as a "factionist" and "vindictive", YSR will be remembered by the common man for his popular initiatives like Rs 2 per kg rice for the poor, free electricity to the small farmers, and massive irrigation projects, scholarships for the students and pension for women.

Death has robbed the state of a young leader

Image: A file photo of the young Reddy family
Photographs: SnapsIndia Mohammed Siddique
Since in political terms he was still too young to think in terms of succession and envisioned himself at the helm of affairs for many more years, he did not groom a second line of leadership within the party. Though he wanted his only son and industrialist Jaganmohan Reddy to be a replacement in the future, the latter is too young to be taken seriously by the much older leaders in the party.

Jagan, who is in to power generation, cement and media, made his political debut recently when he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kadapa, traditionally a family stronghold which was represented by his father and uncle in the past.

Filling YSR's shoes won't be easy

Image: YSR playing with his grandchild
Photographs: SnapsIndia Mohammed Siddique
After his memorable 1600-km long walk trough the state under scorching summer heat to understand the sufferings of the farmers in 2003 and his subsequent record of governance, YSR had emerged as one of the strongest and most popular Congress leaders in the state's history.

Filling his shoes will not be an easy task.