Thursday, February 11, 2010


The untimely demise of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy is bound to redefine politics in the state especially within the Congress. The impulses shall also be felt at the national level. All through the history Andhra Pradesh was crucial for Congress victory at the national elections. In 1977 Loksabha elections too, when the nation saw remarkable mandate against Congress, it was Andhra Pradesh that saved the face of congress though it could not help in retaining power. Rajashekhar Reddy played a stellar role in installing UPA government at the centre. Even this time too, AndhraPradesh provided as many as 33 seats to the tally of Congress. This enabled Congress to retain power. It has infact helped to adjust more ministerial berths to its allies as the state accepted least representation in the Union Cabinet despite giving a large number of Parliament members.

Rajashekhar reddy could successfully galvanise the party which has a natural self disruptive tendency. At a time when high command gave up politics of destablisation, Rajashekar Reddy could emerge as a formidable leader. The groups that oppose his leadership were gradually marginalized in the party. This was an important factor in winning the elections in the state. But even before the funeral ceremony, fissures in congress started coming to the surface. The popularity and charisma of Rajashekar Reddy is also yet an another significant factor in silencing the voice of dissent. It is not possible for the congress to get a suitable replacement atleast in the near future. This increases the volatility in the party. These developments may prove to be fatal at a time congress enjoys only a slender margin and opposition is challenging Congress with much more strength.

Rajashekar Reddy was a most talented and resourceful leader. His political acumen is crucial for Congress in a state known for vibrant politics. Rajashekar Reddy had undergone a political metamorphosis. At one point of time, he was perceived by his detractors as a perennially dissident leader. But, he transformed himself into a unifier of the party. This capability of a leader is crucial for a party like congress which is popular for internal dissidence and unabated bickerings. The congress will feel the absence of Rajashekar Reddy immediately.

Rajashekar Reddy was a self made leader. He emerged from the long shadow of high command without raising doubts over his loyalty. This should be considered as his greatest political accomplishment in the Congress politics. Rajashekar Reddy was a consummate politician. He was a strategic risk-taker. His stand on Telangana and Naxalites are only few examples. He always looked for fresh ideas to reach out to the people. His unparallel ability to articulate his view point and communicate to the people very effectively were biggest assets for the party in the state. This is precisely the Congress suffered a huge loss in the tragic demise of Rajashekar Reddy.

As his childhood friends reveal, Rajashekhar Reddy was good at academics too as a student. This is reflected in his political engagement even today. He has a passion for detail. His speeches in legislature and elsewhere indicate his deep understanding of various issues. Even during his college days too, Rajashekhar Reddy was an active sportsman. Sportsmen usually have an attitude to excel and an urge to take on others. This character also remained with him in his later part of life as he grew up in politics. He used to play football, Hockey and cricket with his political adversaries in legislature. The Congress party lost such an ardent defender of its political interests. Mass politics and incessant contact with people made him a leader of masses. This was evident when one sees the overwhelming public response to his last journey. It’s a lesson for budding politicians. His tryst with mass politics took a qualitative leap forward when he undertook padayatra as opposition leader in Andhra Pradesh State Assembly. This padayatra in 2003 covered over 1500 kilometers, 13 districts and about 55 Assembly constituencies. Even as chief minister he made untiring visits to every district. Apart from incessant mass contact, he acquired enormous credibility as he implemented his key poll promises despite several hurdles.

Leaders are not produced in political vacuum. Rajashekhar Reddy emerged from a political and economic situation characterized by severe rural distress and gross policy neglect of agriculture. Welfare was off the policy agenda during the previous dispensation. Rajashekar Reddy brought about a paradigm shift in policy bringing back the focus on agriculture, irrigation, welfare etc. Of course, the implementation of these policies are not without lapses and limitations. But, the very attempt to effect a paradigm shift was itself a refreshing experience for rural masses that paid rich political dividends for the Congress.

Rajashekhar Reddy had an illustrious political career that never tasted any personal defeat. He led the congress snatching victory from jaws of defeat in 2009. His success at state level has ramifications for national politics. Andhra Pradesh contributed 29 and 33 seats to Congress kitty in 2004 and 2009 respectively. This remarkable success gave him a national stature, which is rare honour for a state chief minister.

Rajashekhar Reddy was not without contradictions. As Time of India editorially commented, “Reddy was a representative of contradictions that characterize many successful Indian politicians. Popular but authoritarian with a record of …stifling opposition, efficient administrator but indifferent to norms of transparency and accountability in governance. These qualities clearly helped him to emerge as an undisputed leader in an otherwise faction ridden party”

Rajashekhar Reddy was fond of taking calculated strategic risks that earned him number of friends and foes alike.

Rajashekhar Reddy will be remembered as a leader who authored visible change in politics and governance of Andhra Pradesh.


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