Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Pulivendula (Andhra Pradesh): Known as Koddappa king Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy who died in a chopper crash was buried here in his native Kadapa district Friday amid emotional scenes. The chief minister’s wife Vijayalakshmi, son Jaganmohan, daughter Sharmila and other members of the family broke down and wept when his body was lowered in the grave watched by Christian religious leaders. Many of the thousands watching the scenes had tears in their eyes. Jaganmohan was inconsolable as the mortal remains of YSR were brought to the family estate for burial. He had controlled his emotions since learning Thursday morning that his father and four others had perished when their Bell 430 chopper had crashed in a dense forest and exploded in Kurnool district Wednesday. The 36-year-old Jaganmohan and his mother hugged one another, tears rolling down their eyes. Some state ministers also broke down while trying to console the family. Cutting across political loyalties, millions of people across Andhra Pradesh viewed the burial on television as the state remained shut for a second day. Telugu media reported that 122 people had either committed suicide or died of shock, unable to bear the loss of the charismatic YSR. The police were unable to confirm the deaths. But Jaganmohan urged the people of the state to remain “patient and brave” amid the tragedy and not to kill themselves over his father’s death. The body was brought to the 100-acre Idupulapaya Estate, 40 km from this town. YSR, who first became chief minister in May 2004, was flying from Hyderabad to Chittoor district when his helicopter crashed. His charred body was found Thursday, over 24 hours after the helicopter went missing. The burial followed mass frenzy earlier in Hyderabad, where the body was kept for public viewing at the L.B. Stadium and where national leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party’s L.K. Advani paid their tributes. In a message, Gandhi described the late YSR as “a dynamic, visionary, progressive leader who throughout his career strived for the upliftment of the poor, of the farmers… For us in the Congress, his passing is a huge loss.” Gandhi’s immediate task would be to find a successor to the hugely popular YSR although Finance Minister K. Rosaiah has been appointed to the post temporarily to meet a constitutional requirement. Nearly half the 34-member cabinet, 20 MPs and 122 out of 155 Congress legislators have declared they want Jaganmohan as the new chief minister, saying this would be best tribute to YSR. At least one Congress leader threatened to split the party if the demand was not accepted. Friday’s burial marked the end of the Lion of Kadapa who went on to become one of the most powerful politicians in the Congress after steering it to a sweeping historic second win in assembly elections this year. His popularity was evident in the outpouring of grief across Andhra Pradesh as the funeral cortege snaked its way through surging crowds from his home in Hyderabad to the L.B. Stadium. Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and her son and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi laid wreaths on the body placed in his residence and camp office in Begumpet. From the camp office, the body was taken to the Congress headquarters Gandhi Bhavan to enable party leaders to pay respect and from there to the stadium, six kilometres away, where he had been sworn in only four months ago. All the way were teeming mourners, lined up along the road, on rooftops and packed into the stadium to bid adieu to a politician who introduced several policies to benefit the poor. Hundreds of vehicles followed the flower-bedecked truck in which the body, draped in the national flag, was kept.At the stadium, a virtual stampede broke out, forcing the family to urge the authorities to fly the body to Kadapa one hour ahead of schedule.