Dr Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, popularly known as YSR is an astute politician and a charismatic mass leader who has carved for himself a niche in State politics by his exemplary devotion and dedication to the uplift of the downtrodden and neglected segments of society. Born on 8 th July, 1949 in Pulivendula in the backward Rayalaseema region, YSR has always struggled to secure the rights of the poor and the underprivileged.
Son of late Sri Y. S. Raja Reddy, a dynamic leader in his heyday, Rajasekhara Reddy evinced interest in politics right from his student days. While studying in M R Medical College, Gulbarga, Karnataka, he served as President of the Students union. He was elected leader of the House Surgeon's Association in S V Medical College, Tirupati.
After completing MBBS, he served as Medical Officer at the Jammalamadugu Mission Hospital for a brief period. In 1973 he established a 70-bed charitable hospital, named after his father late Y. S. Raja Reddy at Pulivendula. His family established one polytechnic and one degree college in Pulivendula which were later handed over to the well-known Loyola Group of Institutions.
Rajasekhara Reddy's sound business acumen, entrepreneurial skills and above all, his transparency brought him laurels in the business arena. On the flip side, his success also brought him many adversaries, political and otherwise, who were desperately looking for a shred of evidence to prove umpteen charges against him. In the end, their mud-slinging did not yield a single point that could paint the mass leader in bad light. In fact, his detractors became red-faced, as they had to swallow their words.
Groomed by a family deeply involved in public service, YSR entered active politics in 1978 and contested elections, four times to enter the State Legislative Assembly and an equal number of times to enter the Lower House of Parliament. A winner in all that he does YSR won all the elections he contested. Even today his admirers exclaim: "He (YSR) defeats defeat."
During his 25 years long political career, YSR has served the people in multiple capacities, both in Government as well as in Party. He was President of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) twice 1983-1985 and 1998-2000. During 1980-1983, he was a minister holding important portfolios related to Rural Development, Medical & Health and Education etc. From 1999 to 2004 he was the Leader of Opposition in the Eleventh State Assembly.
As a champion of the masses, his stentorian voice in the assembly, raised particularly during debates that sought to lend voice to the voiceless millions, forced the Government to retrace several anti-people steps it contemplated. YSR has been instrumental in orchestrating several mass struggles, while highlighting issues facing peasants, weavers, Dalits, youth and women. His relentless fight for clearance of pending irrigation projects, particularly in the backward Rayalaseema region, has earned for him a special place in the hearts of millions of farmers. His unremitting struggle against certain anti-people economic measures that were sought to be introduced in the name of "reforms", including the frequent increases in power tariff and indiscriminate privatization of public sector units, exalted him far above the street smart politicians.
Even as a novice in the legislature, YSR rallied all the Congress MLAs from the Rayalaseema region and led an indefinite hunger strike demanding solution to the water crisis. He also led a Paadayaatra from Lepakshi to Pothireddipadu in Kurnool district. The 14-day hunger strike of legislators under his leadership in August 2000 to register protest against the hike in power charges is still fresh in the memory of people. By systematically exposing the misdeeds of the then Government, both inside and outside the Assembly, YSR was playing his political role to the hilt.
During mid-summer in 2003, he led an unprecedented 1,400 Km long Paadayaatra covering all backward areas in the state to understand the ground realities of living conditions of the people there.
Now, as Chief Minister, the crowning glory of this studded political career, he can proudly claim to be the quintessence of a politician who, with vision focused on the coming generations as well, has earned the title of a statesman. Amidst a bewildering number of turncoats among politicians, who thrive in "Shifting Loyalties", YSR stands out as a sterling example of the old guard in pristine Indian politics.
This explains why he has never turned his back on the Congress party, which nurtured his political moorings. The lure of power and pelf could not divert him, when the party was briefly out of power, from his mission to hold the reins of power as a trusted lieutenant of the Congress and more importantly, as a darling of the masses. Sworn in as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh on 14/05/2004.
A modest Personality
Dr Reddy unlike most politicians, reflects the spirit of a true Indian who walks his talk. While his thought is dressed with all that is modern and ennobling Dr Reddy's person is invariably clothed in traditional costumes that include dhoti and a shirt made of handloom cloth.In all of his public and private conversations, he speaks from the core of his heart. Naturally he hates hypocrisy.
As a demanding Chief Minister YSR expects bureaucrats to do their job meticulously and present before him only facts that are shorn of all publicity-oriented and manipulative figures. He does not tolerate hype and extravaganza in communicating official messages. He wants incontrovertible facts stated in a simple language that is intelligible even to the unlettered, because taking administration to the people is an article of faith for him.
His Philosophy of Life
Dr Rajasekhara Reddy strongly believes that the human life is a boon provided by the Almighty to share one's blessings with others, while serving less privileged human beings.
"Don't count the years you want to live. Ask yourself how much you have done for society at large with whatever opportunities the Almighty has provided you", is Dr Reddy's word of advice for those who have excuses for not doing even what is within their means.
It is this humane principle that prompted him to take pioneering steps to ensure delivery of social security pensions to the needy in the first week of every month.
Though measuring 5.7', Reddy looks majestically simple in his appearance with an ever-smiling genial countenance. This in fact overshadows his unfailing willpower to achieve his targets with the resilience and tenacity of a spider.
When YSR undertook his unprecedented 1,500 Km long Padayaatra (march on foot) in scorching sun during summer in 2003, covering backward areas of the state in particular, few people could discern the underlying motive: knowing first-hand the real problems of the people in their own language and their doorstep.
As around 75% of the population in India depend upon agriculture for livelihood, most administrative efforts should be focused on the rural economy, he believes.
Citing renowned economists, Dr Reddy regrets that neglect of the agriculture and irrigation sectors in recent years have become the bane rural economy. As a proactive Chief Minister, he embarked upon a massive programme of executing 26 major irrigation projects to create 65 lakh acres of new ayacut.
Dr Reddy's motto is that the ultimate objective of any program executed under a democratic set-up should be prompt and dependable delivery of sevices to the common man.
With this as the guiding principle, YSR has advised bureaucrats at all levels to help revive the functioning of the administrative system at all levels without habitually looking for autocratic 'diktats'. 'Decentralization of administrative power within the guidelines of the policy framed by the government reflects the true spirit of democratic governance", Dr Reddy argues.
Dr Reddy's strength lies in his stature as a mass leader since his advent in politics. Whether in or out of power, he has always championed the cause of the common man. This has endeared him to all segments of the Congress party as well.
Even after becoming the Chief Minister in May 2004, Dr Reddy makes it a point to address all the problems that are brought before him directly by people, cutting through bureaucratic hurdles, every day.
If any scheme or programme under formulation is placed before him for approval, its outcome is a foregone conclusion that is dependent on Dr Reddy's invariable query: "How best will it benefit the people at large or ensure good governance"?
A curious 'pastime' of Dr Reddy is to feel the pulse of people in rural areas on Sundays through the Rajiv Palle Batta.
The Rajiv Palle Baata is a novel mass contact programme under which the Chief Minister reaches out to even unmotorable areas in the rural areas for personally collecting feedback on the implementation of various programmes. This programme has become extremely popular, because it highlights not what the Chief Minister does in the glare of official publicity, but what his officials may not have done in the people's own words.
In view of the rational changes brought about in administrative matters following the success of Rajiv Palle Baata, the Chief Minister now extended the programme to urban areas through Rajiv Nagara Baata.
The Chief Minister's emphasis on development of the rural economy does not presuppose a blinkered approach towards new and emerging technologies.
Dr Reddy is committed to a balanced approach towards giving thrust to information technology, bio-technology and all sectors that enhance industrial and agricultural production. His watchword is total transparency in all transactions and deals that envisage public-private partnerships or involve private investments. Because, YSR believes he is simply a custodian of people's trust that is invaluable.
It is not a coincidence that he loves the company of children and often "gets lost" in their World that is founded on trust of the highest order.