YS Rajasekhara Reddy: A tough but value-based politician
YS Rajasekhara Reddy was one of those statesman-like leaders who always believed that Government was a continuous process. He was of the firm opinion that while continuing the projects and developmental activities started by the previous government, necessary midway corrections should be made if there were some lacunae and that is exactly what he did
YS Rajasekhara Reddy was known for his unremitting struggle against anti-people economic measures like privatisation of public sector units. He was far above the street-smart politicians. He always played his political role as PCC president and later as Chief Minister to the hilt.
During mid-summer in 2003, he led an unprecedented 1400 Km long Paadayaatra covering all backward areas in the state to understand the ground realities of living conditions of the people there which helped him to catapult into seat of power.
As leader of the Assembly and as chief minister, he left his own mark. He had strong likes and dislikes but when it came to administration he always rose above narrow politics and on many occasions exhibited his magnanimity. He was one of those statesman-like leaders who always believed that Government was a continuous process. He was of the firm opinion that while continuing the projects and developmental activities started by the previous government, necessary midway corrections should be made if there were some lacunae and that is exactly what he did.
One of his most appreciable qualities is to greet and meet everyone with a smiling face. In 2003, YSR as leader of Congress party in Assembly was holding a press conference in the small room that was allotted to Congress party in the Assembly premises. By the time I entered the room, it was full of my fellow reporters. Seeing me stand outside near the door, YSR called me inside and made me sit on the armrest of the sofa in which he was sitting. His favourite way of calling people whom he knew well was "What Sir," irrespective of the age of the other person.
He was a man who gave high importance to decency and decorum in the Assembly though he never spared anyone in criticising. His criticism used to be based on facts and figures and on many occasions, Assembly witnessed heated discussions, allegations and counter allegations on several issues but never did anyone cross the limits of decency and decorum. Even when he made an unsavoury comment against the then opposition leader N Chandrababu Naidu mentioning about his mother, he showed his statesman like quality by apologising for having made such a remark.
Later while talking to some of us informally, he said his intention was to prove his opponent wrong and never thought of making any disparaging comment against anyone particularly women. It was an unfortunate incident, he said.
The then speaker N Kiran Kumar Reddy too agreed that the chief minister should not have made such a remark and removed it from the records.
He always used to recall the high values that the state assembly had demonstrated from the time when Prakasam Pantulu was the Chief Minister and Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao was the first Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. On many occasions, he recalled the kind of debates the house used to take up and kind of discipline the members used to observe. Speaker was all powerful those days. Some dilution has been there over period of years but still Speakers keep making us proud as they act in an impartial manner, he used to say.
Recalling his days as Member of Lok Sabha, (I had the privilege of covering the proceedings), he used to say that he had learnt a lot from the way the leaders like Indira Gandhi behaved in the house. She was a great leader. She always used to deliver power packed speeches based on facts and figures and had lot of patience to hear the opposition viewpoint. Even within the party she used to listen to all of us before taking a decision. She was "Iron lady with a golden heart. She is my role model in administration," he always used to say.
The Arogyasri, 108 Ambulance service, housing scheme for the welfare of the poor were some of the landmark schemes he had taken up. He always had a soft corner towards farmers. Truly he was man of masses.