When YSR said to me, "Rao garu, I'll tell you a family secret".



“Did you discuss with your wife about your intention to undertake an indefinite fast?” I asked Y S Rajasekhar Reddy.

This was in the year 2000 when he was CLP leader. He and Congress MLAs made a swift move and sat on protest at old MLA quarters, against the power purchase agreements that the then N Chandrababu Naidu government had signed with some companies.

I went to the place the following day again and sat with YSR for a while, as he explained to me why they were forced to take to such a form of protest. The MLAs also had no idea he would announce an indefinite fast.

And then I asked him about whether he consulted his wife on undertaking the indefinite fast. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “I did not have to consult my wife on undertaking the fast, but I did inform her. She is concerned about my health. But now even I am concerned about her. Because I am on a fast, she too is not eating at home and is fasting,” YSR told me.

That was the bond the husband-wife shared. Today is the 71st birth anniversary of Y S Rajasekhar Reddy. His wife Vijayamma who shared 36 years of marriage with him wrote a book titled ‘Naalo…Naatho YSR’. The book was released by their son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

As a reporter, my association with YSR grew as I attended his press conferences, public meetings, travelled with him, and engaged in casual conversations. “Rao garu” was how he used to address me.

“Don’t pay your electricity bills. I will waive them after I come to power,” he told the crowds at his public meetings in the run-up to the 2004 assembly elections. During the election coverage that I did, I asked people about the promises YSR made. “He said it. He will do it,” was the reply I got.

The convoy in which reporters were travelling with YSR for a public meeting came to a halt at a place. Everyone wondered why. Those sitting with me in the car were also curious. A security personnel came running to our car. “Sir is asking if you would like to sit with him and travel and talk on the way,” the security person asked me. YSR had remembered that I told him I would want to sit with him for an interview and that crossed his mind at that point of time.

YSR would walk into the fields and talk to farmers and ask them about their problems. Sometimes it would be difficult to catch pace with him because I would have to also take proper notes, while being careful in the fields lest I slip. Not finding me around sometimes, he would wait until I finished my jotting down of notes and then proceed to talk to more farmers.

But he was always amiable. He set his sights on the chief minister’s chair for as long as he could remember. In the sight of the Congress leaders in Delhi, the most towering personality of the party in Andhra Pradesh was Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy. On both occasions that the party leadership chose him, YSR too threw in his hat in the ring.

In 1992 when the Congress leadership decided to replace N Janardhan Reddy as chief minister, there was suspense as to who would be the next choice. A group of reporters, including me, went to Begumpet airport as we got to know that both YSR, and Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy, who was a union minister, were arriving in the city.

In those days, it was a regular and common feature to meet politicians at the airport itself – any important Congress politician or chief minister returning from Delhi. Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy arrived. He indicated that he did not want to speak anything at that juncture. Y S Rajasekhar Reddy too came by the same flight. “Are you in the fray for the CM’s post?” we asked him. “Yes,” was his answer. But he said it would be the party’s high command which would decide. 

He had to wait for his time, build his own image, carry the party on his shoulders until the Congress party leadership had no choice but to allow things to take their own course and YSR, who became an undisputed leadership, became chief minister in 2004 after leading the party to victory.

YSR repeated the victory in 2009 but died in a helicopter crash in Kurnool in 2009. Memories remain.  

3 comments:

  1. Sir , your writing.. brings YSR remembrance back to society

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to ready Ravi. I used to meet him almost every other day as a journalist. Could recollect a few incidents on the occasion of his 71st birth anniversary. He was someone who would not hestitate to take probing questions and would always answer them.

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