A blazing political flame doused by a whimsical nature. No matter how powerful a person may be, all have to submit to destiny’s diktat. But perhaps, some mortals die only to live forever.
YSR could be one of them.
The tragic death of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash on September 2 has plunged the entire nation into inconsolable grief. What has really stunned me is the kind of emotional outburst seen from across the country. Even the political parties, cutting across lines, have united to mourn the death of a man whose phenomenal popularity most of us realized, albeit ironically, when he is no more.
There are two reasons which leave me (happily) amazed. First, a CM is basically a state’s leader only. Unless an incumbent harbours the national politics ambitions, he/she is confined to the geographical limits of the area under his/her jurisdiction. YSR, in my view, confined himself to this role. Still, his death shows that he had a taller stature, one which went beyond the person of a chief minister. Second, the Indian political jamboree does not believe in praising opponents. Almost all parties show a penchant for this (unacceptable) practice. Hence, the kind of positive words they have spoken for YSR show the return of some mannerisms, otherwise grossly missing these days among the power echelons. I hope this becomes a permanent feature of Indian polity.
YSR’s death has evoked a response not witnessed in recent public memory in the country, especially for a political leader. One thing we can be sure of is that it is not stage-managed. The only episode that seems motivated is the clamour for his son to be named the successor. However, this is only by a section of the party workers who could be trying to justify their role of being the sycophants. Anyway.
We have seen this kind of public outflow of grief in the case of leaders who had a larger than life image, at least in the public eye. Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, MGR and NT Rama Rao fall in this category. But, they already enjoyed a celebrity status during their lifetime. And therefore, when they died, the reactions were on the expected lines. Some died after hearing the news of their deaths, some – unable to bear the loss -- committed suicide. The news of YSR’s death too has evoked similar reactions. But no such grief was witnessed when PV Narsimha Rao or KR Naraynan passed away. The former served as the prime minister and the latter as president. Both considered capable and held higher designations as compared to YSR. But, even though in death, YSR has surpassed their stature in terms of mass following. He rose from the roots and seemed to have carved a niche for himself by slow but steady strides.
I myself never had the idea that he was so overwhelmingly popular, not just in his home state but in other parts of the country as well. I never followed him so closely to be able to form an assessment of his work or to shower panegyrics on him. But then, I cannot also afford to miss the void and the mass hysteria generated by his sudden demise. What I understand is that while Andhra is mourning the irreparable loss of a man who was a PERFORMER, the nation is disheartened over having lost a promising FUTURE LEADER. We may be a billion plus country, but there is dearth of politicians who can be bracketed as ‘Leaders’ in the real sense. We have already lost some promising ones in the likes of Madhav Rao Scindia, Rajesh Pilot and Pramod Mahajan. And now, with YSR gone, the vacuum is being felt all the more since all of them had long political innings to play, but were taken away abruptly.
YSR’s tragic departure, however, proves one point to the hilt. A leader who performs would always be loved, respected and remembered by the people. It is not that he was a perfect politician or was controversy-free. In fact, his name figured in the Satyam scam as well. The allegations could be true or completely baseless. But, YSR’s legacy would be his constant urge to put AP on development path. He showed the instincts of a leader who wanted to connect with the people. How many leaders show this ability in India? Andhra is a big state and one does not get a second term there so easily. That the public gave him a second term shows they had reposed their faith in him. May be in the coming years, he could have played a role in the national politics as well.
Like many, I’m also saddened by his death because it seems once again we have lost a promising national leader to the Master sitting above. In present times, our only consolation could be if some politicians begin to follow the footprints of YSR.