For the first time since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014, Congress leaders in Telangana organised a grand event on Friday to pay tributes to former chief minister of the undivided state Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, on his 73rd birth anniversary.
YSR, as he was popularly known, had been a staunch opponent of a separate Telangana state.
Telangana PCC leaders, including president and MP A Revanth Reddy, chairperson and Legislative Party leader M Bhatti Vikramarka, former MP K V P Ramchandra Rao, former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir and other senior leaders paid floral tributes to Reddy at his statue at Punjagutta. Congress leaders also recalled the “services rendered” by YSR to the society and Congress.
YSR had been so popular across undivided Andhra, including the Telangana region, that after he stormed to power in 2004, he had stifled the statehood movement spearheaded by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). It was only after YSR’s demise in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009, after he came to power for the second time in April 2009, that the TRS was able to take advantage of the absence of a strong leader opposed to Telangana, to renew the agitation for a separate state.
The creation of Telangana virtually sunk the Congress’s fortunes in Andhra and did nothing to help its cause in Telangana either. On top of it, YSR’s son Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy split the Congress and took away many of its leaders, with his YSRCP now the ruling party in Andhra.
Asked about the celebration of YSR in such a big way by the Congress, Vikramarka said the party had always honoured the former CM. Pressed, he admitted, “political sentiments and equations change over the years”.
There has been some speculation that the Congress might make an overture towards YSR’s daughter Y S Sharmila, who has floated a YSR Telangana Party in the state. Asked whether Friday’s event was a signal to Sharmila, Vikramarka said it was a hypothetical question. Incidentally, the Telangana celebration coincided with a YSRCP plenary in Andhra, where Jagan is set to be anointed as lifetime party chief, amid talk of friction within the family over this.
Talking about YSR, Vikramarka said he remained popular in Telangana, and had always encouraged and groomed young leaders. “Almost all the Congress leaders in Telangana now owe their existence to YSR. He was responsible for bringing persons like me into the party and promoting them to responsible posts.”
Congress leader Shabbir Ali, who organised the function for YSR, described him as a visionary who enjoyed a permanent place in people’s hearts with his “leadership and service”. He also said that YSR had set new benchmarks for development and welfare, talking about schemes such as scholarships and reimbursement of fees for students, free power for farmers, and the Aarogyasri health insurance.
“The 4% Muslim reservation implemented by the YSR government in 2004 has so far benefited over 20 lakh poor Muslims. All communities, including SCs, STs, backward classes, minorities and other weaker sections witnessed prosperity and growth in the YSR regime,’’ Ali said.
He also credited YSR with the development of infrastructure in undivided Andhra, especially Hyderabad.