He was a colleague for more than 30 years. I knew Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy since 1978 when he entered politics. My relationship with him has always been cordial. He was a successful politician and had never lost any election he contested. He was the state unit president of the Congress party when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister. The turning point in his political career was the padayatra (foot march) he undertook in mid-summer 2003. That’s how he became known in the state and he established himself as a leader with that.
There may be differences of opinion about his style of functioning. But the social welfare programmes during his regime reached the people. There was not much corruption involved in such programmes. Andhra Pradesh is one of the leading states that has implemented the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (India’s flagship welfare programme that provides 100 days of work in a year to one member from a poor family). His programmes on housing, health for the poor and the loan waiver scheme for farmers have been appreciated as the common man enjoyed its benefits. Even if the states get funds for such programmes from the Centre, it is the state government that has to implement it effectively.
There were reports about corruption charges against him. I do not know the truth behind them. But none of the charges were on the social welfare programmes, which were related to the common man. Yes, there were also charges he had sidelined his critics and favoured his own men. But Congress, being the oldest political party, is bound to have groups. Factionalism is there even in small regional parties. But ultimately, party discipline was followed.
He definitely brought awareness among the rural masses and social welfare programmes were the hallmark of his regime. He is a product of the Congress party. There is no special legacy he left.
It is difficult to talk about his successor. There is no dearth of leaders in the Congress. The party has 157 members in the legislative assembly. But I think his son is too young to take over the post. In Congress, the central leadership will take a final decision after consulting the MLAs. In politics, there is never a vacuum. It will be filled soon. Congress will remain as it is today. No one is larger than the party. A new leadership will be evolved. The government is a continuing process as far as the party is concerned.
As told to Liz Mathew
V. Kishore Chandra Deo is a senior Congress leader and member of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh.