"Andhra Pradesh has lost an outstanding leader and the country has lost an ideal Chief Minister who was a role model for other States," says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his condolence message

A visibly emotional Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday led the party in mourning the death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who played a key role in scripting the creation of the United Progressive Alliance in 2004 and its coming back to power this year.

Both Ms. Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged this in their brief remarks to the media after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) met here to condole his death. In its resolution, the CWC said Dr. Reddy’s outstanding record of achievements as Chief Minister helped the Congress return to power in the State in May and “contributed to our remarkable victory in the Lok Sabha elections.”

Referring to the recent Lok Sabha elections, Ms. Gandhi recalled how the Congress senior leadership was apprehensive of the party’s prospects in Andhra Pradesh. “Every time, he kept telling us, ‘Please trust me; I know the people of Andhra Pradesh, they will vote for us and we will surely come back’.”

This confidence of Dr. Reddy has become part of Congress legend, as leaders privy to closed-door meetings remember him telling the high command that he would deliver 35 Lok Sabha seats to the party’s kitty. He was not very off-target: the Congress won 33 seats, the highest number the party bagged from any State.

Describing the Chief Minister as one of “our most charismatic leaders,” Ms. Gandhi echoed the CWC resolution, stating his ‘padyatra’ ahead of the 2004 Assembly elections was instrumental in bringing the Congress back to power after a decade in the Opposition.

Reflecting the mood in the Congress since Thursday when Dr. Reddy’s helicopter went missing, Ms. Gandhi said: “We waited in hope day and night. We hoped he would be back on his feet alive. Sadly, we got this terrible news.”

The Prime Minister said that under Dr. Reddy’s stewardship, Andhra Pradesh became a role model for governance. A dynamic Chief Minister, he carried forward the idea, ideals and vision dear to the Congress.

The resolution also conveyed condolences to the bereaved families of the others who died along with Dr. Reddy. “Our hearts go out to all those who travelled with him but did not return,” Ms. Gandhi said.

Dr. Singh and Ms. Gandhi are scheduled to go to Hyderabad on Friday to pay homage to Dr. Reddy.

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