It was ironical for a leader who led the Congress to a handsome win in 2004 against the formidable Telugu Desam on the strength of his novel ‘padayatra’ (campaign on foot), to go missing even as he was on his way to launch yet another unique interaction programme with the people called ‘Rachchabanda’ or ‘the village square.’

Yeduguru Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, popularly known as YSR, brought his party to power for a second consecutive term. He was so keen on ‘Rachchabanda’ that he set out for the programme in a helicopter without wasting even a day after the Legislative Assembly and Council were adjourned sine die on Tuesday.

A staunch believer in establishing direct contact with people, he embarked on this programme to know first hand how his popular pro-poor and pro-farmer schemes were delivered at the field level. The schemes include Indiramma housing, ‘Pavala Vaddi’(loans at 3 per cent interest) for women of Self Help Groups, pensions, Arogyasri and scholarships to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Backward Classes students and the NREGA. He was keen on completing all the pending irrigation projects under the Jalayagnam scheme. He set development and welfare programmes on an even keel. He would often talk about how he wanted these schemes to be based on a saturation concept covering all eligible persons.

Not one to remain content with such schemes, Dr. Reddy was already strategising for the 2014 elections by further strengthening the party at the grassroot level.

An extremely articulate and intelligent speaker who could make his point effectively, Dr. Reddy was known for his ready wit, presence of mind and grasp and command over a wide range of subjects that made even his staunch critics listen to him in rapt attention in the legislative sessions.

The tide of the State Congress turned for the better with his 1,400 km padayatra. Interestingly, with the insight gained during this journey about the problems faced by the people at the grassroots, he formulated several of his innovative schemes after he assumed power in 2004. Another path-breaking scheme was Arogyasri — a health insurance scheme for the poor.

Born on July 8, 1949 in Pulivendula in the Kadapa district of Ralyalaseema region, Dr. Reddy’s 30-year-long political experience is dotted with controversies.

He was elected four times each to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha and held important positions in the government and the party. He was the Minister for Rural Development, Medicine and Health and Education between 1980 and 1983. He has served as A.P. Congress Committee president twice.

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