In the over six decades of his chequered political innings, veteran Congress leader and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah faced his ultimate nerve-wracking challenge on the day when the then Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s helicopter went missing less than an hour after taking off from Begumpet airport on September 2, 2009.
Tension was palpable at the Secretariat as officials and others desperately made efforts to know the whereabouts of the Chief Minister’s helicopter. Officials and Congress leaders who rushed to the C Block of the Secretariat after learning about the missing chopper recalled how Rosaiah took charge of the situation when everyone was clueless about the well-being of Reddy.
A top official told The Hindu that after Reddy’s Bell 430 Helicopter failed to land in Chittoor district, a senior staff member of the Chief Minister’s Office called all Ministers and senior officials.
“Mr. Rosaiah was the first one to arrive at the C block chambers of Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy. Immediately, he went into a huddle with the officials present in the meeting hall of the then Chief Secretary K. Ramakanth Reddy in the same block,” the officer recalled.
Flanked by the Chief Secretary, Additional DG Intelligence K. Arvind Rao, CIB and Greyhounds chiefs, Rosaiah reviewed the situation and asked officials to draw a plan to search for YSR’s chopper.
“All through the meeting, he was saying YSR would return safely. Even if he is lost in the forest, he will come out unscathed,” is what Mr. Rosaiah reportedly told the officials and his ministerial colleagues, even as he requested everyone to pray for the charismatic leader’s safe return.
Despite his advanced age, Rosaiah did not heed the suggestion of officials and ministers to take rest. He stayed put at C Block, monitoring all calls and coordinating with officials and ministers and speaking to the Congress leadership in Delhi and apprising them of the situation.
Another police officer, who was closely involved that day in the reviews, maintained that Rosaiah and others at one stage expressed the fear that something must have gone wrong. They went to the extent of surmising that even if YSR’s helicopter had landed in a forest area, particularly the Nalamalla forests in Kurnool / Prakasam districts, he would daringly come out unharmed.
“One angle that was discussed that day was if YSR had been kidnapped by naxals or if his chopper had made an emergency landing in the forest area. Dozens of Greyhounds personnel and others were despatched by evening to Nalamalla forest, suspecting that he must have been stuck in the dense forest,” the police officer, wishing anonymity, said.
Ultimately, on the evening of September 2, 2009, Rosaiah announced through the media that the helicopter carrying YSR was missing and made an open appeal to the people to search for their beloved leader. The next day, after the wreckage of the helicopter was found near Pavuralagutta in Kurnool district, Rosaiah was sworn in as the caretaker Chief Minister.