By Y Satyanarayana

When Chandrbabu Naidu became the chief minister in 1999, Congressmen in Andhra Pradesh found themselves out of power and were a dispirited lot, with the exception of one visionary leader. When Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy embarked on his Praja Prasthanam, a march through the length and breadth of undivided Andhra Pradesh, he established an instant connect with the man in the street wherever he went.

The farmer, the student, the aged and infirm, the unemployed, widows and oppressed women, people drawn from all sections of society came to him with their complaints and grievances. Dr YSR identified some of the major lacunae in the system which prevented the poor from having access to good education and healthcare. It was during his walkathon that the mass leader saw for himself the state of medical facilities in village after village, right up to Ichchapuram where he concluded his padayatra. The state of education at all levels was no different and a student from an impoverished background could not aspire to rise above his circumstances and become a doctor, engineer, dentist or graduate of pharmacy.

Dr YSR was determined to change the educational landscape of Andhra Pradesh and this was possible he knew only when the poor had access to education all levels. This is how Arogyasri was born and became a path-breaking initiative and a case study for other states.

It was during the course of this walkathon that Dr YSR revived the flagging fortunes of Congress in the state. The chord he struck among the masses was so powerful that the party was swept to power in 2004 riding a tide of popularity in its favour, thanks to Dr YSR.

If one traces the development of the Congress party, one can see a sharp rise in its graph in terms of popularity, during the YSR era. His untimely demise led to a sharp decline in the credibility associated with the grand old party of India. It was further tainted by scams and scandals and infighting only worsening the situation.

When Sonia Gandhi foisted false cases against Dr YSR's son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Congress lost whatever semblance of credibility it had. Subsequently, it was reduced to a rump in the newly formed state of Telangana. It can be seen therefore that if the Congress party could survive the shock of being dislodged from its high perch and could ride back to power it was only on the strength of Dr YSR's leadership. History stands witness to this!

Also Read: Dr YSR Was A True Messiah Of The Poor