YSR: End of a controversial tenure

 

B R HARAN

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s tragic death in a helicopter crash, at the peak of his career, has shaken the entire political spectrum; our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, relatives, colleagues, party men and followers.
 
Political career

In a career spanning over three decades, YSR as he was popularly known as, was elected to the Lok Sabha four times from Kadapa (Cuddappa) constituency and five times to the State Assembly from Pulivendula constituency of Andhra Pradesh. At a time when the state Congress was feeling the pinch of the non-availability of a charismatic leader, YSR pitched in and made full use of the opportunity. He served as president of APCC twice (1983–1985 and 1998–2000) and as minister from 1980-1983. He was Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly during Chandrababu Naidu’s tenure as Chief Minister from 1999 to 2004.

YSR undertook a massive padayatra (1500 kms) across the state in 2003, covering many villages and rural areas, and led his party to a grand victory in the 2004 elections to both Parliament and Assembly, to the shock of the TDP and surprise of the Congress high command. His party won 185 assembly seats and he became Chief Minister. In the 2009 elections for Parliament and Assembly, he led from the front on a plank of “Development and Credibility” and won 33 Lok Saba and 156 Assembly seats, becoming Chief Minister again. But barely three months late, travelling by helicopter from Hyderabad to Chithoor, he suddenly closed his life story as his chopper crashed on a hilltop in Nallamala forest area.
 
Tenure full of controversies


Welfare Schemes for the masses

 
During his first term as Chief Minister from 2004 to 2009, YSR implemented many new welfare schemes apart from the usual freebies such as free power for farmers, waiver of loans, Rs 2/kg rice, which have become the order of governance in the country now. Some schemes, launched with fanfare, include “Jalayagnam” (water conservation), a programmeme of more than 50 large, medium and small irrigation projects worth more than Rs. 50,000 crores; “Arogya Shree,” a community health insurance scheme for BPL families; “Pavala Vaddi” or interest subsidy, a programme to provide loans to people, particularly women SHGs, at 3% per annum to encourage them to take up small entrepreneurial businesses; “Indiramma illu,” a programme for construction of houses for the rural masses, the major share of which is borne by the government.

Though the Congress party claims these schemes and many others have been a success, the opposition parties have alleged rampant corruption in implementation of the schemes. Probably a change of regime in future might bring out the facts regarding implementation of these much hyped schemes. Also, if the schemes prove really “remunerative,” succeeding regimes may continue with them, perhaps under a different name!

However, Rajasekhar Reddy was termed a pro-poor leader and the rural masses loved and adored him, particularly as he periodically increased the procurement price of paddy, which reduced farmer-suicides to a huge extent to almost nil status.
 
Corruption charges

 
YSR and his family were in the thick of controversies during his tenure. The leader of the opposition, Chandrababu Naidu, accused him of amassing huge wealth through companies like Sandur Power Company, Jagathi Publications, and Bharathi Cement Corporation, which were owned by his family members. 

As the allegations gained momentum and featured in the assembly, YSR accepted holding Government and forest lands and returned 614 acres at Idupulapaya estate in Vempalli mandal to the government. Still, media reports said he could be tried under AP Land Reforms (Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings) Act, 1973 & Rules, 1974, AP Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977 and AP Forest Act, 1967. (Ref: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/808974.cms)

Almost all opposition parties and the media alleged his family’s involvement in the multi-crore ‘Satyam’ scam. He was blamed for the government’s granting of huge contracts to ‘Maytas’ of the Satyam group. He was severely attacked in and out of the assembly for his ‘specific’ assaults on Ramoji Rao and his companies. (Ref: http://www.andhravilas.com/movienews.asp?id=79193&curPage=17 and http://www.thehoot.org/web/home/story.php?storyid=3157&pg=1&mod=1&sectionId=9&sectionname=MEDIA%20RESEARCH&valid=true).  

During his tenure, Thirumala Thirupathi Devasthanam was always in the news for all the wrong reasons, from appointment of Chairman (once his own step-brother and another time a liquor baron), to mismanagement, to lack of transparency, to abuse of power, to shortages of jewels and gold coins, to sacrilege of Thirumala by evangelical activities and ant-social elements. The total abuse of TTD was attributed only to YSR and just some days ago Dr. Chandrababu Naidu demanded dissolution of the TTD Board.

The New Indian Express dated 4 September 2009 said, “Charges of massive corruption in irrigation projects and other big ventures dogged him throughout his first innings, so much so that he was described as the chief fund raiser for the Congress at the national level.” (http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=He+was+the+rainmaker&artid=kySQCi/WkhY=&SectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&MainSectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&SectionName=m3GntEw72ik).

State’s insecurity
 
YSR’s tenure blundered on security. Apart from the anti incumbency factor for TDP, YSR’s understanding with Maoist and PWG (Naxal) groups allegedly helped in his victory in the 2004 elections. As per the understanding, he stopped the anti-Naxal operations in the name of ‘peace-talks’ and allowed them to regroup and roam the state freely with arms and ammunition. The Naxal and PWG utilized this huge opportunity to establish contacts with Maoists in other states and Nepal.

As a result, the Red corridor spread to over 15 states across India, from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh. The unholy nexus extended to LTTE cadres and Jihadis, resulting in smuggling of different kinds of arms and ammunition, including rocket launchers, and parts for making bombs, etc. The huge cache of arms and ammunitions captured by Tamil Nadu police during their regular arrests of LTTE cadres established the Naxal-LTTE nexus.

His tenure also witnessed two huge bomb blasts in Mecca Masjid and Lumbini Park areas, resulting in immense loss of life and property. So far investigations have not yielded any results. The state still reels under the Naxal menace! The general law and order situation is not up to the mark, as evidenced by regular occurrences of political murders.
 
Christianisation of Andhra Pradesh
 

With YSR’s advent in 2004, evangelical activities increased alarmingly and mass conversions were witnessed in rural areas on a large scale. His open pandering to Church and missionaries emboldened evangelists to go all out in their conversion activities. They dared focus on Hindu pilgrimage sites such as Badrachalam, Simmachalam, Srisailam, Ahobilam, Mangalagiri, Kalahasthi, and didn’t spare Thirumala-Thirupathi! YSR aided the Church and missionaries in many ways.
 
He sanctioned Rs. 80, 000/- per Church for repair works in August 2006 as per GO MS. No: 21 dt 22/08/2006 (CM Reddy okays public money for Churches – Deccan Chronicle, 23 August 2006) and an aid of Rs. 1.5 lakhs for the construction of each Church.

This is done while the government is controlling over 30,000 Temples and taking all their revenue. Only 15% of temple revenue is given back for temple maintenance and salaries of priests. Over 40,000 Priests earn a salary of only Rs. 500/- to Rs. 1000/- per month. The rest of the revenue is being used for other government schemes and minority welfare schemes, as in Tamil Nadu.

The AP government is also auctioning cows and calves donated by devotees to Bhagwan Narasimhar Temple at Simhachalam to owners of abattoirs. With so much of revenue from temples, it is unfortunate that the government has not bothered to maintain a decent Goshala respecting the sentiments of Hindu devotees. (http://www.hindujagruti.org/activities/campaigns/religious/save-temples/templesact/misuse.php)
 
The state government identified 7000 acres of temple lands for sale to raise revenues of Rs. 20, 000 crores. In many places, those lands have been allegedly encroached upon by Churches and Missionaries with the connivance of government officials. Some have been given for construction of Churches and Mosques.

Thousands of Churches have been planted by missionaries throughout the state totally disproportionate to the Christian population – one Church for every seven Christians! The number of Churches stands at 148,000; the temples are 190,000 (one for every 350 Hindus) and Mosques figure at 176,000 (one for every 40 Muslims)
(Ref: http://www.drthchowdary.net/index.php and http://www.haindavakeralam.com/HkPage.aspx?PAGEID=7317&SKIN=C ).

The pastors of the planted Churches straightaway started their ‘harvests’ particularly in rural areas, where mass conversions have been rampant for the last five years. While the government figure of Christian population is 1.5% (2001 census), the Church itself puts the figure at 10 to 12%, which could certainly be more in view of the large scale conversion in the state. Most converts are Scheduled Castes who pretend to be Hindus to enjoy reservation benefits, while they practice Christianity at home. The AP Assembly passed a resolution for SC status for Christian and Muslim SC converts.
 
Emboldened by the government’s attitude, missionaries made a focused assault on Thirumala Thirupathi. The YSR government facilitated such activities by releasing a GO saying Bhagwan Venkateswara’s assets were only two hills covering an area of 27.5 sq. kms., and the other five hills would be taken over by the government for converting them into a picnic spot with multiplexes, food courts, commercial, sports and entertainment infrastructures including a rope-way to reach the top of the hills.
Fortunately, the AP High Court quashed the GO and the government beat a retreat after fierce Hindu agitations. {Judgment of a Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court1997 (2) ALD Page 59 (DB) – Tallapakam Koppu Raghavan Vs State of A.P}
 
But the Church never stopped evangelical activities on the hills, sparking off widespread agitation by the Hindu community. Sri Swarupanandendra Swami of Saradha Peetam, Hyderabad, convened a Seers’ Meet in Delhi to take necessary actions against religious conversions. Subsequently, Sri Vishweshra Theertha Swamiji of Pejawar Mutt, Udipi, organized a massive public meeting in Thirupathi with the support of Hindu organizations.

He also constituted a fact finding committee under the Chairmanship of Sri Justice G. Bikshapathy, former Judge of AP High Court with Sri Justice K.B. Siddappa, former Judge of APHC, Sri TS Rao, former Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh, Smt. Dr. P   Geervani, former Vice-Chancellor of Sri Padmavathi Mahila Viswa Vidyala and Sri Dr. R Shrihari, former Vice-Chancellor of Dravidian University, Kuppam, as members. The committee held a preliminary sitting on 17 June 2006 at Hyderabad and visited Tirupathi and Tirumala on 21-22 June 2006 and held a public enquiry and subsequently issued public notice in the dailies and in electronic media (http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=139&page=3 ).
 
The TTD’s commodities contract also went to a Christian company by name JRG Wealth Management. The Hindu-Business Line reported, “The introduction of JRG Wealth Management Company’s commodity futures terminal at Tirupati gave an on-line price reference mechanism to the second richest temple township in the world, next only to the Vatican”.
(http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2005/08/31/stories/2005083102560900.htm)
 
Though YSR later kept out of Hindu pilgrimage centres, he gave a free hand to Churches and missionaries to carry out evangelical activities in the rest of the state. His son-in-law Anil Kumar is an evangelist with his own ministries. A Brahmin-convert, Brother Anil Kumar claims to be a preacher with anointing of holy spirits, powerful and authoritative teacher, revealer of Kingdom’s principles, warrior of faith and a healer through miracles doing wonders in the name of Jesus (http://www.aweministries.org/).

When he arranged for a mammoth congregation, as huge as US evangelist Benny Hinn’s, the government’s machineries were allegedly used to make the show a big hit. Hundreds of banners were erected throughout the twin cities and other major cities and towns to welcome Brother Anil Kumar. YSR participated with his wife and daughter. The evangelical meet came in for severe criticism and drew flak from the opposition. But when confronted by the media on the use of official machinery to promote his son-in-law, YSR had quipped, “What is wrong in that?” It is believed Brother Anil Kumar has been placed as rival to the well-known evangelist KA Paul, also from AP.
(http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/dec/15-andhra-cm-son-in-laws-religious-meet-draws-flak.htm and http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/YSRs-evangelist-soninlaw-triggers-war-of-words/421191/)
 
After winning the elections, YSR and his family went on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, at the end of May 2009 to offer thanksgiving prayers for the victory of the Congress party. He did the same in 2004 also. Little wonder that he subsidized Bethlehem/Jerusalem pilgrimage for Christians, first of its kind in the country, allotting a budget of 2 crores of rupees for 2008-09, apart from 5 crores of rupees for repairs of churches and mosques.
(http://www.tribuneindia.com/2008/20080219/nation.htm#4)
 
Small wonder that Christians of all denominations favoured him in the 2009 elections. Rayalaseema Regional Christians’ Sadassu in Kadapa called upon Christians in the four Rayalaseema districts to vote for Congress to ensure further progress. Bishop of Rayalaseema Diocese, Yesu Varaprasad, former Bishop CVM Fredrick Babu, Rev. Fr. Samson and Banhur Babu of CSI Church, Pastor CSI Church, secretary Samuel Babu and Zion College of Physical Education K. Rajarathnam Isaac were present at Sadassu. They appreciated the various welfare schemes launched by government.
(http://www.thehindu.com/2009/04/18/stories/2009041851820300.htm).
 
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) condoled the CM’s untimely death in a press release, referring to his message of 19 August 2009 to them on the occasion of All India Congress on Church in Mission, expressing gratitude to the “Christian Churches in India for their service to the nation in the field of education, health and social work and for promoting peace, reconciliation and development of all communities irrespective of caste and creed.”  EFI called for prayers for the family of the late Chief Minister and for the families of the four other officers who died in the tragic accident.
 
The London based “Religious Intelligence” mourned YSR’s death by publishing an article titled “Head of Indian state, a Christian, killed in chopper crash,” by Delhi-based journalist Vishal Arora. It said YSR was a second-generation Christian, as his father Raja Reddy was converted by missionaries while serving in the military in Burma. It claimed without any evidence that “several” Christian priests and workers were killed in “numerous” attacks in the last few years and blamed “Hindu Nationalists” for those attacks! (http://www.religiousintelligence.co.uk/news/?NewsID=4961).

TV channels mentioned on the eve of his funeral that his father was shot dead (by rivals) at the age of 75, thereby confirming his ‘bloody’ past, which is also evidenced by the anti-social track record of “Bhumana brothers” (Bhumana Karunakara Reddy and Bhumana Subramanya Reddy) associated with his family. ( http://www.christianaggression.org/item_display.php?type=ARTICLES&id=1133939601 and http://www.hindu.com/2004/04/13/stories/2004041305380500.htm and http://www.sandeepweb.com/2009/09/04/how-slayers-are-sainted/#more-1356)  

The New Indian Express reported, “Physical elimination of rivals, typical of the factional politics of Rayalaseema region, began soon after YSR became Chief Minister. Congress warlords loyal to the Chief Minister, but till then confined to Rayalaseema, spread their tentacles to even the state capital, dictating who should be awarded works and involving themselves in real estate settlements.”

(http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=He+was+the+rainmaker&artid=kySQCi/WkhY=&SectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&MainSectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&SectionName=m3GntEw72ik ).
 
Coincidentally, just five days before, TDP president Chandrababu Naidu accused YSR of mismanagement of Thirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s affairs and demanded dissolution of the TTD Board. In a press conference at TDP headquarters on 28 August, he said the assets of TTD were worth about Rs 30,000 crore, while the value of the jewellery could not be estimated as many jewels donated to the temple since Srikrishna Devaraya’s era were invaluable.

Dr. Naidu said the Chief Minister would face the wrath of Lord Venkatesvara for indifference towards Tirumala, the Lord’s abode: “Lord Venkatesvara (Lord Balaji) is very powerful. This is a proven historical fact. Such people will pay a heavy price in the long run.” He said former Chief Minister NT Rama Rao wanted to develop Tirumala at par with Vatican City. (http://in.news.yahoo.com/20/20090829/1416/tnl-dissolve-ttd-board-demands-naidu_1.html)
 
All said and done, however, YSR was indeed a charismatic leader with a well-earned pro-poor image, as evidenced by the startling spate of suicides and shock deaths, hitherto an exclusive “culture” of “Dravidian” land (Tamil Nadu). He outshone the Dravidian leaders in “all” respects not only when he was alive, but also after his death. Karunanidhi fittingly declared a state holiday as a mark of respect to the departed leader.

Also read:

 Christians lament death of Christian CM, Y Samuel Reddy

Y Samuel Reddy (YSR) search mission 

In this Hindu land of Bharat, we trust in God …. to deliver justice …….

Yada yada hi dharmasya Glanir bhavati bharata
Abhyutthanam adharmasya Tadatmanam srjamy aham

~ Bhagavad Gita (Chapter IV-7)

TRANSLATION: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion–at that time I descend Myself

 

View: Reddy’s death undeniably a colossal loss for Christians

 

By: Dibin Samuel

Saturday, 5 September 2009, 16:19 (IST)

 The entire nation is in a state of shock over the tragic death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Without doubt, the death is more of a shock and cause of grief to the Christian community who slowly-yet-surely had found a pillar of support at the highest level of the Government in this really fearful and tumultuous time.

Since the news of his helicopter missing, hands were joined for a miracle. The newspapers, television, radio followed every bit of the search which was said to be India’s largest search and rescue mission for a VIP. Twenty-four hours later the result was out: the champion of the poor and voiceless was found charred with rest of the crew on top of a hill in the tiger reserve forest of Kurnool district.

Church leaders in India would agree that it would take another decade to find a peer commensurate with Reddy who was even-handed and filled with egalitarian and inclusive principles. Reddy’s audacious decisions and staunch actions had brought cheer to the minuscule community at various times. If Reddy’s death is the greatest loss in the political circle, the same goes for Christians whose pleas had been humbly addressed and grievances punctually redressed by the deceased leader.

Without question, Reddy’s action spoke larger than words. Just ten days back, in a first, the Christian politico dauntlessly adopted a resolution supporting the Dalit Christians. Remember, not recently or past, has anyone of this stature made such a move to emancipate millions of Dalits whose predicaments fell deaf ears until now. It was something to cheer. The chief minister was praised and thanked by leading Christian councils.

It was not an outright move. The decision to back Dalit Christians came after many delegations met at his office and beseeched help. To all, Reddy promised action. Apparently he had even promised to lead a Christian delegation to New Delhi to speak to the highest authorities and bring justice to the 20 million Dalit Christians. Unlike others whose promising words come to satiate their lust for power and yearn for limelight, Reddy’s was factual. Following his visit to Delhi with a delegation, it was pertinent that Minister for Minorities came out with a statement acknowledging that all probes proved the causes of Dalit Christians and a positive response was in the offing.

Further, a perusal of his contributions in his own state evinces more. The chief minister apart from taking gargantuan tasks that brought unprecedented development had pioneered scores of initiatives for Christians. “He set up the A.P. State Christian Finance Corporation which is first of its kind in the country. He also introduced the novel schemes like Government subsidy to the Holy Land and assistance for Christian Mass Marriages for the first time,” according to Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC), a state-level apex body of the Bishops and Heads of Churches of all Christian Denominations.

Turning back to August 2008, when violence spread like wildfire against Christians, the chief minister voiced his discontentment, and his state government offered refuge to many hundreds who fled the marauding mobs in their home district, Kandhamal, where their homes, churches and institutions were razed down after the death of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati.

As we are overwhelmed with the feeling of loss and prayers are told for the bereaved families, it is also well timed to enlighten ourselves how tiny we are in this earth, our brilliant techies and technologies which appeared impotent and deficient during that intimidating search operation that we all watched over TV channels. Truly, the meagerness of our intelligence only must amplify our trust in God as we continue to believe him to be the panacea of our lives.

Sad, very sad!

We hope they find the helicopter and the Andhra Pradesh CM, Yeduguri Samuel Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) and his co-passengers. Any accident is unfortunate and the outcome in this case does not seem to be favorable. Our sympathy is with the family. One can also imagine the anxiety and distress for his vast followers and well wishers.

The governemt has been all out in the search effort. Ground search teams, police, 5000 CRPF, 500 army commandos, NSA, ISRO,  IAF, Sokhoi, helicopters, pilotless aircraft, night vision technology, thermal imaging technology, request to US for further advanced tools – everything that is humanely possible by the government, have been done.  MLAs, MPs, Ministers,  Congress chief, Home Minister, Prime Minister, President of India (from Moscow) – all are concerned. It is heartening to see that no stone is left unturned to find the cursed chopper and its occupants. And one has to acknowledge that all these have been done within barely a few hours.

Perhaps this is the first time in India, that a search mission of this massive proportion is being conducted for a person. This is something that we read in fictions or watch on movies of western origin. Certainly India has come a long way off from the recent ’26/11 Mumbai carnage’ in terms of disaster preparedness and management. 

One can hope that such level of preparedness and performance, henceforth, would be extended to other catastrophic situations, that involves similar ‘important’ persons, irrespective of political or religious background and at least part of such responsiveness would then be expected to also trickle down to benefit the life of a common Indian, in distress.

Otherwise, who knows, “faultfinders” may raise the issue that such ‘VIP treatment  was only given in this case to YSR, since he happens to be a Christian Chief Minister of the Roman Catholic lead  Congress party, had a soul that was blessed by the Pope Benedict XVI, himself and played a leading role in evangelical activities in the state of Andhra Pradesh, including facilitation for Christians pilgrimmage.

Why, one may even imagine a divine intervention in his final fate.

   

Search Mission AP CM and the chopper

September 3rd, 2009 – 2:38 am ICT

Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy remained uncertain tonight after a helicopter carrying him went missing over a dense forest area since Wednesday morning, prompting a continuing massive search operation.

Bell helicopter, which took off from old Begumpet airport at 8.35 AM and lost radio contact at 9.35 AM, was heading for Chitoor district, over 600 kilometres from Hyderabad in the Southwestern end of the state, where he was to attend some functions.

The helicopter was crossing the Nallamalai forests towards Ongole in Prakasam district and the pilot may have encountered high-speed winds and inclement weather, the Chief Secretary said.

ISRO satellite has taken 41 images of the forest area where the helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy is believed to have crashed landed, says state chief secretary P Ramakant Reddy says.

Air Force pressed its topline Sukhoi 30 MKI into a night search and flew in Dornier and Avro reconnaissance aircraft. IAF’s Sukhoi 30MK1 aircraft with synthetic aperture radar for high resolution ground mapping even at night and a pilotless low-flying ISRO aircraft were scouring the thick Nallamalai forests in Kurnool district in the Rayalaseema region the Low-flying aircraft to pick metal signals.

Throughout Wednessday as many as seven helicopters searched the area but met with no success. In the evening, five thousand CRPF from the nearby Chhattisgarh and Orissa to conduct the search and other police personnel were deployed for a night-long ground search.

In exploring CM’s chopper Andhra Pradesh government has sought Centre’s help to get US Defence Department help in securing real-time imagery as Indian efforts in this regard were poor due to heavy cloud formation. Low flying Air craft of National Remote Sensing Agency has taken 41 imagery photographs of Nallamala forest area where the search operations are underway to locate the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. The ISRO is currently processing the photographs in Hyderabad. The photographs which may carry some clues are expected by this midnight.

Air Commander B.S. Bharti of Yelahanka Air base has been designated commander of rescue and search operations. He will be operating from Kurnool from early tomorrow.Search on foot by Forest and Revenue officials is on around the point where the helicopter of the Andhra Pradesh Minister Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy was last seen. His helicopter went missing on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, a number of Ministers, MPs and MLAs and Congress Party activists of the nearby districts are reaching Nallamal forest area to render assistance in the search operations.

The Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Chidamabram and leader of the opposition in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly have expressed concern over the safety of the Chief Minister, Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Meanwhile, the US has offered all help in locating Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S R Reddy whose helicopter went missing in the state Wednesday morning.

The Embassy spokesman said the US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer was in touch with Home Minister P Chidambaram through the day and offered all help in this development.The spokesman said his heart goes out to all those involved in the development.