He could make an instant connection with people

He could make an instant connection with people

YSR could sway people with his fiery speeches, make an instant connection with the audience, especially the rural crowds, and win them over. Though, in a one-to-one situation, he could be almost reticent and boyishly shy.

The one image of YSR that comes to mind easily is the one of a determined man, dressed in his characteristic white kurta and dhoti and a headdress typically worn by the rural people, the patka (peta), going on foot visiting villages in the summer of 2003.

This historic padayatra catapulted YSR to power in the 2004 elections defeating the entrenched N Chandrababu Naidu and routing his Telugu Desam Party. Winning a second term in power last May ensured that YSR emerged as a strong leader.

YSR has often been criticised for not being democratic, especially in his dealings within the party. He systematically eliminated his opponents or cut them to size. When he could not do so, he won them over with positions and appointments.

As a result, in the last 12 years, he became the banyan tree under whose shadow no other plant grew.

Youth power

Yet, he encouraged youth and brought in potential men and women and pushed them to the forefront. This was one of his ways of developing an army of loyalists within the party.

YSR showed streaks of feudal arrogance while dealing with his political opponents. He was extremely intolerant of those whom he defeated.

A critic once said he had the typical Rayalaseema factionist mindset which was not satisfied with vanquishing the opponents but would rest easy only when the opponents were buried for good.

YSR’s determination was phenomenal. His initial days in the party as a youth leader were controversial. He was the perpetual dissident, bane of seniors in the party whom he challenged, defied and continuously tried to undermine their authority.

He reportedly had his supporters throw slippers at a senior leader during a public meeting. He is even said to have ignited communal riots to undermine the position of yet another senior. He was impatient with old people and wanted them to make way for young leaders.

This prompted him to say in 1999 when he had just turned 50 that politicians should retire at 60, considering that politicians went on and on in their public life, frustrating the ambitious younger leaders.

Reddy was reminded of this just last month when he turned 60. And a frank YSR admitted that he was wrong and that in politics 60 was too young to retire.

A weeping admirer told Deccan Herald: “God has now retired him permanently at 60.”

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