By Uma Sudhir
The epitaph of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy reads : `Visionary-Statesman. The world will remember the courageous & compassionate Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, the one who laughed often and loved much.’
At 6:15 am on Friday, the 13th, when I and my camera crew arrived at Idupulapaya, a tourist bus was already there and tourists were getting off to visit YSR’s final resting place. This bus had started from Tenali in Guntur district. They had been to Ooty and Bangalore and this was one of the last few halts on the trip.
Surprising, considering there was nothing very `touristy’ about the place. To add to it, the distance. The samadhi at Idupulapaya is a good 80 km from Kadapa town. Of course, it is a dignified looking quiet samadhi on a vast green estate belonging to YSR’s family. And abutting it stands a breathtakingly steep mountain wall that is almost like a magnificent compound wall erected against the sky. Looks majestic. No wonder YSR would say that of all the places in the world, this is where he came to relax and find inner peace.
But people were not here to admire the scenic beauty. They were here to celebrate and pay their respects to the memory of a chief minister, who has been one of the most popular the state has had. His sudden, tragic death while still on a political high, only adding to the aura and the sentiment.
To show that he is a people’s man and showcase the die-hard following he had, just about 100 feet from YSR’s Samadhi, is a memorial for the hundreds who are believed to have died unable to live with the grief and shock of YSR’s death. Listed statewise.
“Guntur zilla nunchi evaru unnaru choodra (see who is listed in the Guntur district list),’’ one elderly man was instructing his companion.
That morning, there was excitement also because Jaganmohan Reddy was expected shortly to seek his father’s blessings before counting began.
“Mana adrushtam ra. YSR koduku Jagan ra bothunnadata” (We are in luck. It seems YSR’s son Jagan will be here shortly). Even those who had looked dull and listless from the tiring journey suddenly perked up with the excitement of seeing YSR’s son in person. They quickly vied for a place to park themselves, so they could get closest to him. The man whose campaign managers have over the last few days been saying “he will be your next chief minister’’(never mind if he is contesting a Parliament seat).
I asked if they would vote for Jagan should there be such elections. “All said and done, he is YSR’s son. He did more for farmers and the state than anyone else,’’ was the consensus in the group. `Uchita current, arogyasree, 108 (free electricity, health insurance, emergency ambulance services)’: the success of all these is attributed to the YSR than to the party his government represented. After all it is not there in other Congress-ruled states, a young man points out.
Of course having a memorial like this one and facilitating a regular flow of people also ensures he remains alive in public memory as a larger-than-life persona, that will ensure political capital for his heir-apparent. Isn’t that also the purpose of thousands of statues of YSR erected across Andhra Pradesh? So for those who can’t make it to the memorial, you just can’t miss him, standing virtually at every street corner and kiosk. Keeping YSR alive in public memory translates into a waiting-to-be-cashed-on valuable electoral legacy.
The Congress is not blind to that potential. That is why Jagan’s YSR Congress party and the Congress were vying to claim ownership to YSR’s legacy and the right to garland his statue and claim the goodwill his name evokes among the people. The rivalry became so much that soon after Congress candidate D L Ravindra (now dubbed `Deposit Loss’ Ravindra Reddy in these parts) garlanded a YSR statue in Kadapa, those in Jagan’s camp indulged in cleansing exercises, with a `palabhishekam’ to say they don’t want YSR to be soiled by Congress hands.
My driver says he doesn’t know if YSR was a good man or not but that he had a reputation for never letting down anyone who is loyal to him. “My cousin in the police department had some trouble with his boss who had threatened that he would not allow him to continue in his preferred place of posting in one of the Telangana districts. He came to YSR, sought an audience and told him `I have come straight to you, sir, mimmalne nammukkunnanu'(All my hope and trust lies with you). Story goes that YSR said you go, I will take care. And when he returned home, orders had been issued reinstating him where he had wanted to be. “So my cousin is a diehard loyalist, madam” my driver tells me.
Fact feeds on fiction and fiction feeds on some facts. Right or wrong, that is how legends are built.