Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nalini then, Afzal Guru now: Why Kasab may never be hanged!

“Whatever I have done, I have done on earth, and I should be punished here. I do not want to be punished by God. Please punish me by hanging,” - Ajmal Kasab

"You cannot pick, choose and hang. Nowhere does it happen in the world including Pakistan, There are still about 28 mercy petitions pending before Afzhal Guru's can be addressed." - Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily

Kasab may actually beg to be hanged but the 'compassionate' Indian legal and political system wouldn't just let him go down without a 'fair' trial.

Ha ha, as things seem to suggest now, Nalini, the accused No 1 in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination will very soon walk free. Here is the 'punishment' she got for conspiring the assassination.
After getting caught soon after the assassination in 1991, an elaborate investigation ensued. In January 1998 the investigation concludes and the trial court sentenced all the 26 accused, including Nalini to death. But in 1999, the Supreme Court annulled the death sentence on all but 4, including Nalini. The 4 sentenced for death filed for a mercy petition with the president and in 2000, Nalini's death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment because apparently India just couldn't afford another orphan - Nalini delivered a kid while in prison.

That's not all. Even while engaging the hypocrite Indian system, Nalini put her time to better use.

  • She spent time to pass Master of Computer Applications (MCA) course and will soon be awarded the degree by IGNOU. We are told she was brilliant at it.
  • She was 4 month pregnant when she landed in jail and then delivered her baby while in prison. Her daughter was brought up by her mother-in-law in Sri Lanka. The girl then grew up, sought a student visa to study in India, on the ground that there was danger to her life in Sri Lanka! Following a petition by Nalini, the very broad-minded Madras High Court, concerned for the girl's safety, directed the equally broad-minded, acquiescing Centre to grant entry permit to her daughter, on the grounds that she was an Indian just like her mother!
Phew, may be Rajiv Gandhi, the late Indian prime minister was not Indian enough! The whole process is disgusting, and only shows a weak heart and mind of this nation which allowed other terror acts to follow later on.

Someone who assassinated a former prime minister for the actions he undertook in his position as prime minister, instead of getting punished, gets a new life, complete with highest education of this land for her and her daughter. That is something she wouldn't have even got in the dungeons of LTTE areas in Sri Lanka, where she was indoctrined to carry out the most daring assassination in Indian history. Nalini Sriharan accused #1 in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination is rewarded for what she did. What next, maybe she will stand in an election and just, maybe, enter parliament!

India's 'humanitarianism' is always under test and is ever victorious. Soon after the Nalini's death sentence is commuted, there was another high-profile case.

  • Afzal Guru, convicted for his role in the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, was sentenced to death on December 18, 2002 by a trial court.
  • This was confirmed by the Delhi High Court and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004.
  • The sentence was to be carried out on October 20, 2006 in the Tihar Jail here, but it was stayed after his family filed a mercy petition to the President.
As our esteemed law minister said, Afzal Guru's case will be attended to after the 20 odd petitions preceding his are dealt with. If India finds it hard to hang someone convicted for waging war against state then why the hell is it so nauseatingly harping on Pakistan to bring the 26/11 perpetrators on trial? Its baffling indeed that India thinks that US, Pakistan or any other country would take it seriously when it does not take its own investigating agencies' fruitful investigations seriously and simply cant implement the judgements of its own courts, even in cases involving a direct attack on Parliament and assassination of a former prime minister. It's simply sickening to see P Chidambaram hectoring Pakistan.

Well, with the Nalini's precedent, Afzal Guru may never ever be hanged and may in fact walk free. And maybe, so will Kasab. After all tamasha we have had with Kasab's trial, even considering that he gets death sentence, he will not be hanged anytime soon, going by our honorable minister Moily's logic. Kasab will file an appeal with supreme court, If that doesn't work, he files the dreaded mercy petition with the president, while still munching the biryani (which the court would have allowed on humanitarian grounds). Then he has to wait for his turn after those 28 petitions. That would take years, and when his case finally comes up, the President may show sympathy because he would have by then, supposedly,already undergone mental torture with the death sentence hanging over him. Death sentence would be commuted and maybe after 14 years in prison, he will be out, on humanitarian grounds. Its a pity those 170 odd who died and the 300 plus who were injured in Mumbai attacks aren't considered Humane enough.

All the outrage felt when Rajiv was assassinated fizzled out so much so that Nalini's release is now a non-issue after 18 years of dithering. The same could happen with the Parliament and Mumbai attacks cases. If not Mumbai attacks, what else could wake up this system from this hypocrisy and laziness?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

EENADU: Lost in translation

Spoilers ahead. If you have plans to watch 'Eenadu', I would advise you to read this post later after watching the movie.

If someone already saw 'A Wednesday', he or she may hardly find anything interesting in 'Eenadu'. This is a big minus considering that the credits claim a certain Kamal Haasan. Even for those who didn't see 'A Wednesday' there would not be as much thrill here as it were in 'A Wednesday'. Right now, I can think of two reasons.

1) Hold your breath, Kamal Hasan is miscast! It is his passion that drove this project but sadly he is not fit for a 'common man' role, that a low-profile Naseeruddin Shah played in the original, 'A Wednesday', (which i commented on at . I cant resist a comparison here. When the movie starts, Naseer triggers a guessing game for the audience about his actions, motives and yes, even his religion. His fluency in Urdu while talking to the terrorist over phone could have made the audience speculate about his association with terrorists and his own religion. It was pure mind play. Kamal Hasan's own beard and his occasional referring 'Commissinersaab' does not substitute that. Kamal's liberal use of English does not help the character either. That made his character more of a learned man not a common man. In fact, Eenadu leaves the subtlety about his religion and tries to directly inject that idea into audience through a few dialogues but even that didn't work.

2) The second main drawback: Inexplicably, the common man character has been diluted. Naseer, despite the whole meticulously operated operation, sounds exasperated, frustrated at times in his negotiations with the commissioner. His 'daily chore' conversation with his wife on phone was wonderful. Towards the end, he goes on to call himself stupid and clearly says "We are resilient by force, not by choice". He explains how he has his own small daily battles to feed himself and his family and how he was forced to embark on this mission due to governments' apathy and indifference. He was a regular common man who became a reluctant soldier. On the other hand, here, Kamal looks very much cool, in ease and is almost like a professional killer. He is almost like a regular hero character, that is of course until he picks up the groceries in the end. And Of course this is Kamal the legend and maybe its difficult to believe he is just playing an ordinary guy! There is a lack of much needed vulnerability. The result is that this robs us the thrill 'A Wednesday' gave. While that was shaped as thriller, the whole premise of common man's combat forms the core. Eenadu not just loses on the thrill but also on the common man core by changing Kamal's characterization. The fact that the character does not have scope for any real 'acting' apart from these subtlety makes this dilution in characterization all the more disappointing for Kamal's fans.

Among other things, Venkatesh's character too pales in comparison to Anupam Kher's in the original. Here, he is much younger and so that thoughtfulness is missing in his character. The result is that the famous dialogues between Kher and Shah in the second half didn't quite take off here as there is no intensity.The casting of 'A Wednesday' was perfect and the low profile actors helped create the realistic picture. Here, even the new folks like the guy who played Gautam Reddy couldn't deliver.

There has been lots of changes in the script to change the context and add Hyderabad flavour. That worked well though. Eenadu comes in context of Hyderabad blasts. However, the dialogues are not as good as they should have been. This dented the local flavour in a way despite the efforts in the script and did not allow the movie to get hard-hitting. Kamal brings one moment towards the climax that stays with us long after we leave the movie hall. That's the high point, and maybe the only one.

While I never watch a remake, I went ahead with this because I liked what Kamal did to Govind Nihalani's 'Droh Kaal' with his own 'Drohi'. I even liked 'Hey Ram'. So I had a feeling Kamal gets brainy with good content and I wanted to see if he elevates the content of 'A Wednesday'. But sadly that didn't happen. Kamal, for now, is humbled by Neeraj Pandey. For those who missed out Neeraj's offering though, this could be a decent watch.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BAANAM: This arrow has no gamyam

If the point of making a movie is to avoid the beaten track and do something hatke, the makers of Baanam succeeds. However, if you wish to see a movie to get entertained, or to get an insight or feel a high, Baanam is not for you. Baanam has the flavour and is aesthetic but is a directionless (pointless) enterprise. And despite the raw rural/town feel in it, this is no Gamyam.

Baanam is a classy movie with short dialogues (from the same guy, Nagaraju Gandham, who written for Gamyam), meaningful visuals. You may not be any wiser about Police system after watching the movie for 2 hours but can make out about Chaitanya Dantuluri, the writer-director of this movie. A fleeting glimpse of 'Fountainhead' in couple of scenes and a chapter wise breakdown of the movies shows the influences. But sadly those influences doesn't elevate the content. Script and Screenplay are weak. What the hero set out for and what he achieved is unclear. A clear storyline and lack of conviction sinks the movie.

Nara Rohit walks his way to the closing credits, literally. All we get to see is he robotically walking and mouthing the dialogues dispassionately. His failure is to be credited to the director for the poor character sketch. Rohit's acting is made to look wooden and his body language awkward because the director apparently believed all IPS aspirants stand stiff all the time, almost never laugh and manages to fall in love and propose without ever feeling any butterflies in the stomach. Rohit is taught these aspirants are superhumans and he tries to be one and ends up a casualty. Rohit has to wait for the next opportunity to show any talent he has.

The background score is wonderful aided by crisp editing and apt camerawork. Ranadhir who plays the villain makes his mark and he is someone we can all watch out for. The shot-making is fantastic in the movie and with the right script, the director Chaitanya Dantuluri will hit the bull's eye. Sadly, for now, this Baanam has no target and nothing to hit or miss.

Why do we have dynastic politics?

This piece is in response to my friend Sachin's comment at I thought responding to the comment on dynastic politics required a separate post and here it is.

I entirely agree with Sachin on the hereditary nature in different spheres in our public life. Opportunities are hard to come by in politics, businesses etc for those not connected to the mighty with power and pelf. This is partly because of the weak systems in place. For instance: Referring to the movies part, do we see any professional film-making, acting schools which are serious about churning out true professionals who can cater to the industry? No. So we have the the powerful folks within the film industry planning for their kith and kin and 'launching' them onto the unsuspecting audience. Ditto in politics. Do we see good liberal arts courses in Indian universities that actually turn out future assemblymen or parliamentarians? No again. So we have the powerful leaders planning the careers of their kin into 'public service'. In both these fields, dynasties came in because of weak or non-existent institutions. And India is not the only country that has democracy of the dynasties, for the dynasties and by the dynasties. Except in the west and few other countries, where there are sound institutions, the story remains the same in most of the third world. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, North Korea, Iraq, Iran are but few examples.

Strong political systems not just identify and cultivate worthy candidates for politics but also have vibrant inner-party democracy. During the emergency, the extraordinary political situation has been so successfully met by these very 'freshmen' unconnected to any dynasties who rallied behind Jayaprakash Narayan. All these were students from universities, mostly with a prevailing socialist mindset. That was true leadership that came from grassroots and they routed out Indira Gandhi and her younger son in the election soon after the emergency. It is just that India did not consistently throw out this kind of genuine leadership. Even if some brave soul genuinely bent on public service makes his initial mark by luck or opportunity, lack of inner-party democracy acts as a glass-ceiling. The advantage continues to rest with dynasties which has well-established cliques within parties.

And how do these cliques form? To start with, a guy develops his coterie, cultivates a constituency of voters (vote-bank, on caste, religious lines) studiously and then a plethora of lobbyists, contractors, power brokers, businessmen, party workers, volunteers, fundraisers mushroom around. They develop a well-oiled machinery based on mutual interest whether in power or not. Now the guy suddenly passes away and the whole gang needs a placeholder who can promise continuity. So it would be either the dead guy's son/daughter/son-in-law/daughter-in-law or his wife. The problem here, is not just about nepotism, or dynastic politics, it’s more about the system that mastered electoral politics with corruption, casteism, religious fundamentalism etc. I think this is the crux of all father-son/daughter/wife inheritance ideas, at least in politics.

Suppose if we establish a system, for argument sake, where things like sanctioning petrol pumps, big buck infra projects, or even municipal contracts are not won by some businessman just because he is being recommended for by someone in power and if in fact such exercises are carried on due diligence and utmost transparency, unbiased rules and regulations we can be sure these politicians would not be able to form coteries because they would not be inciting enough. After all, why would any party worker threaten immolation or suicide for some leader’s benefit (like for an MLA ticket or ministry or chiefministership) if that leader cant even get this party worker a quick gas connection or make him a beneficiary of government’s free housing project?

In this idealistic, transparent and non-corrupt system, candidates for elections and after would be forced to discuss their policies, views in healthy debates rather than take the victory, position for granted just because they have the permanent support base they built based on corruption and caste equations.

Hence I think dynastic politics is not an issue in itself but the greater issues are weak political institutions, corruption, lack of good non-political leadership in civil society. Dynastic politics are but a byproduct of these. Let’s not forget the yuvrajs always win an election to come into assemblies/parliament. How easily they get in and what makes them win is the issue, not just the fact that they won.

In the context of the previous post too, I see the central issue as that of lack of inner-party democracy in state congress (that is how YSR got tickets for his own followers all across the state who are now hell-bent to award YSR Jr with chiefministership), corruption (its all too obvious in government spending), rather the institutionalization of corruption. The point of discussion of course is Jagan and chiefministership but Jagan's camp would make do with, say, KVP Ramachandra Rao as CM, if, for argument sake, the 'High command' agrees. As this would serve the purpose of 'continuity' and all the many loyalists would be able continue to mint their money, all this protest abt Jagan be made CM will die down, with Jagan himself being okay. Manmohan for Sonia, maybe KVP for Jagan!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

YS Jaganmohan Reddy: Michael Corleone, desi style!

There would always be resistance to change. The more radical the change, the more the resistance would be in a society, from the beneficiaries of the existing set-up

- Julius Caesar

While the incessant Jagan Bhajan is almost making me (like most others) believe that YSR was sort of a Mahatma, the campaign through media is getting shriller by the day. We are now told about surveys where 3/4 of the surveyed are said to be dying to see YSR Jr as the new CM, literally. Countless morons threatened self-immolation If YS Jagan is not throned. Among them, I find even an MLA Dr. T. Rajaiah from my own district Warangal. I just wondered why this educated MLA doesn't show an iota of that loyalty to the electorate who elected him in the first place. That is the catch. Why do we see this mass frenzy for someone who was out of public eye and whose businesses no one in the general public is completely sure about. While the mass surge in emotion and sympathy could be explained partly by the unbelievably violent accident that claimed YSR's life, what should beat an outside observer is this unchallenged raucous campaign by YS Jagan camp. After all, Congress is always known as the faction-ridden, ill-disciplined outfit where every chance for CM gaddi is contested for by at least a dozen wannabes. Then why is that we don't see a single aspirant apart from YS Jagan? Why is the 'High-command' tolerant of this open revolt? The answer lies in the persona of YSR and his junior, and the legacy YSR left.

When a weak central leadership outsourced the state congress affairs to YSR, he grabbed the opportunity, gave his all, forged alliances and came to power in 2004. From his background from Rayalaseema badlands, he bought his own feudal morality into governance. He cleverly focused on populist programs for poor to consolidate his vote bank while benefiting his loyalists in every government program directly and indirectly. Strongmen started operating for tenders, real estate settlements etc and rule of law, regulations were thrown to the wind even in the capital like Hyderabad. His loyalists were given a sense of ownership as they were handed over certain geographical areas in districts. They were asked to deliver election results in those areas in exchange to unbridled freedom over administrative machinery and government program implementation - thousands of crores of projects in irrigation, infrastructure, power etc. YSR successfully experimented with this setup in the by-polls last year and achieved very good results, reducing the erstwhile ally TRS to a pygmy. YSR then successfully lobbied with Ms.Gandhi and got a free hand in the selection of candidates for the assembly polls. With all bounty he was obviously contributing and the results he showed in by-polls, he was indeed handed the whole stock. He handpicked all guys for assembly elections and no wonder, for all the rewards they got, his loyalists bought in a thumping victory for YSR this year. This well-oiled machinery is now the backbone of Congress in the state and YSR was the unchallenged leader in the state, till the flight did him in. Now when this whole system and its beneficiaries (MLAs, MPs, Party workers) are in danger of loosing favour with a new CM, they naturally are orchestrating a loud campaign in the media. Too much is at stake and and they wont let their years of 'hard-work' all just go. So, they thunder 'Jagan is the only leader who can fulfill YSR's vision'. And with all that we see, YS Jagan is all for this continuity and 'vision'. If the 'high-command' succumbs to the masses, it is to be seen if YS Jagan would react to the obvious corruption allegations with the same disdain and contempt his father did. Is Bangalore-based YS Jagan capable of the same feudal mindset and indifference to democratic ethos his father has demonstrated? Or would he be attacked, forced to debate and made to look a sorry figure by the opposition and pro-TDP media over his various businesses - thousands of crores worth power, mining, infrastructure and media enterprises? We have to wait and see. Meanwhile, media has been bombarding us with the visuals of YS Jagan tirelessly receiving unending stream of visitors supposedly conveying their sympathy and support in his moment of grief. However, it looks the other way round when we get to look at the pictures. Jagan unfailingly welcomes the wailing or grief stricken loyalist closer, holds his/her hands and then cups their cheeks, looks straight into their eyes and reassures them with some words. The scene reminds me of the physical contact involved in the Godfather series where in general, the Godfather is kissed on his finger ring by all loyalists who visit him. And in one particularly moving scene, Michael Corleone embraces and then kisses his elder brother Fredo on his lips. These are men of intensity and strong will and its natural, i guess, for them to get physical. They are natural leaders. I remembered the scene mainly because the context is similar. While Don Vito Corleone operated with the mobs, YSR operated in the mobocracy. Both were ruthless and were men of their word while in bargain they got unwavering loyalty. While the Don had Tom Hagen as his consigliere, YSR had an equally dear KVP Ramachandra Rao, whom he referred to as his soulmate. When the Don gets killed, destiny forces the young Michael to take over. Jagan faces a similar destiny now and is forced to take over, CM or not, and keep the flock together.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

JOSH: Naga Chaitanya survives while Dil Raju falters

Josh, apart from being a debut of the charismatic Naga Chaitanya could also be a sort of first to Dil Raju, his first failure. Now, this is puzzling considering that Raju not just had no flop earlier but because scripts, which is his strength in all his earlier productions, is a non-starter here. So much so that I wonder how could this script make him take up this production in the first place. But I will return to more of this later. Good things first.

This movie could be watched if you are curious about Nava Yuva Samrat. Naga Chaitanya has a fantastic screen presence. He seems to love this movie game and is very much at ease. His chocolate boy looks and boyish charm are a huge plus. He seems to be at ease in action scenes than in dance movements. He is no match to the dancing young guns like NTR Jr, Charan or Allu Arjun. This movie didn't provide him much scope to act anyway and that's where this movie fails miserably - that this is neither big bang commercial fare that showcased the new hero's talent like Chirutha did for Charan nor is this any thoughtful fare that showed his histrionic abilities. And of course this is miles away from being a director's/scriptwriters fare where every character moves around the script. Not a decent launch for someone with his kind of background. Chaitanya though gives us a glimpse of what he can do in an action movie in those very few action scenes here. He is so good that I just wished he got launched by VV Vinayak! With his looks, he may do wonderfully well in romantic themes too. His boyish charm and his ease with action is a terrific mix for telugu masala fare. The akkineni successor has truely arrived.

The vivacious Kartika performs well within the limited scope she has. The music and the background score is average. Technical work didn't elevate anything in the movie as it seems to have placed all bets on the story and screenplay, which incidentally didn't deliver. Characterizations are disappointing.

Dil Raju could have started honestly with an idea, like those which formed the backbone for his erstwhile blockbusters Arya, Bommarillu and Kotha Bangaaru Lokam. He surely has an eye for talented aspiring filmmakers who develop these ideas, weave in emotions and lots of details for characters, throw in some fantastic, hummable music and deliver an entertaining fare in the end. But this idea here, that of misdirected youth and parental pressures on education didn't really take off. In the end, it fails to impact and may actually make the audience wonder what the real point is! The entertainment is not great either and the movie is boring at times. While the movie takes enough precautions not to be preachy, clarity becomes the casualty and the whole point isn't conveyed properly in the end. Dil Raju must have thought of delivering more effective fare with this same idea but as it happens sometimes,it simply didn't work out. Though, in the end, I hope Dil Raju isn't getting formulaic in his own way - of making sugar-coated message movies. As he says often, let just the script rule. Let Dil Raju remind himself of what he made Chaitanya's character say in the movie - " Messagelu ivvadam naaku alavaatu ledhu, neeku ala anipisthe,..ok,.. naake problem ledhu".

Thursday, September 03, 2009

YS Rajashekhar Reddy: The Kadapa strongman departs

I am yet to digest the tragic and shocking death of Dr. YS Rajashekhar Reddy. It is yet to sink in that the most powerful mass leader Andhra Pradesh has ever had since NTR just disappeared into thin air. After dominating literally each day politically in AP for the last five years, he abruptly left the political scene and this world in Wednesday's stormy morning. He is by far, the most powerful chief minister in the country, who at his zenith of political career, has been emasculated by destiny. It is an irony that good monsoons, which were so critical in his first stint success as CM, are now a cause of the deadly accident in the Nallamalla forests - a place where his governments forces determinedly and quite ruthlessly put down the Naxalites, another great success he has had as CM.

Any thought of him would invariably bring in images of a tall, smiling, relaxed and charismatic man with his trademark nonchalant gait dressed in white in the traditional panchakattu, in khadi kurta and dhoti. He has an aura about him for the courageous, surefooted leadership he displayed.

Many may differ with his policies but not many could dispute the fact that he is the only strongest leader, apart from NTR, the state has had in decades. A second term for him in this year's election has buttressed the point. Only a dynamic leader like YSR could have led a faction-ridden Congress to victory in that election. That too, against the grand alliance - the united front that has been put up by TDP, TRS and the communists. With his Congress party's victory, he almost forced TRS off the scene and its leader into premature retirement. TDP is still reeling in the aftershocks of the defeat. The communists have their nose cut for all their claims about being the representatives of the downtrodden. They, on the contrary, clearly backed YSR and are the prime contributors in YSR's stunning election victory, thanks to his government programs specially benefiting the poor.

This is the high-point of YSR's career. He bought masses into focus, on to the election plank when much of strategising in elections revolved around arithmetic of caste, region and religion. Similarly, he let the masses occupy the centre stage in his government policy-making while much of governance elsewhere (and even in erstwhile Naidu's Government) revolved around exploring for areas of revenue generation. The result is that his government came up with policies which touched millions of lives in the state elevating him as an undisputed mass leader. YSR went out of his way to design populist programs for the poor. Having grown up as a leader from grassroots in the backward Rayalaseema region, he must be aware of the daily tribulations of the poor and he duly tapped into them to build his political constituency. Right from his padayatra in 2003, when he undertook the 64-day padayatra - a 1500 km walkathon across villages, hamlets, he has been continually harping on populist policies to benefit the poor like irrigation, pensions, healthcare and small loans to women. While these massive schemes obviously increased the budget deficit and an resulted in accelerated sale of lucrative government land, especially Hyderabad, it didn't matter to YSR as it only increased his hold on power and consolidated his vote bank.

Little after the election result of 2009, YSR starting talking about planning to win the 2014 election in his usually energetic and belligerent style. Nothing could despair the opposition as much as this does and rightly so they looked down in the dumps. After all, YSR's first term has been a nightmare for the TDP loyalists. The Congress was never as assertive or strong as it was under Dr. Reddy when it came to power after 10 long years in 2004. All the pent up animosities burst out and initially, in 2004 many TDP cadre in faction-ridden Rayalaseema were hacked to death. Soon after that, a systematic campaign is unleashed to propagate for congress and the Government in the media. YSR's son Jaganmohan Reddy founded the Saakshi mediahouse - a TV channel and a Telugu newspaper to counter the very influential peo-TDP's EENADU group. The sheer gumption in this act showed YSR is here for a long haul unlike any of his Congress predecessors. He singlemindedly took on the opposition using counterattack as a weapon for any allegation his government faced. He successfully steamrolled opposition within the party and without with brute force. He sent a contingent of 33 MPs from the state in the last election and yet the state has accepted just 1 MP, that too, a for a very senior Jaipal Reddy, without a whimper. YSR is accommodative and he provided the much needed arm-space for congress at the centre in allotting ministries especially when allies like DMK are too demanding. Such is YSR's hold on the party. If he is okay, everything would be okay in this state. It is YSR's success that allowed the Congress at the centre not dependent on Laloos and Mulayams. Manmohan Singh, obviously, is very thankful to him. YSR, while deifying the Gandhis defied everyone else. It is his loyalty towards the Gandhis and the credibility he built in a career without an election defeat that made him a star in an otherwise sycophants-ridden Congress. Sonia Gandhi has now quite some worrying to do.

Now with his death, at the state level, in the absence of a strong leader to hold the party together, Congress could return to the good old days of factionalism. The YS loyalists would accept only one of them as the CM now but unfortunately none among them has the stature to serve as CM, let alone filling the void. YSR's son YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who is presently an MP, could take over as CM if the pressure from the loyalists prevails. This could of course put Congress in very tricky position as Jagan has variety of business interests, tainted with scandals of nepotism. YSR's friendship with KVP Ramachandra Rao, the Rajyasabha MP, is exemplary so much so that they can both serve as poster boys for Friendship day. He may, in some compromise formula, be given a key role now. However, none of this could even at the least fill the void left by the gumption of the enterprising Kadapa strongman. The evidence would be all over to see in the coming days when the new CM (whoever it would be) would sell himself as a placeholder for YSR rather than trying to fill YSR's shoes. It is hard not to deify Dr. YS Rajashekhar Reddy now.
YSR, the person is much more interesting than YSR, the astute politician. On his personal front, YSR seems to be shaped by the old-world values of loyalty and compassion. So even as he is seen ruthlessly bulldozing his political opponents into submission, he was unfailing in rewarding his loyalists. He proved that he is a man of his word in his 3 decade political career and so he won the trust of many leaders who stood by him through the thick and thin for all the benefits he will shower them with if they accomplish the assigned tasks. So its no surprise that allegations of mass-scale corruption were made against his loyalists. By the lack of action against them, we understood they are given a 'free-hand' by YSR himself. That is enticement enough for even leaders in opposition to switch sides into YSR's party (Its a one-man show in AP congress, so many called in that). After all, big rewards await them for any job well done. And the opposition anyway looks to be in no shape to win a election against YSR in the next 100 years! So there was quite some party hopping into Congress in recent times.

YSR carried an air of defiance, a rough-and-ready attitude that he inherited from his native faction-ridden Rayalaseema. Early on, in the 90's and till 2002, his language, demeanor and body language hinted ample anger and churlishness. The fact that he transformed into a smooth-talking, cool guy, while remaining forthright, with an almost persistent smile speaks much about his learning curve and self-control. Occasionally, though, he would let his rough side slip out, like in the assembly session that concluded last week. YSR seemed to be someone extremely proud about being himself, a strong and protective strongman. There was this instance when a section of media reported that he had a backache and was taking rest. There was an immediate response from his office. YSR scoffed at such suggestions and released his daily routine of Yoga and exercise and told how he never ever fell ill. He must be the only one politician who dosen't like free sympathy. Self-pity is not his cup of tea, not even as a farce to draw public sympathy. He instead seemed to revel in the joy of being a giver, to the poor and his loyalists. Not infrequently did he claim that he has been paying taxes ever since he was in his chaddi. He liked the good things of life and reserved his Birthdays and Christmas for foreign holidays.

He liked being directly in touch with grassroots volunteers. He is said to remember names of hundreds of local leaders from the districts and would be in touch with them to get a feel of the pulse of the people. He never acted elite and that helped building his image as 'people's man'. A man from the hinterlands, he is a do-it-yourself kind of man. It was quite common to see him adjusting the mike for himself when he gets up to speak in meetings and campaigns. He would shoo away anyone who offer to help him. In fact, even in a public meeting before this year's election attended by Sonia Gandhi, he himself went ahead and fixed the mike for her when she went up to speak. Likewise, he took full ownership for all party and government affairs and said as much. That he will own any defeat or victory the party gets in the elections. It is this kind of affirmative leadership that left no space for rivals within the party for years.

YSR's penchance to be engaged with the public made him tour out of Hyderabad in rural AP for 20 days every month. It is his grassroots level engagements that kept him confident and defiant and go against the grain before the elections and emerge triumphant. He claimed all through before this year's election that he would return victorious. Almost everyone, even within his party, didn't believe him. When his predictions came true, it was a miracle and he was hailed as a sort of superman. When the search and rescue operations started yesterday, almost everyone were expecting a similar miracle, a superhuman effort. Somehow, the very lucky, blessed CM is expected to be back. With all the elaborate well-oiled political and administrative machinery that he set up in here, how could he just disappear? That was the common thread of thought. Unfortunately it is his trademark defiance and nonchalance (towards the weather conditions), that would have costed his life. It was in dead heat, in undertook the padayatra in 2003. He is not the type who would wait till the pouring stops to step out. He is a rough guy who knew not any fear and this could have been one of those routine flights for him in a little adverse weather. But someone must have suggested the terrain was treacherous, the monsoons were in too foul a mood for a flight. I just wish he heeded, for once.