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During mid-summer of 2003, he led a 1400 km long paadayaatra (journey on foot), covering some of the backward areas in the state to understand the ground realities and living conditions of the people there. As a novice in the legislature, Reddy rallied all the Congress MLAs from the Rayalaseema region and led an indefinite hunger strike demanding solution to the water crisis. He also led a paadayaatra from Lepakshito Pothireddipadu in Kurnool district.

DR. Y.S.RAJASEKHARA REDDY’S PRAJAPRASTHANAM PAADAYAATRA

Every great achievement was once considered impossible. It was not different in the case of

Dr.YSRajasekhara Reddy’s prajaprasthanam padayatra. When Dr.YSR, the then Leader of the Opposition in the Andhrapradesh Assembly -presently the Chief Minister of the State – planned to take up a padayatra in the hot summer of 2003, the friends and the foes alike tried their best to dispirit him. But it is very hard to argue with someone when he is right. It is said that the greatest challenge of life is to decide what’s important and to disregard everything else. And, that’s how none could stop Dr.YSR from creating history.Even the simplest of tasks will be rated great when it is done in the right spirit. And, what about a great task did in the proper spirit? Just refer to the annals of the contemporary Andhra politics, where you find this “Empathy tour” which provided that most needed “pint of confidence” to the drought hit farming community of the State as a glorious chapter. Stretching to an extent of about 1500 K.M, from Chevella in the South Telangana to the Itchapuram in the North Andhra, this prajaprasthanam padayatra went on for 64 days. A detailed version of Dr.YSR’s personal diary appearing as a serial in ANDHRAJYOTHI daily alone speaks about the reception the padayatra enjoyed among the masses.

Every means of communication – the electronic and the print media alike – prominently placed “stories” covering almost every inch covered in the padayatra. Above all, every section of the society found it relevant and flooded Dr.YSR’s padayatra with requests, requisitions, petitions and complaints. Everyone, inclusive of Dr.YSR, was worrying whether the “public” was aware of the fact that he was then just a leader of the Opposition and not the ruler proper. Yet, the whole thing went on all along. Eventually, these requests, requisitions, petitions and complaints formed as a firm data base for Dr.YSR, the chief Minister to efficiently act upon.

Let’s back-focus on the prajaprasthanam padayatra to find out what was THE reason behind this padayatra to be marked as a glorious chapter in the annals of Andhra. To state the fact, Dr.YSR was not the only politician or the first one who took up a padayatra to highlight a particular problem that was plaguing a large number of people in a particular place at a particular juncture. Padayatra were of course a part of Gandhian tradition to reflect and resound the anger of the people to reach the deaf ears of the unkind rulers. Many great soldiers of the Freedom Struggle did resort to this practice and could successfully attract the attention of the State. A parallel can be drawn between prajaprasthanam padayatra and the Raithu rakshana yatra that went along the Coastal line of our State, – from Itchapuram to Tada – under the leadership of a great Gandhian of histimes, Late Shree Kommareddy Satyanarayana in the third decade of the last century.

But, prajaprasthanam padayatra was entirely unique on many counts. Prajaprasthanam never had any specific agenda – an open or hidden – for that matter. As Dr.YSR, the then Opposition Leader on the floor of the Legislative Assembly was not allowed to raise his voice in favour of the suffering farmers of the State, who were resorting to the cynical suicides enmasse, he had no other go but to reach the masses face-to-face. YSR knows too well that, silent company is often more healing than empty words of advice. He didn’t go there seeking a vote or begging for party funds. Instead, Dr.YSR went to every nook and corner of the State relaying the message of Empathy for the struggling sections of our State. This makes it uncomparable to any of the padayatra whatsoever. The farmers and the artisans of our State were given a raw deal by the then Government. A drought for four consecutive years has eaten away the self confidence of the people. And the endurance levels in the rural areas have gone to the rock bottom. What they needed most at that juncture was a kind word, a note of solace and an utterance of moral succor. Those were the very things Dr.YSR could provide to the farmers, artisans and other sections of the rural poor folk of our State. And, for this timely gesture the History remembers him forever! There is yet another factor – a personal one – that made the prajaprasthanam padayatra, historic. During the padayatra Dr.YSR fell seriously ill at Madhurapudi, a village close to Rajahmundry. He was terribly bitten by the hot waves of Godavari District – sending the Mercury levels up to 44 Degrees C – and was forced to be bed ridden for about a week. Apart from the large numbers of masses that were eye witness to his suffering, every notable head in the state was worried and concerned about the state of his health. A number of leaders from all the streams of politics flew down to Madhurapudi where Dr.YSR was being treated by a team of Doctors. But none – not even the red hot summer Sun-could scare the strong willed YSR in pursuing his further course. He walked down the North Coast to reach Itchapuram where he concluded the epoch making prajaprasthanam padayatra. A person’s degree of self confidence greatly determines his success, observed a wizard. After all, one cannot grow into a Hero without taking a risk, people say.