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The Rediff Election Special / A Ganesh Nadar in Hyderabad
Outside the gates of victory
May 12, 2004
The sweating crowd.
The nervous security.
The joyful celebrations.
The trappings were all there. And they were indicative of just one fact -- here lives a person who has trounced his opponent in the assembly election in Andhra Pradesh.
In this case, the opponent happened to be the Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party.
And the giantkiller was none other than Dr Yedugoori Sandinti Rajasekhar Reddy -- the man credited with the Congress victory; the politician who would go on to become the state's new chief minister.
Most vehicles were stopped at least a mile away from YSR's -- as Reddy is popularly known -- home in Banjara Hills, the city's plush quarter. One had to walk the rest of the way.
You were at an advantage though if you rode in an expensive car. The police allowed you to get closer. But, in the end, it was a concession that didn't help much; the road was packed with cars that had already made it to Hyderabad's most popular address of the moment.
This correspondent was here yesterday; the mood then was much more exuberant. Tuesday was a celebration of victory; today, everyone was paying tribute to its architect. So there were no laddoos being distributed, no crackers were being burst. No one was dancing to the tune of victory. Instead, people had come with flowers. Thousands thronged outside YSR's home, sweltering in the Andhra summer's baking heat, waiting patiently for his darshan. As they waited, they shook each other's hand. They hugged each other.
After getting as close to his house as I could, I leaned comfortably against a brand new Qualis to enact my role as patient observer.
I did not envy the police; they were having a difficult time trying to keep the gates to YSR's house closed. On the other side, the massive crowd was trying to push its way through to glimpse their leader.
A roar went up when YSR came out to meet his supporters. The police squeezed out a path for him through the screaming, sweating crowd.
YSR came near me and, before I knew what was happening, he was already standing on the bonnet of the Qualis. He looked tired, yet elated. Sleepless nights had etched dark circles under his eyes. Perspiration dripped down his tanned skin -- evidence of the 1,600-km padayatra he had undertaken before the election to bond with voters.
The crowd surged forward. I was crushed against the Qualis. A hand held my neck in a life-threatening grip and a man tried to pull himself closer. Someone knocked my spectacles off my nose. In a sense, I was lucky. The crush of bodies was so tight, my glasses had no chance of hitting the floor -- they nestled between my chest and my neighbour's bountiful belly.
A great deal of pushing and shoving later, I extricated myself from the frenzied deathgrip on my neck. Next, I saved my glasses from imminent extinction.
Everyone was making a grab for YSR's hand. I shook it too.
He has a warm grip.
By this time, YSR's security personnel had entered the act and begun shoving people away. I moved with the crowd's flow. Others took my place.
YSR seemed to be enjoying his moment of victory thoroughly as he accepted flowers from his admirers.
A few minutes later, he stepped down from his precarious perch and entered a car. A jeep full of policemen wailed before him. Another jeep full of policemen hugged his tail. As did a policemen-filled van.
Those who had arrived in cars rushed towards their vehicles and raced after YSR.
In 15 minutes, the street was empty. The theatre had shifted.
The new scene of action was the assembly where YSR would be elected leader of the Congress Legislature Party and the state's new chief minister.