YSR, as the 60-year-old Reddy was popularly known, helped the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance retain power at the Centre in May by winning 33 of 42 parliamentary seats from the state. He retained power in the state Assembly held at the same time.
Reddy had sought to boost economic growth in Andhra, which is home to many technology and outsourcing companies, including Microsoft Corp and Google Inc.
Reddy inherited a powerful business and economic momentum from his predecessor, Chandrababu Naidu. Under Naidu, Andhra embraced the new economy ahead of other states and Reddy took this forward. During his regime, credit rating agencies moved Andhra from Number 8 to Number 3 among Indian states.
Reddy was best known for the irrigation projects he started, but also for modernising some existing institutions. The new Hyderabad airport, a steel factory in Rayalaseema, a new port near Visakhapatnam, and the ring road around Hyderabad came up quickly.
The state's budget size for 2008-09 initially crossed Rs 1 lakh crore, but had to be reduced by Rs 15,000 crore because revenue collections missed targets and the government was unable to sell as much land as it had expected. But for 2009-10, the budget size crossed Rs 1,15,000 crore. With this, Andhra could become one of India's fastest growing states -- the jury is still out because of the cascading effect of the economic slowdown.
Reddy's two close aides and the pilot and co-pilot also died in the crash on the Rudrakonda hills. The bodies were found this morning after a massive 24-hour search operation.
Confirming this at a press conference, state finance minister K Rosaiah, who has been appointed caretaker chief minister, broke down in tears. The bodies were charred beyond recognition, he said. The chief minister is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son, who is a member of Parliament.
State chief secretary P Ramakanth Reddy said the chopper appeared to have hit a cliff and exploded. The pilot appeared to have deviated 18 km east from the regular flight path because of the inclement weather, he said.
Except for the tail portion, the body of the helicopter was in pieces. "We have identified the bodies from the clothes they were wearing," director general of police S S P Yadav said.
An autopsy was conducted on the decomposed bodies in a Kurnool hospital before they were brought to the state capital by a helicopter in the evening.
"We are in deep mourning," Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said in New Delhi, adding that it was too early to say why the aircraft crashed.
Reddy's body will be kept at the chief minister's residence tonight and shifted to Lal Bahadur stadium in the heart of Hyderabad tomorrow to let people pay homage. It will be flown to his native Pulivendula town on Friday afternoon for the last rites.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and several Union ministers are going to Hyderabad to pay homage. The state government has declared seven days of mourning.
Streets turned quiet and businesses closed voluntarily as a mark of respect to the departed leader.