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Latest update : 2009-09-03

Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the powerful chief minister of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, died in a helicopter crash Thursday. An influential power broker and modernising leader, Reddy had formidable mass appeal.

AFP - A senior Indian politician who was a powerbroker for the ruling party and a modernising leader of his native state died in a helicopter crash, officials said Thursday.
Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the chief minister of southeastern Andhra Pradesh state, was killed along with four other men as he flew to villages to inspect drought-relief schemes.
Congress party spokeswoman Jayanthi Natarajan confirmed Reddy's death and told AFP that "the Indian people and the Congress party have lost a great leader."
The bodies of Reddy, his secretary, a security official, and two pilots were found in dense mountain forests more than 24 hours after the helicopter went missing.
Air force search planes found the mangled wreckage soon after dawn and commandos were lowered to the scene to identify the victims, a senior military official said.
Reddy, 60, was an influential player in Indian politics and had pursued tie-ups with international investors that helped to turn Andhra Pradesh into a booming centre for computer software and outsourcing industries.
He was also a strong advocate of social welfare schemes and retained widespread popular support among the rural poor.
"Preliminary investigations reveal the crash was an accident caused due to bad weather conditions," S.S. Yadav, director-general of the Andhra Pradesh police, told AFP.
With India's vast geographical size and often dispersed rural populations, many politicians rely on helicopters for their daily travel arrangements.
The area where the crash occurred is a stronghold for Maoist rebels fighting against the state government's rule, but authorities ruled out any rebel attack had brought down the helicopter.
Reddy, who was elected chief minister in 2004, was visiting villages hit by drought during the current weak monsoon season.
"I want to check all the problems like drought and unemployment, and check if all policies have been implemented," he told reporters on Wednesday before leaving on his helicopter tour.
After the aircraft went missing on Wednesday morning, a massive land-and-air search operation was launched.
The wreckage was found at the top of a hill 74 kilometres (46 miles) from Kurnool.
"We are in deep mourning, grief, shock and loss," Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi. "His body has been found in a charred condition."
Thousands of Reddy's supporters and colleagues gathered at his official residence in the state capital Hyderabad to mourn his death, with many women wailing in grief.
"I have not been able to sleep since the chief minister went missing. Now I have lost my hero," local man R. Ramalingan said.
Reddy is survived by his wife and two children.

Date created : 2009-09-03