New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) The death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash was "a huge loss" for the Congress, a deeply moved party president Sonia Gandhi said Thursday.
Sorrow writ large on her face, Gandhi told reporters before flying to Hyderabad that she had told her party colleagues that his death "is a huge loss for the party, it is a loss for all of us, his colleagues, for the state of Andhra Pradesh and the country".
She said she had been hoping that YSR, as the chief minister was known, would somehow have survived after it became known that the Bell 430 helicopter had gone down in a forest range in Kurnool district while flying from Hyderabad to Chittoor Wednesday morning.
"But sadly, this morning, around 8.20, we got the terrible news that he was no more," she said.
She described YSR, 60, as "a man of vision, dynamism" and said he was "a very hard working person".
"Throughout his chief ministership, both last time and now, he worked hard for the upliftment of every section of the society, for farmers and the poorest sections of the society. Not only us, everyone, all the people of Andhra, will remember his contribution to the state."
The Congress president said before this year's Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, he took part in meetings with her and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss election strategy.
"Naturally, some of us were concerned," she said, adding that YSR told her and the prime minister: "You trust me. I know the people of Andhra. I know that my colleagues and I have done tremendous work.
"He was right and we have no words to express our pain, our anguish.
"Our heart goes out to the members of his family, his children and grandchildren. We convey our condolences, our deep felt feelings of empathy and support to the Reddy family as well as to the families of those who travelled with him and did not come back."
She recalled that YSR had begun his political career with the state Youth Congress. "He then worked his way up." Later, he became the state party president in 1983.
Gandhi underlined that it was YSR's 'padayatra' of 2004 that brought the party back to power in Andhra Pradesh after 10 long years.