After a nearly 24-hour search that involved sophisticated aircraft,
satellites, commandos and even spear-toting tribal villagers, the
wreckage of a helicopter carrying an influential Indian politician was
spotted on the slope of a jungle hill. The death of the well-respected
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy is a blow for India's
governing Congress Party.
National flags across India
will be flown at half-staff Friday to mourn the death of the chief
minister of the key southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
funeral of Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy will be attended by Congress Party
boss, Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Standing beside
each other in New Delhi the two called the chief minister an
outstanding leader for the 75 million people of his state, as well as
"For us it is a huge loss. It is a loss for the
party. It is a loss for all of us, his colleagues, for the state of
Andhra Pradesh and for the country," said Gandhi.
"He devised a
large number of programs for the benefit of farmers, for the benefit of
downtrodden people, for health care, for self-help groups of women,"
Those programs include free electrical power for farms and supplying bottled mineral water to villages.
Hundreds of distraught supporters prayed and wept in front of his residence in Hyderabad when confirmation came of his death.
- a devout Christian in a Hindu-majority country - turned from medicine
to politics in his home state and became one of the most influential
leaders in the Congress Party. In his state, he was noted for
traveling to the most remote regions of Andhra Pradesh to understand
the living conditions of his poorest constituents.
minister's body was found by the Indian Air Force at the site where his
helicopter crashed Wednesday. Army commandos dropped from a helicopter
examined the mangled and burnt wreckage on the slope of a
heavily-forested hill, in an area infested with Maoist rebels.
Bell 430 helicopter disappeared while flying through a heavy rain
storm, en route to an unannounced inspection of a local district.
Just before lifting off from Hyderabad, the chief minister spoke to reporters.
said he wanted to make surprise inspections to check the effectiveness
of such policies as drought alleviation and unemployment.
Ambassador Timothy Roemer, issued a statement offering his condolences
and hailing the chief minister "as a strong supporter of U.S.-India
Opposition parties had accused his family of
amassing wealth illegally, but that did not prevent voters from
returning him to power this year. The chief minister was considered
the major force in delivering his state to the Congress Party, in the
last two national elections. He had never had an election defeat.