Andhra Pradesh CM killed in helicopter crash
Thursday, 03 September 2009

Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, one of India's leading political kingmakers, was killed in a helicopter crash, an official said on Thursday, potentially weakening the ruling Congress party in Andhra Pradesh.

Reddy, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, helped engineer the Congress party-led coalition's victory in a general election in May. His state is home to many IT firms and outsourcing businesses, important elements of India's growing and globalising economy.

"We can confirm the death of the chief minister in a helicopter crash," a senior government official, who is not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters.

Reddy had been missing since his helicopter crashed in tiger-infested jungle hills on Wednesday.

Congress party spokesman Tom Vadakkan said rescuers found five bodies at the crash site.

Reddy's death could trigger a power struggle in the state and would also affect development in Andhra Pradesh, where Reddy was known for championing popular causes and for wooing investors, analysts said.

"He was one person who was keeping various groups together within the party and they will find it difficult to replace him and ultimately his absence could lead to a power struggle in the state," said political commentator Kuldip Nayar.

D.H. Pai Panandikar, head of economic think tank the RPG Foundation, said Reddy had been carrying out a lot of development work and his death was a setback to investment, politics and business.

Reddy was on a tour of a rural district when his Bell-430 helicopter went missing on Wednesday over a dense forest known to be a tiger habitat, as well as a stronghold of Maoist rebels.

It was not immediately known how the helicopter crashed but some officials said it had been caught in bad weather.

Officials launched a wide search after it went missing, deploying hundreds of police, soldiers and tribesmen from the area. Air force fighter jets were also deployed and a satellite took thermal imaging of the area.


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