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Death shock kills 33

Hyderabad/Chennai, Sept. 3: Thirty-three supporters of Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, most of them poor farmers, died since they learnt about their leader’s death this morning.

Some committed suicide while others suffered cardiac arrests after confirmation that the Andhra Pradesh chief minister’s helicopter had crashed, killing him and the four others on board.

The casualties are among the highest reported after a popular leader’s demise or misfortune in the south, where such incidents are not unheard of.

In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, two dozen supporters of M.G. Ramachandran consumed poison or set themselves on fire after an illness left the charismatic leader fighting for his life in 1984.

The figure, the highest in Tamil Nadu so far, fell to 12 after he died three years later, possibly because the ailing leader’s death was expected.

Eight persons killed themselves after another popular leader, Andhra chief minister N.T. Rama Rao, was toppled by his finance minister N. Bhaskar Rao in 1984.

Today, the largest number of deaths — 11 — were reported from Reddy’s home district Kadapa — four of them from hometown Pulivendula alone. The rest were from Karimnagar, Mahboobnagar, Warangal, East Godavari, West Godavari and Srikakulam.

Some officials dubbed the casualties drought-driven suicides but failed to explain how so many could die in just 10 hours.

Sociologist Prabhakar Chowdhary said: “Common people adore leaders who launch populist plans. The fear among poor farmers over the fate of the free power and medicare, Reddy’s pet schemes, may have caused shock deaths or driven them to give up their lives.”

Reddy’s family appealed to people not to resort to such dire steps.

“My father worked for the poor and to prevent farmer suicides. Please don’t defeat his mission by committing suicide,” Reddy’s son Jaganmohan said.

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