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Not wearing seat belts while they are speeding from one place to another in their swanky SUVs has taken the lives of many political leaders in the state, while their drivers who often wear seat belts survive to tell the tale. The death of YSR Congress Party MLA B Shobha Nagi Reddy Thursday morning has sent shock waves across the state.
Shobha was deputy floor leader of YSRCP, and one of the most visible faces after Jagan Mohan Reddy in YSRCP. She was seeking re-election from Allagadda Assembly constituency in Kurnool district. Her death at 46, a mother of three, has cast a pall of gloom over campaigning, and left her supporters in her constituency inconsolable and heart-broken.
Over-speeding in their swanky SUVs to make up for lost time meeting and greeting people, and giving basic precautions like wearing seat belt the go by, have led to the death of several high profile politicians in Andhra Pradesh in recent times.
Top Telugu Desam leader K Yerran Naidu, TDP vice-president Lal Jan Bahsha, fire-brand BJP woman leader of Telangana, Vanam Jhansi Rani, former minister P Indra Reddy, all met a violent end on the highways. Popular actor Junior NTR, escaped with broken rips and concussion in March 2009 when his SUV collided head-on with another car while returning from campaigning for the TDP in Khammam district.
But Shobha could have survived if she were wearing a seat belt. As is the habit of most politicians, Shobha was sitting in the front passenger seat. Her two bodyguards were sitting in the back seat, they both survived although they too suffered head injuries. Her driver also escaped unharmed.
Cops who are investigating the accident, reconstructed the scene and said that to override the warning bell to wear seat belt in the high-end imported SUV, Shobha used to buckle the seat belt first and then sit over it. This stopped the warning well. During campaigns and road shows when she has to get down often from the slow-moving vehicle, this worked fine but it proved fatal when her driver was over-speeding on the Kadapa-Kurnool highway late last night in a hurry to reach her home in Allagadda.
Shobha was just a few kms away from reaching Allagadda, after campaigning in Nandayal, when the driver noticed a yellow patch on the otherwise flawless highway. Paddy was strewn on the road by a farmer to dry. It is a very common practice in many areas and it is considered a bad omen to step or drive over paddy, and the driver tried to apply brake and swerve to avoid it. Police said, tire marks indicate that the driver hit the brakes but the front right wheel went over stones that were put by the farmer to demarcate the paddy on the road.
The vehicle lost traction over the paddy, skidded, overturned and went into a roll that ended in a ditch on the highway side, almost 500 yards away. As the vehicle rolled, she was thrown out of the vehicle and fell on the side of the highway. “The driver and bodyguards say they had to search for her for several minutes after they extricated themselves out of the car wreck. They found her unconscious in a ditch and summoned an ambulance,’’ a source said.
Cops are wondering why the airbags did not deploy when the SUV overturned, and how she was thrown out of the vehicle when the door should have automatically locked.
In November 2009, senior TDP leader K Yerran Naidu, former MP from Srikakulam, died when his driver crashed the SUV into a fuel tanker taking a turn on the NH 5, just 15 kms away from Naidu’s home in Srikakulam town.
Yerran Naidu who was sitting in the front passenger seat was thrown into the windshield and suffered fatal head injuries. He was not wearing a seat belt. Naidu’s driver and four others in the car survived with injuries. On August 15 last year, TDP leader Lal Jan Basha died on the spot when the SUV he was traveling in hit a road divider near Narketpally in Nalgonda district early morning.
He was going to Guntur from Hyderabad. Basha was thrown out of the shattered windshield and hit his head on the road, killing him instantly. His driver who was wearing a seat belt survived. In February 2011, fire brand BJP Telangana leader Vanam Jhansi Rani died when her car crashed into another car on the Hyderabad-Srisailam highway. Jhansi was not wearing seat belt and suffered serious head and internal injuries and died in the ambulance while she was being rushed to Hyderabad.
Former Minister P Indra Reddy, whose wife Sabita Reddy went on to become AP’s first Home minister, died when his car crashed near Shamshabad in April 2000. Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy died when his chopper crashed in rough weather after he reportedly insisted on flying against pilot’s wishes as he was getting late for a mass contact programme at Chittor on September 2, 2009.