In a dramatic twist after the death of former Andhra Pradesh Speaker Kodela Siva Prasada Rao, one of his close relatives accused the veteran TDP leader’s son of being responsible for the death. This comes in the midst of allegations by his party that Rao was tortured by the ruling YSR Congress that led him to depression.
A close relative of the TDP veteran, Kancheti Sai Babu, approached the police in Guntur’s Sattenappali and sought investigation into the case from “murder angle” while publicly accusing Rao’s son Kodela Sivaram, a businessman, of “torturing” his father over property issues. He also raised doubts as to why he rushed his father to a cancer hospital instead of other hospitals in the vicinity of his residence in Banjara Hills.
“A few days back, my uncle called me from his personal mobile number and told me that Sivaram was harassing him. Therefore, this case should not be investigated as a suicide case but as a murder case,” Babu said in his statement to the police while holding Sivaram responsible for Rao’s death.
Babu’s claim has deepened the mystery over the circumstances surrounding the death of the 72-year-old leader who was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his bedroom in Hyderabad on Monday (September 16). A surgeon-turned-politician, Rao was a six-time legislator in his four decades long political career. He had served as the first speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly after bifurcation in 2014.
Rao, an influential leader of in the Palnadu region, was with the TDP since its inception in 1982, and has properties in Guntur district and Hyderabad. However, the alleged family dispute was never in the public domain.
Meanwhile, preliminary autopsy report confirmed that the former minister has hanged himself.
Demand for CBI probe
Rao’s death comes in the wake of a political row over a case against him for allegedly “diverting” furniture worth ₹2 crore from the Assembly to his residence in Guntur when the capital was being shifted from Hyderabad to Amaravati. The case against him was registered by the YSR Congress party. Besides, his son Sivaram too was booked for allegedly cheating the Sales Tax Department.
According to Rao’s family members, the TDP leader was “extremely depressed” over the “false cases” foisted against him and his son.
TDP chief and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has even alleged torture by the ruling dispensation which he said led to Rao’s death. He has further demanded a CBI investigation into the case while claiming that the YSR Congress leaders were spreading rumours that Rao died because of harassment by his son.
“Kodela’s son Sivaram was abroad when the tragedy happened. If he was in Hyderabad at that time, the police would have arrested him on murder charges. That is the state of affairs in this regime,” Naidu said. Further pointing out that many of his party leaders have been charged with false cases, he said, “It is a murder by the government that harassed him physically, mentally and financially.”
“The government has been harassing Kodela and his family for the past three months. Several cases were foisted against them. Unable to bear the harassment and humiliation, he ultimately committed suicide,” the former chief minister alleged.
Politics over death
Responding to Naidu’s charges, the YSR Congress said that the former chief minister was trying to politicise a personal tragedy.
Stating that the government did not harass the former Speaker, State Municipal Administration Minister Botsa Satyanarayana said, “Some of the cases against Kodela and family members were filed based on complaints by the victims.”
On the case related to furniture ‘theft’, he pointed out that Rao himself had admitted that he had the furniture shifted to his camp office for its safe upkeep.
Meanwhile, the body of the deceased TDP leader was shifted to Guntur on Tuesday (September 17) and kept at the party office for people to pay their last respects. The funeral will be held at his native town in Narasaraopet on Wednesday.
Atmosphere of vendetta
The shocking suicide comes in the wake of a rising vindictive politics in the state. Ever since taking over the reins of the state following a landslide mandate in the April elections, the YSR Congress government has been going after the opposition leaders with vengeance and also reversing several key policy decisions of the previous TDP government.
A doctor by profession, Rao had joined the TDP when it was founded by the matinee idol of Telugu cinema NT Rama Rao in 1982. He graduated with a MBBS degree from Guntur Medical College and got completed MS (general surgery) from Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He represented Narasaraopet constituency in Guntur five times and Sattenapalle once during his 35 years long political career.
In the recent elections, he lost to YSR Congress’s Ambati Rambabu. Earlier, he has served as a minister in the cabinets of NT Rama Rao and Chandrababu Naidu and held key portfolios like Home, Health, Major Irrigation, Panchayati Raj and Civil Supplies, before being appointed as the first Speaker of the residual Andhra Pradesh after bifurcation in 2014.