Telangana Secretariat: Highest tricolour, largest lift irrigation project, biggest official home

The complex is spread over 7 lakh sq ft and constructed at a cost of around Rs 650 crore

Telangana Integrated Secretariat Complex
The new secretariat building, in line with Telangana’s tradition of constructing grandiose structures, boasts of 34 domes, with two being the most prominent, and spans a plinth area of approximately 10 lakh square feet

Telangana is set to unveil another colossal symbol of the state on Sunday, April 30. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao will inaugurate the Telangana Integrated Secretariat Complex, which is probably the largest in India. The ceremony will be marked by traditional rituals and Vedic chants.

The seven-storey structure, constructed on a built-up area of 7 lakh sq ft at a cost of around Rs 650 crore, is being seen as part of the ‘iconisation’ of KCR’s governance, marked by a series of mega events, including the unfurling of the highest tricolour, the world’s largest lift irrigation project, the largest official residence, the tallest BR Ambedkar statue, and the biggest memorial for Telangana martyrs.

A new beginning for Telangana?

Four years ago, when the idea of a mega secretariat complex to replace the old one constructed by Andhra rulers was proposed, the chief minister justified it by stating that Telangana, being the richest state, deserved an administrative building of grandeur befitting its wealth. His followers view these mega plans as a way of shaping Telangana’s identity and breaking away from the cultural domination of Andhras that lasted for almost six decades.

Telangana Integrated Secretariat Complex

Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956 after merging Andhra state and Hyderabad state. Opposition parties are concerned about the erasure of Andhra Pradesh’s cultural identity — the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) take pride in it — and KCR’s ever-increasing influence which has been expanding across the state.

Also read: New Telangana secretariat to open on April 30; has stunning architecture

On Sunday, KCR is scheduled to arrive at the secretariat at 1 pm. Special pujas will commence early in the morning, after which he will unveil the plaque at midday. He will then occupy the chair in his sixth-floor office, his lucky number, and formally commence the administration from the new building, which is being promoted as the ‘White House of Telangana’.

Many view the new secretariat complex as a new beginning for the state. KCR used to hate working from a secretariat building constructed by Andhras, which he claimed was not Vastu-perfect. As a result, his visits to the old secretariat became fewer and far between. In the meantime, a new official residence — Pragathi Bhavan — was constructed.

After this, he completely stopped visiting the secretariat. He began functioning most of the time from his fortress-like farmhouse in his Gajwel constituency, which earned him the moniker of ‘farm-house chief minister’. The new palatial secretariat, built as per his whims and fancies, would put an end to the ‘farmhouse rule’ of the chief minister, many hoped.

Telangana secretariat

The timing of Sunday’s inauguration of the building and KCR’s entry into the CM’s chamber is said to be based on astrology and numerology. During this time, his cabinet colleagues have been asked to refrain from accompanying him. The ministers will occupy their seats in their respective chambers between 1.58 pm and 2.04 pm.

Towards achieving social justice

The new edifice, in line with Telangana’s tradition of constructing grandiose structures, boasts of 34 domes, with two being the most prominent, and spans a plinth area of approximately 10 lakh square feet. Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) zealots compare it with the upcoming new Parliament building in New Delhi and gloat over how KCR outdid Prime Minister Narendra Modi in efficiently executing the prestigious project. They contend that work on both structures began nearly simultaneously, yet KCR inaugurated it in four years, while the inauguration of the new Parliament remains uncertain.

Telangana Integrated Secretariat Complex

The new secretariat building, named after Dr BR Ambedkar, is being touted as the embodiment of Telangana’s pride and identity. “No doubt it is the biggest secretariat building in the country. But it is more than that. It represents Telangana pride. It defines the future perspective of the state,” said BRS spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju.

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Stating that the building was designed by merging two great chapters of history, the Kakatiya and Deccan Muslim kingdoms, Prof Dasoju said the fusion of Kakatiya and Deccani architectural styles represent the ideal of the BRS government under the leadership of KCR.

“After the formation of the new state, the TRS government, led by CM KCR, has been focused on rebuilding Telangana with its core philosophy of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. The unveiling of the 125ft statue of Ambedkar and the new secretariat, named after the architect of the Indian Constitution, marks a new step towards achieving social justice. With Babasaheb’s statue looming over the secretariat building, no future government will dare to deviate from his teachings,” he said.

A symbol of betrayal of the Telangana movement?

There is also no dearth of people who see the grand projects undertaken by KCR’s government as a symbol of subversion and betrayal of the principles of the Telangana movement. Professor Karli Srinivasulu, a respected political scientist and senior fellow at ICSSR in New Delhi, believes that these mega structures represent a shift in cultural values since the TRS government came into power in 2014.

In Prof Karli Srinivasulu’s view, prior to 2014, the culture of Telangana was dominated by the people and symbols that represented their aspirations. However, after the formation of the TRS government, there has been a cultural shift towards symbols of political power such as the largest statue, tallest building, stately camp office, highest flag mast, etc.

Telangana Integrated Secretariat Complex

“On one hand, we eulogize Dr Ambedkar, who stands for the empowerment of the weaker sections by unveiling his tallest statue. But, in Telangana, all the institutions meant for the empowerment of the rural poor, particularly Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and backward classes, are being destroyed. The state universities, ZP high schools, and public libraries cater to these groups since middle-class youth migrate to urban areas. But all the state universities are struggling: they are ‘long dead and waiting to be buried’. We do need statues and structures to celebrate memories of great minds, but not at the expense of the empowerment of marginalized communities. So, the question remains: what are these mega structures truly meant for?” he asked.

Also read: KCR eyes non-BJP, non-Cong India; may be following Telangana model nationally

Similarly, Professor Adapa Satyanarayana, noted historian and author of many books on Telangana History, believes that all the mega structures built by the TRS government are symbols of sabotage and subversion of Telangana people’s aspirations. “What are the aspirations of the Telangana movement? The government has failed to realize the ideals of the movement, in which hundreds of people sacrificed their lives. From job creation to preventing atrocities against Dalits, the government has sabotaged the realization of the people’s dreams. To cover up all these failures, the government is resorting to propagandist tactics that serve the vested interests of the regime. All the massive structures are obfuscation,” Satyanarayana, former professor of Osmania University, said.

‘KCR’s misguided priority’

Dr Mallu Ravi, a senior Congress leader and former MP, expressed his concern that the new secretariat building, as it has been designed and projected, could have an intimidating effect on people due to its inaccessibility. According to Dr Mallu, the building where you sit doesn’t matter if the CM is committed to the well-being of the poor.

 “One should not forget that YS Rajasekhar Reddy launched all path-breaking programmes such as Free Power to farmers,  Aarogyasri, Farmers’ loan waiver, fee-reimbursement for students, etc., from the same building, which KCR considers inauspicious. Now, after the inauguration of the new secretariat, can KCR assure that all his assurances such as three acres of land for Dalit families, one job for each family, unemployed allowance for youth, Rs 1 lakh loan waiver, 2 BHK houses for all poor?” Dr Mallu said, adding that the massive ‘seat of power’ had revealed KCR’s misguided priority.

Reacting in his typical style, BJP state president Bandi Sanjay expressed disgust over the way the building is promoted as a symbol of Telangana culture. “It is misleading to say the Integrated Secretariat Complex represents Telangana people’s culture. The dome is a symbol of the oppressive memory of Muslim rule in Telangana. We will demolish the domes of the new secretariat once BJP forms the government. We will change the design of the building to suit the real Telangana culture,” he said.