Dr Kodela Siva Prasada Rao was known for his attacks against his political rivals.

 

HYDERABAD: The suicide case of Dr Kodela Siva Prasada Rao, 72, a senior politician who held positions like Home Minister for over a decade and former Speaker of Andhra Pradesh Assembly, at his Jubilee Hills residence in Hyderabad on 16 September, has become a political controversy with the Opposition Telugu Desam Party  and the ruling YSR Congress blaming each other for his tragic death.

TDP president and former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu called on Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan in Vijayawada on Thursday and demanded a CBI probe into Kodela Siva Prasada Rao’s “forced suicide”. Naidu squarely blamed Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy for pushing Kodela to suicide by slapping around 60 criminal cases and causing “immense mental agony”.

However, senior ministers from Jagan’s Cabinet accused Naidu of indirectly causing “mental agony” and “torture” to Kodela and making him isolated within the party. Andhra Municipal Administration Minister Botsa Satyanarayana alleged that after Naidu had politically disowned Kodela, the latter had tried to join the Bharatiya Janata Party and felt let down within the TDP.

As Kodela had died in Hyderabad, the Telangana police has formed a special investigation team (SIT) led by an ACP Srinivas. YSR Congress said that SIT’s report was enough to nail down the actual culprits behind the suicide, but the TDP leaders insist on a CBI probe to unearth the circumstances which prompted the former Speaker to commit suicide and book cases against those who had abetted the crime.

This suicide has sent shock waves across the political class in India as this is the first time, a seasoned politician, who held ministerial positions like home, Panchayat Raj and major irrigation and the Assembly Speaker and also a medical doctor, ended his life at the age of 72. Kodela studied MBBS from Guntur medial college and obtained MS Surgery from Benaras Hindu University.

Popularly known as “Palnati Puli” (Tiger of Palnadu), Kodela was always known as a braveheart who dealt with his political opponents in strong-arm methods. He rode like a colossus in Andhra politics for close to four decades and reigned supreme in his native Guntur district, particularly the faction-ridden backward Palnadu region.

Kodela was known for his daring attacks against his political rivals and was once involved in a case of bomb explosion which claimed 11 lives at his residence in 1999. However, he emerged unscathed after a court acquitted him of all charges. The Palnadu region is notorious for faction fights between two dominant castes—Reddys and Kammas. He was the first Speaker of Andhra Assembly from 2014 to 2019.

A five-time MLA from 1983, he joined politics on the call of late NTR after he founded TDP and was elected to the Assembly from Narasaraopet constituency for five times. He was elected as MLA to the AP for the sixth time from Sattenepalli constituency in 2014 and became the Speaker of Legislative Assembly. He hosted the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians conference in Amaravati three years ago.

His troubles began after he lost the Assembly elections in April from Sattenapalli constituency to his rival YSR Congress’ Ambati Rambabu four months ago. Kodela not only suffered a violent attack at a booth on the polling day of 7 April, but was slapped with dozens of criminal cases by his so-called victims from Narsaraopet and Sattenapalli constituencies after YSR Congress came to power.

After Jagan came to power in May end, his government had set up a cell in the police department to dig out all past atrocities allegedly committed by Kodela and his family members. He has a son, Sivarama Krishna, and daughter, Vijaya Lakshmi, and they run a nursing home in Narsaraopet. Dozens of people, calling themselves victims of the former Speaker, had come forward and filed cases against him.

As if this was not enough, the AP Legislative Assembly secretariat found that some furniture purchased for its new building in Amaravati had gone missing and later traced it with Kodela.

A team of Assembly officials went to the residence and nursing home of Kodela and found that the furniture was kept there. The Assembly secretariat booked cases against him under IPC 409 and 411.

Though Kodela subsequently offered to return the furniture or pay its cost to the Assembly, the officials preferred to pursue the case against him. According to TDP leaders, these measures of vendetta by the Jagan government had deeply shocked Kodela who went into incommunicado for the last three weeks before he ended his life.

Naidu led a massive funeral procession rally from Guntur to Narsaraopet on Wednesday to mark its respects for Kodela and turned into an occasion to bash up the government and the ruling party. Kodela’s wife, son and daughter have turned down the offer of state funeral from the government as they said that it was the very government which had “killed” the former Speaker.

The controversy surrounding suicide is unlikely to die anytime soon as both TDP and YSR Congress are expected to come out with more facts and allegations in the coming days. YSR Congress is trying to expose how Kodela had been let down by the TDP, forcing him to try to join BJP in his last days. TDP is planning to make it a national issue.

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