Kodela Siva Prasada Rao: The doctor who became the undisputed leader of Guntur

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The tragic death of former Speaker Kodela Siva Prasada Rao on Monday has left a deep void in the political landscape in the State and plunged the Telugu Desam Party into a crisis.

He is survived by his wife and two children, Siva Ramakrishna and Poonati Vijayalakshmi.

Dr. Rao, better known as Kodela, rose from an humble background, served as a minister in the State Cabinet, and was the first Speaker of the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh till he was defeated in the last polls.

One of the most senior leaders of the party, Dr Rao had been an undisputed leader in Guntur district ever since he had made his electoral debut in the general elections in 1983. After storming to victory in the 1983 elections, Kodela won five successive elections till the year 2004, holding major portfolios like Home, Major Irrigation, Panchayat Raj and Health. Though he had lost two successive elections from Narsaraopet in 2009, 2014, Kodela shifted to Sattenapalli and won by a slender margin in 2014 and was elevated as the first Speaker of the reorganized state of Andhra Pradesh.

Born in agricultural family at Kandlakunta village near Narsaraopet on May 2, 1947, Dr. Rao completed his schooling at Narsaraopet and PUC from Andhra Loyola College, Vijayawada. He completed his MBBS from Guntur Medical College and later pursued M.S in Surgery from Varanasi. After completing his studies, he set up a hospital at Narsaraopet and soon gained popularity as a successful surgeon.

The big break came in the year 1982, after Dr. Rao plunged into melting cauldron of faction politics heeding to the call given by matinee idol turned politician, NT. Rama Rao. After locking horns in a fierce election battle, Kodela emerged victorious. He soon attained an iconic image after taking on the powerful Reddy leaders and was rewarded with the portfolio of Home Minister in 1985.

The gladiatorial contests between Dr. Rao and Kasu Krishna Reddy in successive elections were marred by violence and allegations of booth capturing, yet Dr. Rao won five successive elections. His residence at Kota (a fort which he converted into his residence) soon became the power centre in the district. Dr. Rao nurtured many young leaders, among them former minister Alapati Rajendra Prasad, Yerapathaneni Srinivasa Rao, Prathipati Pulla Rao and former ZP chairperson Pathuri Nagabhushunam.

His tenure was not without its share of controversies. The Congress accused him of playing a role in the murder of Vangaveeti Mohan Ranga. In the year 1999, a bomb blast in the residence of Dr. Rao killed four of his close aides. A CBI enquiry was ordered but Dr. Rao came out unscathed.

After tasting his first defeat in the year 2004, Dr. Rao continued to play an active role. He had even undertaken an indefinite fast in the year 2013 and in the elections held in 2014, shifted to Sattenapalli, where he had won against Ambati Rambabu by over 700 votes.

It was during his tenure as Speaker of AP Legislative Assembly, Dr. Rao courted many controversies. Allegations of harassment, interference and misuse of official machinery were levelled against his son and his daughter Vijayalakshmi. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, during his padayatra, accused the family of collecting ‘K’ tax from people, traders and businessmen.

In the elections held in April 2019, Dr. Rao lost by over 22,000 votes but on polling day, he was roughed up and manhandled by a group at a polling booth.

Dr. Rao was never the same again, and days after results were declared, police began registering cases against his son and daughter. He and his family faced the ignominy of being named in several cases of cheating but allegations of stealing furniture from Assembly, drove into him deep despair. A defiant Kodela would continue to counter the allegations, but then, he began to feel worried and depressed sharing his agony to his close friends.

Following a heated conversation he had with his family recently, Dr. Rao reportedly had an overdose of sleeping pills and was hospitalized. After recuperating, he shifted his residence to Hyderabad but according to sources, kept the family away.

On Monday afternoon, he reportedly committed suicide at his house. The tragic death had brought a sudden end to an eventful political journey.

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