After Battle For Chief Minister's Chair, War Over Furniture In Andhra

When it was in power, the YSR Congress had also made a similar accusation against a TDP leader and former speaker, which allegedly drive him to suicide.

After Battle For Chief Minister's Chair, War Over Furniture In Andhra

The TDP ended the YSR Congress' rule in the just-concluded elections, winning 135 of 175 seats.


The battle for the chief minister's chair may have ended in Andhra Pradesh, but a larger war over furniture is heating up.

Chandrababu Naidu's TDP ended five years of rule by the YSR Congress Party and its chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in the just-concluded elections - winning 135 of 175 seats - and has begun pulling out the alleged skeletons in its opponent's closet.

After alleging that Mr Reddy had built a Rs 500-crore "hilltop palace" in Visakhapatnam as a camp office, the TDP is now calling the former chief minister a 'furniture chor' (thief), claiming that he has held on to furnishings and fittings worth crores at his residence-cum-camp office in Tadepalli, which were paid for by the taxpayer.

The epithet is also payback for a similar charge that was hurled by the YSR Congress at TDP leader and former assembly speaker, Kodela Siva Prasad Rao. A series of cases had been filed against Rao and he was also called a 'furniture chor', a humiliation that allegedly led to him dying by suicide in September 2019, according to his son, Kodela Sivaram.

Rao was accused of diverting furniture bought for his use, when he became the first speaker of bifurcated Andhra Pradesh in 2014, to a showroom run by Mr Sivaram. The allegations were made by the YSR Congress after it defeated the TDP in the 2019 elections.

While Kodela Sivaram has made an explicit accusation against Mr Reddy, IT minister Nara Lokesh has taken a dig, asking the former chief minister when he plans to return the furniture.

A police complaint has also been filed by TDP Mahila wing leader Tejaswini in Anantapur, alleging that Mr Reddy and his associates had pushed Kodela Siva Prasad to suicide by humiliating him and filing police cases against him.

Rubbishing the allegations, a YSR Congress leader said Mr Reddy has already written to the state government and said that he will pay for all the furniture and fittings that are on his premises. 

Palatial Row

Mr Reddy is already under fire for an extravagant complex of seven buildings on Rushikonda Hills, dubbed "Jagan's Palace" by his critics, who say the Rs 500-crore complex had been constructed to serve as the home and camp office of the chief minister, who wanted to make Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh's executive capital.

YSR Congress leaders, however, insist that it was an asset created by the government and belongs not to Mr Reddy but to the tourism department. "We lost our assets when the state was bifurcated in 2014. So our leader wanted to create a complex that could serve as a VVIP guest house for the President, Prime Minister and others when they visit, as a venue for hosting international guests to hold conventions, or as a luxury tourist stay option," said a party leader.

Former tourism minister RK Roja Selvamani had, however, told reporters earlier this year that the Rushikonda property had been shortlisted as an option for the chief minister's camp office, and this had been approved by a three-member committee, which was scouting a suitable location. The secrecy around the structure, its opulence and its cost have also not worked in the YSR Congress' favour. 

Tit For Tat?

The question now is what the Chandrababu Naidu government will do with the property. The chief minister's son and state minister Nara Lokesh has said an inquiry will be ordered, justice will be done and the building will be devoted to the people of Andhra Pradesh.

In 2019, one of the first actions taken by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government was to demolish a Praja Vedika (government hall), constructed at a cost of Rs 8.9 crore near Mr Naidu's house in Vijayawada's Undavalli. The structure was close to Mr Naidu's heart and he had asked Mr Reddy to allow it to stand, but it was bulldozed after being declared illegal. 

The remains of the structure were left next to Mr Naidu's residence and the chief minister has now welcomed a suggestion to convert the area into a museum to showcase how ruling parties and governments should not function. He has also likened it to the museums at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and said it should serve as an example of destructive governance and inspire people to move forward.