- Kodela Siva Prasad Rao was found hanging at his Hyderabad home
- Police filed a case of "death in suspicious circumstance" in the matter
- Mr Rao's cousin said he suspected the ex-Speaker was murdered by his son
Former Andhra Pradesh assembly Speaker Kodela Siva Prasad Rao -- who was found hanging at his Hyderabad home on Monday -- was murdered, his cousin has said. The police, who after initial investigation said it appeared to be suicide, have now filed a case of "death in suspicious circumstance" -- meaning they are not ruling out foul play.
"I am not willing to believe anything of this sort... he was murdered is what I heard from my relatives and friends in Hyderabad," Mr Rao's cousin Kanchi Sai told reporters.
In past Mr Rao had talked about physical and mental torture by his son Sivaram, Kanchi Sai said. "I strongly suspect murder by his son and want the police to probe that angle," he added.
One of the senior most leaders of the opposition Telugu Desam Party, 72-year-old Mr Rao was rushed to the Basavatarakam Hospital -- which he had set up with actor-politician Balakrishna -- shortly before noon. The doctors there confirmed his death.
The postmortem report said ligature marks on his neck indicated suicide. But further forensic tests are on to check if there is any presence of poison in his body.
Leaders of the Telugu Desam Party - Mr Rao's party of three decades - say he was being hounded by the YSR Congress government led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
As an example they cite the latest police case filed against him, in which the former Speaker was accused of diverting furniture belonging to the Andhra Pradesh assembly to his office at Sattenapalli back in 2014. He was repeatedly publicly humiliated, they said.
"He was Palnadu Tiger. If he committed suicide, you can understand how much pressure he was under," said TDP leader Buddha Venkateshwara Rao.
Mr Rao was attacked on day of polling, his spectacles were broken and he lost consciousness, another leader said. "They hounded him and tortured him," said former finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishna.
Leaders of the YSR Congress denied accusations of harassment, pointing out that in addition to political cases, the TDP leader was facing domestic disputes. Mr Rao's daughter-in-law has complained of harassment, a leader said.
Born in a farmer's family, Mr Rao graduated from the Guntur Medical College and eventually joined politics. In 2014, he became the Speaker after Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh.
The six-time MLA has also served as the home minister and the panchayat raj minister.
In a statement, BJP spokesperson K Krishna Saagar Rao said, "Shocked to know that former minister, former AP speaker Shri Kodela Siva Prasad has committed suicide. I extend heartfelt condolences on the unfortunate demise of this senior politician. May his soul rest in peace."
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