Politicians like to hold on to their chairs, and some of them to other pieces of furniture too. The previous Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker, Kodela Siva Prasad Rao, is accused of grabbing a Nizam-era table, designer chairs, sofas, air-conditioners and some ‘personal’ computers among other things from his Speaker’s office in Hyderabad.
While the YSR Congress Party government has accused Rao of “stealing” government property, in a curious twist, thieves broke into the former Speaker’s private office in Sattenapalli on Thursday night and stole two government computers that he had reportedly taken away.
But, as news spread that police were examining CCTV footage, one of the thieves, a former employee, dumped the computers near Rao’s house and surrendered, said Sattenapalli Town Police Station Inspector Sarath Babu.
Meanwhile, Rao claimed that he had moved the furniture and electronic gadgets into his personal care out of fear that it could be stolen or damaged when the office was being shifted from Hyderabad to Amaravati.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rao said a Nizam-era table, designer chairs made of Burma teak, 14 peacock-shaped visitors’ chairs, a centre table, 117 plastic chairs, 3 chairs from the Speaker’s ante-chamber, a 3-seater sofa, two split air-conditioners and a tower AC were lying at his various offices.
Many of the pieces of furniture were found in a motorcycle showroom owned by Rao’s son, Sivaram, in Guntur city, according to officials of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. In a related development, the chief marshal and security officer of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, Ganesh Babu, was transferred on Friday.
After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and creation of Telangana in June 2014, the assets were divided too. Andhra Pradesh carted its moveable assets to temporary offices in June 2016, as the then TDP government decided that it was time to start operating from Andhra Pradesh rather than Hyderabad, the joint capital till 2024. All the furniture, electrical appliances and electronic items were stored at various places in Vijayawada, Mangalagiri and Guntur as the interim government complex in Amaravati was still under construction.
Rao said he had kept the furnishings to safeguard them until the new Assembly complex was ready. “I wrote a letter to the Assembly Secretary on June 7, as soon as the government changed, stating that I would return them or, if they could quote a price, I would pay for them. But I have not received any reply yet,” he said.
“When the Assembly was in the process of shifting to Amaravati, it was a peculiar situation — we had two Assembly buildings. When the new Assembly became functional, APCRDA (Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority) officials said there was no need for the old furniture or electrical fittings as the new House was already furnished. There was the issue of maintaining this furniture and electronics, and the possibility of damage and loss, so I shifted the furniture to my offices at Sattenpalli, Amarvati and Narasaraopet to keep them safe,” Rao told The Indian Express.
But YSRCP legislator from Sattenapalli Ambati Rambabu said: “…He (Rao) is lying that he wrote a letter… Why didn’t he return the furniture when he was the Speaker for the last five years? Why did he take the furniture and electronics belonging to the government to his home in the first place?”
Andhra Pradesh Assembly Deputy Speaker Kona Raghupathi told The Indian Express that some of the pieces of furniture that Rao had taken away were purchased during his term. “I am not sure if air-conditioners or electrical equipment have been taken, but some pieces of furniture have been taken. During shifting of office, furniture is taken by some members on a returnable-basis. In this case, the former Speaker failed to return them. He should have returned them when the new Assembly building was constructed. We have not filed a police case yet. If Rao returns the furniture, we will take it back and the issue will be resolved,’’ Raghupathi said.
When contacted, Assembly Secretary (in-charge) P Balakrishnamacharyulu declined to comment on the issue.