The Telangana High Court has stalled Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s plans to demolish the present secretariat complex and the Errum Manzil Palace, a heritage structure, and build a new “vaastu compliant” office complex and assembly building in Hyderabad. The HC stayed the proposal, while hearing a clutch of petitions against the government’s move, which many, including the Opposition, have rightly called a waste of public funds. Rao’s whim would cost the exchequer Rs 500 crore — Rs 400 crore for the new secretariat and Rs 100 crore for the assembly building — a substantial amount that could help the Telangana government to address, for instance, rural distress following a deficient monsoon.
The “vaastu” of the secretariat has apparently spooked KCR so much that he has spent very little time in the building since he assumed the office of chief minister in 2014. Two years later, he moved into a new residence-cum-office complex built over nine acres, at the reported cost of Rs 50 crore. Incidentally, KCR’s predecessors, especially N T Rama Rao, had also fussed over the “vaastu” of the secretariat, but none of them felt the necessity to pull down the buildings, the seat of the Andhra Pradesh government since the state was formed in 1956. What evidently sets KCR apart is that he, as the undisputed supremo of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti, and thereby the state, believes it kosher to use public funds to indulge and address his personal anxieties. The chief minister seems to think that his personal well-being and the public good are the same. A couple of years ago, his family in tow, he had offered gold ornaments worth Rs 5.5 crore to the Tirupati shrine. These ornaments had been procured with funds drawn from the Common Good Fund, a public fund meant for renovation of dilapidated temples. At that time, KCR justified making donations and offerings to temples in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh using public funds as meeting vows made by him on behalf of the people of Telangana to the gods.
It’s time KCR drew a clear line between his personal beliefs and constitutional role. As a private citizen, he has the choice of believing in “vaastu”. But as a public figure he must not be seen to be imposing it on public buildings, that too at public expense.