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Spotlight on controversy surrounding Telangana CM’s official residence

Hyderabad, Dec 8, 2023
Ever since the Congress government assumed office in Telangana on Thursday, the Chief Minister’s official residence at Begumpet in the heart of the city has been the centre of action.

From dismantling of the iron fencing in front of the premises to change of its name, conduct of Praja Darbar and entry of curious citizens to smudging the name of former Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on the inauguration plaque, the events of the last two days reflect the change of guard.

Day after taking oath, Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy made his first visit to Pragathi Bhavan, which had been a key point of contention between ruling and opposition parties for the last seven years.

Still residing at his personal residence in Jubilee Hills, Revanth Reddy stayed at the official residence for an hour, receiving representations from citizens who had turned up for Praja Darbar.

Till December 3, when the results of Assembly elections were announced, Pragathi Bhavan was the hub of power. For then ruling BRS, it symbolised the development and pride of Telangana while for Congress and other opposition it was a sign of “autocratic” rule. They often used to describe it as a fort or a palace which is out of bounds for citizens.

No wonder that immediately after coming to power, Revanth Reddy renamed Pragathi Bhavan as Jyothirao Phule Praja Bhavan.

After taking oath as the Chief Minister on December 7, he had declared that Praja Darbar will be held there the next day. H

He had also mentioned in the speech at the swearing-in ceremony that soon after taking over the Congress government dismantled the iron fencing at Pragathi Bhavan to give people unrestricted access to the place.

The authorities used bulldozers and gas cutters to remove the huge iron fencing which had eaten away a part of the busy road and was seen as a hurdle in free flow of vehicular traffic.

Hundreds of people had queued up at the Chief Minister’s official residence since Friday morning for Praja Darbar and submitted their representations on their problems to the Chief Minister.

Some of them, who could get a chance to meet him, said till a day ago they could not have even imagined entering the premises.

However, many people who were waiting in queues since early morning and those who came later, had to return disappointed.

With the dismantling of iron fencing and by holding Praja Darbar, Revanth Reddy has tried to make a strong statement.

In February, BRS leaders had lodged police complaints against Revanth Reddy for allegedly calling on the Maoists to blow up the Pragathi Bhavan. The state Congress chief had made the controversial remarks while addressing the gathering in Maoist-affected parts of Mulugu district during his “Hath se Haath Jodo” padayatra.

“Like the Naxalites had set blasts in the forts earlier, what if they blast Pragathi Bhavan with dynamite? Pragathi Bhavan is like a fort, there is no entry for the poor,” he had said.

When the gates of Praja Bhavan were opened for people on Friday, there were many curious citizens taking selfies or sitting in the open spaces.

Dramatic scenes were witnessed at the building, which was the hub of power and a high security place till a couple of days ago. A Congress supporter smudged KCR’s name on the inauguration plaque.

The campus was inaugurated on November 24, 2016 during the first term of the BRS.

There have been many controversies surrounding its construction.

It was in 2004 that then Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) had built a CM camp office at a cost of Rs 810 crore.

After KCR became the first Chief Minister of newly-created Telangana, he did not occupy the CM camp office on the advice of Vaastu experts. It was considered “inauspicious” as YSR had reportedly moved in without performing rituals and he had died in a helicopter crash in 2009, a few months after leading Congress back to power for a second term.

His successor K. Rosaiah had to resign on health grounds while N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, the last Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, had to face a crisis leading to bifurcation of the state.

KCR moved in only after a completely new complex was built. KCR and his wife Shobha Rao had participated in elaborate rituals for Gruhapravesham (housewarming) performed by his spiritual guru, Chinna Jeeyar Swamy.

Since then, KCR had been under attack from opposition for his alleged superstitious beliefs and huge public money spent on constructing the palatial complex, at cost of hundreds of crores and which was of no use to people. They targeted him for remaining confined to four walls and denying people access to it.

KCR, however, had defended building Pragathi Bhavan saying it is a public property and will serve as the official residence of Chief Ministers who occupy the post after him.

Speaking in the Assembly, he had called Pragathi Bhavan the pride of Telangana and said it would improve the profile of the state. In a response to a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by Hyderabad-based activist Robin Zaccheus last year, it was revealed that Rs 49.84 crores were spent on the construction of Pragathi Bhavan.

Spread over nine acres, Pragathi Bhavan is the collection of five buildings – the residence, the Chief Minister’s office, Janahitha (meeting hall), the old CM residence, and the camp office. It was built after demolishing 10 IAS officers’ quarters and 24 peon quarters at the officers’ colony.

The government has been spending Rs 1 crore every year on its maintenance.

After losing power, KCR and his family quietly left the premises but it is still not known if Revanth Reddy will shift there with his family or use the facility only as an office.(Agency)

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