VIJAYAWADA: Popular among his supporters as Palnati Puli (tiger), Kodela Siva Prasada Rao's political career spanning over three decades had its ups and downs often marred by controversies.
Born into a lower middle class agricultural family on May 2, 1947 at Kandlagunta village in Nakarikallu mandal, Guntur district, Kodela entered politics in 1983 on the invitation of TDP founder NT Rama Rao. By then, he had made a name for himself as a general surgeon with a successful practice.
He studied PUC at the Loyola College in Vijayawada and decided to become a doctor after his siblings died due to small pox. He studied medicine at the Kurnool medical college and at the Guntur medical college. He went on to complete MS in Benares University and opened a hospital in Narasaraopeta.
Within a short span of time, his reputation spread far and wide prompting NTR, who was then looking for young leaders for his party, to extend an invite to him. Kodela, by his own admission, was initially reluctant to join politics but could not say no to NTR.
He was elected to the Assembly for the first time from Narasaraopeta in 1983 and went on to retain the seat in five successive elections. He lost in 2004 and 2009 elections but bounced back in 2014 when he was elected from Sattenapalli constituency.
Kodela entered politics at a time of faction feuds in Palnadu region and went head to head with the powerful Kasu Brahmananda Reddy family. During his career, he served in different capacities in NTR and Chandrababu Naidu governments. He was made the home minister in 1985 and subsequently, held important portfolios such as water resources, panchayat raj, health and family welfare and rural development. He served as a minister for 11 years.
After his victory in 2014, he was elected Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.
He is credited with providing purified drinking water in Narasaraopet and developing Kotappakonda as a spiritual centre.
Kodela often faced criticism for his alleged involvement in political violence -- attacks on his rivals and also on police officers. His name also figured in the bomb blast case in the hospital run by him in Narasaraopet but the CBI, which investigated the case, gave him a clean chit after two years of investigation.
After the 2019 elections when he lost from Sattenapalli, he drew flak for shifting the Assembly furniture worth more than Rs one crore to his home and his son's motorcycle showroom. A case was registered against him under IPC Section 409 (breach of trust by a public servant) and Section 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property). His son and daughter are also faced with cases for alleged land grabbing and tax evasion.
The ruling YSRC brought to fore the K-tax (Kodela Tax) issue alleging that the former Speaker and his children extorted money in the name of settlements, land grabbing and even to operate businesses in the Narasaraopeta region.
In all, after the debacle of TDP and Kodela in the April 2019 elections, police registered more than 25 cases against the Kodela family including his son Sivaram and daughter Punati Vijayalakshmi. Sivaram was recently in the news for allegedly evading tax on the sale of about 400 two-wheelers.