Ajit Singh row: Why Lutyens’ bungalows is an emotive issue for ex-Parliamentarians

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Former Union Minister Ajit Singh.
Former Union Minister Ajit Singh scrapping with the Centre over a plush bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi has highlighted the behaviour of our Parliamentarians who don't mind clinging to the perks even after losing elections.

It has been seen that the outgoing MPs and Ministers are not so quick in evacuating their official residences. The politicians seem to have an ending love for their big Government bungalows in Lutyens' Delhi.

This, despite a Supreme Court's order which clearly said, "Since allotment of Government accommodation is a privilege given to ministers and members of Parliament, the matter of unauthorised retention should be intimated by the House and action should be initiated by the House committee for breach of privilege which an MP or Minister enjoys and appropriate committee should recommend to Speaker or Chairman for taking appropriate action within time bound period."

Ajit Singh was seen vehemently opposing Centre's order asking him to evacuate his official residence. This clearly shows that he does not want to vacate the bungalow allotted to him as a Minister in UPA2. When all his tricks failed, he quickly turned his personal exigency into a battle for his father's legacy. He asked the bungalow be turned into a memorial for his father.

Turning bungalow into memorial, an easy way to retain it

Even before Ajit Singh started pushing for a memorial in his late father and former PM Choudhary Charan Singh's name, son of another late PM Chandra Sekhar, Neeraj Sekhar who lost the 2014 election on Samajwadi Party ticket, has written to the Urban Development Ministry to allot the 3, South Avenue House to a trust named after his father. But, it was turned down.

The demand is not new, even the previous UPA regime followed the same practice to make its supporters and loyalists happy. The UPA Government allowed the No 6, Krishna Menon Marg to be converted into a memorial and remain in the name of then Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar's family for next 25 years.

Also, the previous Government permitted BJP chief Mayawati to combine three bungalows, No 12, 14 and 16 on Rakabganj road into a single property for a trust that she can run for another 19 years. Similarly many other big bungalows in Lutyens' Bungalow Zone (LBZ) has been converted into trust and memorials, this includes Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

The allotments of bungalows to trusts, NGOs and other organisation have been based on political consideration. At present, there are 40 such Government properties that have been given to such bodies.

What is so special about these bungalows?

Most of the official residences of the Union Ministers are Type VIII bungalows spread over an area of 4,500 sq ft to 5,600 sq ft. Each of these bungalows has facilities like five to six bedrooms sets, garbage, servants' quarter and large lawn. The outgoing Parliamentarians are ready to pay the official Government rates to enjoy the comforts of these leafy bungalows.

The LBZ is considered as most expensive real estate in India. The Zone bears the mark of luxury in its wide roads, colonial-style architecture on large, open plots with lush green gardens, excellent civic amenities and most important a privileged address. The politicians always wanted to be called Lutyens' elite.

UPA's policy of giving pain to Modi Government

During the previous Government's regime, many former Ministers and MPs not only managed to retain their official bungalows but also, in some cases, they got extension to overstay.

The former regime, by exercising its discretionary quota of the Ministers had a habit of giving such undue favours. Several such Government accommodations have been occupied by Congress loyalist since decades.

The case is not same with the Modi Government which soon after coming to power, had made it clear that it will not indulge in politics of appeasement. It said that it will allot bungalows in Lutyen's Zone only to Cabinet Ministers and heads of Constitutional bodies. So far, the Central Government has refused to entertain any request of extension even from its own party members.

Former Parliamentarians unending love for LBZ

According to several reports, senior Congress leader Buta Singh and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah are trying to retain their official residences citing various reasons.

Till now, of all the 61 bungalows occupied by former Ministers, only eight have not been vacated. These illegal occupants include the name of Congress' MM Pallam, Raju, Jitender Singh, Krishna Tirath, Girija Vyas and Ajit Singh. Former MPs who have not vacated their official residences are Congress' Mohd Azharuddin, Vijay Inder Singh and SP's Neeraj Sakhar.

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