Court wants BJP MPs to vacate ministerial bungalows

By Faraz Ahmad
New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) The Supreme Court has served notice on the urban development ministry to evict at least half a dozen Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs – including former ministers Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad – from their spacious bungalows in the capital.

The list of MPs who have been asked to vacate ministerial bungalows that they had been occupying when they were in power, according to government sources, includes only one non-BJP MP, Ram Jethmalani, who was law minister in the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

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Almost all the MPs under notice are former NDA ministers, say sources in the urban development ministry. The BJP MPs facing eviction include another former law and justice minister Jaitley and former minister of state for information and broadcasting Prasad.

The list includes former Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah “but she has already vacated her Type VIII bungalow and moved into a Type VII house”, said ministry officials.

The court, according to the officials, has asked the government to move out all former ministers not entitled to Type VIII bungalows – the highest category of government accommodation for ministers, officials and MPs. The ministry has made the plea that it does not have sufficient Type VII bungalows – the next lower category – to shift these MPs.

Since most of these MPs are Rajya Sabha members, the matter came up before the Rajya Sabha house committee, which met late last week, said a member of the committee.

According to sources, the ministry tried to persuade the house committee to reduce its pressure by offering the said members the next lower category bungalows from its pool. But Rajya Sabha house committee chairman Jai Prakash Agarwal reportedly rejected the suggestion and threw the ball back in the ministry’s court, saying: “We have nothing to do with this. This is between the government and the court, why should we get involved in this?”

Many NDA ministers like Prasad are first time MPs. As ministers they had secured Type VIII houses. But now as MPs they are no more entitled to these.

Some like Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh did not shift from Type VII to Type VIII when they became ministers. Instead Jaswant Singh occupied two adjacent Type VII bungalows, one for residence and the other for his office.

After he ceased to be a minister Jaswant Singh was asked to vacate one of them. The sources said he was reluctant saying as leader of opposition he was entitled to a Type VIII hose and since he is not taking a Type VIII house, he said he should be allowed to retain both the Type VII bungalows.

“But eventually he was persuaded to see reason,” a source told IANS.

The court, which got Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav evicted from his 2, Krishna Menon Marg house in 2005, has been pressing upon the government to evict former defence minister George Fernandes and Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav too.

Sharad Yadav’s 7, Tughlak Road house is adjacent to many other judges’ bungalows.

As for Jaitley, though he does not live in the 9, Ashoka Road allotted against his name, the bungalow serves as an extension of the party headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road as well as an old age home for many an elderly bachelor of the party like J.P. Mathur or Kailashpati Mishra.