In a first of its kind initiative, the BJP is likely to give up a bungalow allotted to it in Lutyens’ Delhi to the government. According to recent reports, the BJP is all set to hand over 11 Ashoka Road, which had been allotted to the national party for running its national headquarters, to the government within two weeks.
BJP general-secretary and office in charge Arun Singh has confirmed this report and has stated that the office has already been vacated by the party and the bungalow could be handed over to the government anytime now.
The BJP recently inaugurated its new headquarters located at Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg in Delhi. The office was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the BJP has already started functioning out of the new office. It is for the first time that a party which had been allotted an office in the Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone (LBZ) has moved out of the Lutyens’ zone to a new office. This might pressurize other parties to follow suit and hand over the bungalows to the government. Lands have already been allocated to other parties, including the Congress, to build their offices. It is up to the other parties to display greater moral responsibility and move into other locations.
This is a massive move against VVIP culture, which has taken deep roots in Delhi, especially in the Lutyens’ zone. Post independence, the Nehru government and its successors made no attempt to bring an end to the discriminatory VVIP culture initiated by the British. Therefore, our politicians and senior civil servants occupy the same disproportionately huge lands which were once occupied by our erstwhile British colonizers. This move by the BJP needs to be emulated by others, so that the huge tracts of land wasted Lutyens’ by our administrators are modified and brought in sync with the idea of a democratic setup. We are no longer ruled by masters but governed by elected leaders. Some sort of parity between the ‘governors’ and the governed is necessary.
This move by the BJP has come against the run of play. According to a Supreme Court directive passed a decade ago, all the political parties are required to shift their offices from the Lutyens’ Bungalow zone (LBZ). However, government data confirms that 10 of such offices are still occupied (including the one which is soon going to be left by the BJP) by political parties. Moreover, following the Supreme Court order, lands were allocated to the political parties. They were required to build offices on the allotted lands and hand over their Lutyens’ bungalows within three years of taking possession of the lands allotted. The Congress holds yet another dubious record of holding a maximum of 4 out of the total number of offices in the Bungalow zone. Therefore, almost half of the bungalows are occupied by the Congress. While the BJP has complied with the directive passed by the highest court of the land, the Congress has paid no heed to the directive and has not even started building an office on the allocated land.
Prior to the sternness displayed by the present government, it was quite common to violate the government guidelines and court orders regarding the allotment and possession of bungalows in the Lutyens’ zone. In one such instance, the then minister for social justice Meira Kumar, got 6 Krishna Menon Marg leased to the Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation (BJRNF), a trust created and administered by her and her family members. The bungalow was then converted into a supposed memorial for Babu Jagjivan Ram (her father) in blatant violation of Supreme Court guidelines. According to government records, Meira Kumar managed to retain the bungalow for a total of 25 years. She kept occupying the bungalow for 25 years after the demise of her father Babu Jagjivan Ram. Therefore, the UPA government bypassed the apex court order so that this prime government property could be retained by her.
In another controversy, Tej Pratap Yadav had to hand over the bungalow allotted to him in Patna during the short grand-alliance regime after it collapsed and JD(U) switched sides to the NDA. It is absurd and saddening to see how the leader felt embarrassed on leaving a government-owned property, as if he was forced to leave his personal or ancestral property. Instead of gracefully handing over the property, he argued that he left the bungalow only because he was scared by the “ghosts” occupying it.
The BJP has risen to the occasion and has started the end of VVIP culture ingrained by previous governments. It is high time that others also realize the fact that bungalows are allocated on account of the post or the office held by a person. In case of parties, bungalows are allocated for party functioning but these properties remain governmental properties. Treatment of such properties as personal properties by individuals and political parties is not acceptable in a democratic society.