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Out of House, out of homes
- Vacate notices sent to defeated and unseated ministers

New Delhi, May 26: Manohar Joshi is packing his bags to go back to Mumbai as Somnath Chatterjee gets ready to move into one of the biggest bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi.

It is moving-house season in the seat of power. The directorate of estates, which manages houses of those who run the country, has sent notices to former ministers and members of Parliament to vacate their bungalows. The MPs have been given a fortnight and the ministers a month to move.

Former human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, who lost the election from Allahabad, heads the list of ex-ministers who will now have to look for new accommodation. Others include Sahib Singh Verma, Jagmohan, Ram Naik, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and Swami Chinmayanand.

Chinmayanand had lobbied hard through his boss in the home ministry, .K. Advani, to get the spacious Tughlaq Lane house. At one point, he even cited a proposed visit by the Kanchi Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati, to mount pressure on the directorate to allot him a bigger bungalow, sources said.

Cabinet ministers who have won the polls but lost power will have to move out of their spacious bungalows, referred to as Type VIII, into the smaller houses meant for MPs. Quite a few MPs have already started vacating their houses while former ministers have got their aides to look for new residences.

“Those who don’t vacate their houses will be served eviction notices,” an official said, asserting that the directorate was entitled to throw out those who do not go voluntarily.

After every change of government, there are instances when the directorate officials land up at some of the best addresses in Delhi with labourers and policemen in tow to push the formerly “honourable MP” out.

The more difficult part is getting former ministers to settle for the smaller bungalows meant for MPs. “They are the ones with big egos, can pull strings and delay moving out on one pretext or the other,” an official said.

But the most difficult — the directorate has a success rate of 50 per cent with this kind — is trying to evict the junior but powerful MPs living in houses originally allotted to their fathers or husbands.

Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia continued living in a bungalow allotted to his father Madhavrao Scindia when he was minister. The directorate had not dared push the junior Scindia into a smaller house, afraid that aunt Vasundhara Raje might not like it.

Rajesh Pilot’s widow and first-time MP in the 13th Lok Sabha, Rama Pilot, delayed moving house but could not stall it. She eventually had to shift to a modest house in Canning Lane. Son Sachin, who has made his debut in the 14th Lok Sabha, is likely to retain this house.

Ordinarily, the directorate does not have too much of a problem with some MPs overstaying. If they become ministers, the house gets transferred to the central pool from Parliament pool. Once they relinquish the minister’s office, the house reverts to Parliament’s pool of houses.

But a high turnover rate of ministers over the last decade has disturbed the equilibrium between the demand and supply because former ministers were not giving up their bungalows. Over time, many spacious bungalows got transferred to the Parliament pool, forcing new ministers in the Vajpayee government to stay in flats.

Following demands from G.M.C. Balayogi’s widow, Parliament enacted an amendment to allow free government accommodation for life to dependents of a Lok Sabha Speaker who dies in harness.

But those who serve out their term and end up on the losing side in an election, like Manohar Joshi, have no choice but to pack up and leave.

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