| Amarinder: Princely ways
Chandigarh, Oct. 10: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, the scion of the Patiala royal family, is about to give his official workplace that he rarely uses a princely facelift.
Having survived his party's wrath after passing the bill that nullified Punjab's water-sharing treaties with neighbours, Amarinder has not only sought the revamp but also a new helicopter to ferry him home to nearby Patiala.
The chief minister's office is expected to shift to Punjab Bhavan, the state guesthouse, so that interior decorators can go to work on his room in the secretariat at Sector 1 here. The bhavan is already being turned into five-star premises, also on Amarinder's orders, for the brief sojourn.
A senior officer in the chief minister's office defended the move on the grounds of drawing investment. 'We believe if foreign investments have to arrive in Punjab, those wishing to come here should hold discussions in an atmosphere that goes with the quantum of investment,' he said.
The chief minister's room, the most expensively done-up at the secretariat, will become bigger in the revamp expected to be over by December. The entire second floor, too, will be equipped to accommodate the personal requirements of his advisors and senior officials.
A library for Amarinder's exclusive use is being mooted. Officials have already started scouting for books.
Orders have also been placed for expensive electronics and decorative items. Imported marble is expected to replace carpets on the second floor. False ceilings will give way to teakwood panels to 'keep rats out'. Central air-conditioning and a bedroom are also in the pipeline.
The Opposition is not taking kindly to the refurbish decision that is expected to cost the public exchequer crores.
'Amarinder spends most of his time in Delhi and Patiala. He comes to his office rarely and only if he has to call cabinet meetings. When more and more people continue to remain unemployed, money is being spent on refurbishing the chief minister's office to suit his lifestyle,' Akali Dal secretary D.S. Cheema complained. 'Parkash Singh Badal, too, could have spent crores on his office,' Cheema said. 'But he chose not to. Cash-starved Punjab cannot afford such luxury.'
After becoming chief minister in 2002, Amarinder has also had his ancestral palatial house in Patiala painted ' after over two decades ' at the exchequer's expense and replaced air-conditioners, carpets and curtains. It had not cost much, he had claimed.
Amarinder is known for his opulent lifestyle, love of hunting, Scotch and Chinese food, and genuine dislike for people's durbars. He owns a stud farm and grows exotic herbs in his Moti Bagh Palace.
Late last year, he had begun to kickstart his day at 9 am by attending to work at his official residence in Sector 2 when his current deputy, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, challenged him over his style of running the government. But that was till the crisis blew over.