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Royal mart, fort for sale
- Nawabs peddle palaces before hoteliers

Bhopal, Dec. 18: Royal properties are up for grabs in Madhya Pradesh.

An army of 100-odd former nawabs, rajas, ranis, begums, zamindars and taluqadars descended on a city hotel last evening, carrying charts, old sketches, photographs and brochures of their palaces, havelis and garhis.

They arrived in their best suits, saris and diamonds to lure the prospective buyers.

The state government sponsored the “heritage meet” that saw hotel executives and potential investors sit across round tables from the royals, while state tourism officials read out the “fine details” of the palaces and forts.

Some royals said they felt humiliated when realtors rejected their proud possessions, or slighted their “places” as “too small” or “unattractive”.

Others, like the Raja of Narsinhgarh, Bhanu Prakash Singh, were more practical. The former Union minister and governor said: “I do not even have the money to get a whitewash done. My palace is a picture of neglect with 430 rooms, including 64 halls.”

Raja Lokendra Singh of the Panna royal family agreed: “We are worth crores but don’t have the money for repairs.”

Orchid head Vishal Kamat said he was amazed to see so many blue-blooded faces (105 in all) trying to sell their properties. “They all had a story to tell, a legend about their palace and haveli. I guess many of them still live in the past.”

Only a fourth of the royals brought printed brochures; most came with old photographs and paintings.

The would-be buyers included the Taj, Park, Kamad, Select and Welcome groups. The Taj Group’s Ankita Gupta said she found several properties “interesting”. “We hope something concrete will materialise,” she said.

Some hotel groups, however, pointed to the state’s poor infrastructure and tourist flow. Most of the palaces are in small towns where roads, power and other amenities are poor. And unlike Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh doesn’t have too many tourist hotspots other than a few national parks and pilgrimage sites.

The state’s “maharajas”, the Scindias and Holkars, skipped the meet.

State tourism minister T.R. Puar said many royals had told him they couldn’t maintain their properties. “They urged me to buyÖ but the government does not run such a business. So we decided to act as facilitator.”

A survey shows the state has 726 heritage buildings ó 35 with the ASI, 103 with the state archaeology department, 313 (not protected monuments) with the state government and 275 in private hands.

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