|The VVIP guesthouse in Lutyens Delhi. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, July 12: The Bengal government has built a new suite for the chief minister at its VVIP guesthouse in the heart of Lutyens Delhi, but officials are unsure whether Mamata Banerjee would ever step into it.
“The suite’s walls have been decorated with the chief minister’s own Maa Mati Manush paintings and murals on Tagore motifs,” a Bengal official posted in Delhi said. “But we don’t know whether she would stay there because she has simple tastes.”
The 2,500sqft suite has four bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a modern kitchen and an office room, all fitted with marble tiles. It was built as part of a Rs 9-crore project by the previous Left Front government to renovate and enlarge the 1970s guesthouse at Chanakyapuri, referred to as “Banga Bhavan II for VVIPs”.
An official said the Centre had allotted the plot to Bengal when Siddhartha Shankar Ray was chief minister (1972-77). “A two-storey bungalow was built, where Ray and his successor Jyoti Basu used to stay whenever they visited Delhi.”
Now, one more floor has been added and the chief minister’s suite built there, above a first-floor suite for the governor. Another four-storey building has come up in the rear with 40 rooms for VIPs such as judges, ministers, MLAs and vice-chancellors.
Construction began in late 2008 and the building was completed a few months ago, following which the Delhi government gave the necessary clearances.
“We got fitness certificates last week from the Delhi government and its fire department. The new building can be inaugurated whenever the chief minister’s office wants,” the official said.
It may be called Banga Bhavan II but the Chanakyapuri building has relegated Banga Bhavan to a clear No. 2 position among the Bengal government’s VIP guesthouses in the national capital.
Unlike Ray and Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee used to stay at Banga Bhavan, set on Hailey Road near Connaught Place, during his Delhi visits.
Mamata, however, has never stayed at a state guesthouse after becoming chief minister. Every time she visits Delhi, she stays at the government flat allotted to railway minister and party colleague Mukul Roy.
The seven-storey Banga Bhavan, set up in the 1950s, has suites for the chief minister and governor but these will now be converted into eight rooms for ordinary guests.
“With the new guesthouse for VVIPs, ordinary visitors will benefit as there will be more rooms for them,” a Banga Bhavan official said.
“Banga Bhavan has another 178 beds for common people who can come with a letter of recommendation from an MLA or minister.”
The erstwhile Left government had decided to revamp the Chanakyapuri building because it thought Banga Bhavan lacked adequate space, infrastructure and security for VVIPs. The new guesthouse brings Bengal on a par with most other states, which have two guesthouses in Delhi, one for VVIPs and the other for lesser VIPs and ordinary citizens armed with recommendations.
Several utilities and departments of the Bengal government too have their own guesthouses in Delhi.
Banga Bhavan II has powerful neighbours: the foreign secretary lives in an adjacent bungalow and the Sri Lanka high commission is a short distance down the road. Several Supreme Court and Delhi High Court judges live nearby.
“The makeover has transformed the look and feel of the property. The large windows let in plentiful sunlight and the chief minister’s suite provides serene views overlooking manicured lawns,” a Bengal government official said. “We wish Mamata Banerjee would stay at the new guesthouse.”