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PM to retire to CM’s house

- Singh picks sheila’s bungalow
File picture of Sheila Dikshit’s bungalow

New Delhi, Feb. 27: The bungalow Sheila Dikshit vacated a few days ago is where Manmohan Singh will pass his days in retirement after the Lok Sabha elections.

Sources said the Prime Minister’s Office had today conveyed to the Union urban development ministry its choice of 3 Motilal Nehru Marg as Singh’s future home.

The four-bedroom house, a Type VIII bungalow, stands on a 3.5-acre plot and has a sprawling garden. Dikshit had built a nature trail in the garden, which was regularly visited by schoolchildren and is known for its fruit trees that attract fruit bats.

As a corner bungalow, it is preferred by security too, the sources added.

The search for Singh’s retirement home had begun in the first week of February. The central public works department (CPWD) had shown two bungalows to the Prime Minister and his wife Gursharan Kaur.

One of them was 5 Janpath, which has been in disrepair since its last occupant, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, passed away on November 30, 2012, about a year after his wife’s death.

But 3 Motilal Nehru Marg, where Dikshit lived since 2008, is in fine condition. The former Delhi chief minister has now moved into a rented three-bedroom flat in a multi-storey building in Ferozshah Road a few kilometres away.

Members of Parliament usually get a month’s time to vacate their official bungalows but can stay on — subject to a cabinet committee clearance every six months — by paying the market rent.

Prime Ministers, though, are expected to vacate their residence the day they step down since their designated bungalow, 7 Race Course Road, houses their office too.

The CPWD did not want a repeat of the embarrassment it faced in 2004 when it had been caught unprepared for an NDA defeat, which meant it had not identified a new home for outgoing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Vajpayee had to stay on for nearly a month till 6A Krishna Menon Marg was readied for him. Till then, Singh attended office at 7 Race Course Road while living at 19 Safdarjung Road, his home of six years as the Rajya Sabha leader of the Opposition.

This time, therefore, the CPWD began house-hunting for Singh beforehand. It helped that Singh had announced his retirement in advance, becoming the first Prime Minister to do so.