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Since 1st March, 1999
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Plot-for-bungalow bait to squatter parties
The bungalow of Rajnath Singh in New Delhi
The bungalow of George Fernandes in New Delhi. Rajnath’s house falls in the ‘unauthorised’ category and that of Fernandes in the ‘above entitlement’ bracket, according to a government affidavit. Pictures by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Oct. 25: Call it the nudge before the push.

The urban development ministry has come up with a plan to shift offices of political parties from the bungalows they are overstaying in and allot them land in proportion to their strength in Parliament.

Sources said the proposal ' a day after the Supreme Court ordered squatter VIPs to be “thrown out” of government accommodation ' would help the ministry streamline its policy on allotment and eviction rules.

Only those parties with a minimum of seven MPs in Parliament will be eligible for the allotment.

Officials said if implemented, the proposal ' expected to be placed before the Union cabinet’s next meeting ' should free 30 bungalows in the heart of the capital. They said the ministry needs such a policy as it has failed to evict VIPs long after they have quit office.

According to the proposal, recognised political parties will be given land at the institutional rate of Rs 88 lakh an acre. To ensure that the allotment is not misused, the parties will have to construct and move into their new office within two years.

The proposed policy is also expected to ensure that the parties do not have legal recourse under the new rules. If they do not construct the new premises and move out in time, the allotment will lapse.

The onus, therefore, is on the parties to act in time.

Ministry sources said it is tough to get former ministers to vacate their bungalows.

In June last year, Union urban development minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had requested BJP president L.K. Advani to direct his former cabinet colleagues to move out of their official residences as there was a shortage of accommodation for ministers of the current regime.

Till date, Vinod Khanna, Ananth Kumar, V.P. Goel, Juel Oram, Ramesh Bais and Kanshiram Rana are among the few who obliged.

The petition against unauthorised occupation of government accommodation was first filed by S.D. Bandi in Kerala. The issue took an all-India turn when the apex court issued notices to the Centre and all state governments and Union territories on September 19, asking them to explain what action had been taken to evict illegal occupants.

The court yesterday gave the Centre time till November 16 to come out with guidelines on who should get accommodation and of what kind, when they should vacate it and, if they do not, how they should be forced to.

According to rules, no one is permitted to overstay beyond six months in houses meant for VIPs. “The problem is that every time we sent them (overstaying VIPs) a notice, they sent a representation saying that they can’t move for several reasons,” said an official.

“The eviction process cannot start until these representations are wound up and then once the case lands in courts, it is a long process there.”

The ministry is also believed to be thinking of fixing official accommodation on the lines of the defence ministry.

“We have had several home secretaries in the last few months and, every time there is a new one, huge amounts of money have been spent on upgrading the security of their residences. If we have fixed accommodation, these hassles can be reduced,” said an official.

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