The Telegraph
Thursday , January 9 , 2014
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Everybody does it!

New Delhi, Jan. 8: Just as the law does not bar a card-carrying communist from seeking blessings at a temple, nothing prevents the Aam Aadmi Party from seeking land from the government.

So, the AAP has enquired about built-up space as well as land in Delhi — just as parties that win the required number of seats do.

The sole standout (but not illegal, mind it!) detail is that the AAP and other parties need to pay only Rs 5.5 lakh for the land — far lower than the crores that aam aadmis who take the Metro would have to fork out if they bought a similar plot.

“We wrote to both the directorate of estates for built-up office space and to the land and development department (of the urban development ministry) to know about the availability of land,” said Sanjeev Sharma, an AAP leader.

The AAP will have to wait till the Lok Sabha elections are over to find out if it can apply for the built-up space. A party needs to have a minimum of four MPs either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha before it can be allotted built space. The AAP does not have any MP now but it plans to field candidates in several Lok Sabha seats in the coming general election.

However, having won 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly, the AAP is already eligible for the vacant plot. The land office has told the AAP to file a separate application for the plot. “The department told us that they are looking at various options from the plots available in Delhi,” AAP’s Sharma said.

The AAP has been recognised as a state party. Any state party with at least seven MLAs is eligible for a plot of 500 square metres.

The party will have to pay Rs 5.5 lakh for the plot and construct the office within three years of allotment. Property dealers said the market rate would run into crores. but could not quote an exact figure as few vacant plots are available for private purchase in the heart of Delhi now.

The applicant party cannot choose where it gets the land. “There is no norm — it could be in the heart of the city or in a far-flung area, wherever the land is available,” said a senior official of the ministry.

The Janata Dal (United) and the Samajwadi Party were given land in south Delhi’s Vasant Vihar, around 15km from Parliament House. But Lalu Prasad’s RJD got land within 5km of Parliament.

The AAP now works out of a two-storeyed building on 41 Hanuman Road. The building, which reportedly belongs to an NRI, is rented out to the party for Re 1 per month.

Asked whether the AAP should have set an example by turning down subsidised land, Sharma said: “All political parties are eligible to get land and office space. We are not asking for anything extra.”

Asked why the AAP was following other parties, Sharma replied: “The government gives land at a nominal rate. What do you expect us to do, buy it at an exorbitant market price?”