Overstaying fine for BJP ex-ministers
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar had never thought about the adage — you reap what you sow — while making provisions to impose a penalty of 30 times of rent if any former minister or legislator did not vacate the bungalows provided by the government within a month of demitting office.
The party cried foul and alleged harassment when the rule was applied to its senior leaders and former ministers.
The state government sent notices, asking them to pay fines to the tune of Rs 3.63 lakh for not vacating their official residences within the stipulated time.
The notices were sent to all the erstwhile ministers, including former deputy chief ministers Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi, in the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, led by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Each of them was asked to shell out around Rs 3.63 lakh for overstaying in their bungalows for more than one-and-ahalf months beyond the stipulated 30 days given to them to vacate the premises.
The amount was the rent of Rs 7,892 for a 46-day period between September 15 and October 30 multiplied by 30. The building construction department sent the notices recently and the BJP leaders received them.
“This is a vengeful act by the state government. It has sent the notices at the behest of deputy chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.
“He had overstayed for one-and-a-half years in the bungalow allotted to him during his previous stint as deputy chief minister after the then Grand Alliance government fell in 2017,” senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi said.
“Tejashwi lost a case in Patna High Court in this regard and went up to the Supreme Court, which ordered him to vacate the 5, Deshratna Marg bungalow and also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on him. He had splurged crores of rupees of public money on renovating that bungalow and had installed 46 air-conditioners in it,” the BJP leader, who is also a former deputy chief minister, added.
Sushil asserted that the state government should have first allotted livable residences to the former BJP ministers before sending them such notices, which also “reek of partisan behaviour as dozens of ruling party members are staying illegally in government residences.”
Several other BJP leaders including state party president Sanjay Jaiswal, leader of Opposition in the Assembly Vijay Kumar Sinha and others too termed the notices as unfair behaviour.
Jaiswal pointed out that former minister Mukesh Sahni was still staying in the bungalow allotted to him as a minister despite the fact that he had to quit the post around six months ago.
Sinha asserted that the BJP leaders were being harassed because they were opposing the faulty policies of the state government.
Renu Devi said, “I have stayed in my bungalow because work is still going on in the residence allotted to me as a legislator. It is unlivable at present.”
The rule, which has become a bone of contention and is generating much political heat, was brought in 2019 and the BJP was then in power with chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JDU) as an ally and member of the NDA.
Everything was going in the favour of the BJP in the state and it never thought about a scenario where it would be in the Opposition, until Nitish switched over to the Grand Alliance and left it out in the cold.
Meanwhile, BCD secretary Kumar Ravi told The Telegraph that the notices were sent as per the existing rules and there was nothing wrong with them. Such notices are sent not only to ministers and legislators but also to government officials who overstay.
“The new rules came into existence in 2019. The notices have been sent accordingly and as part of a set procedure. If the former ministers have any objection, they could appeal to the competent authority,” Ravi told this newspaper.
BCD minister and JDU leader Ashok Choudhary happens to be the competent authority in this regard. Efforts to contact him were not successful as he is busy campaigning for the Kurhani Assembly bypoll.