M A I N   N E W S

The “guest” who wouldn’t leave
Swati Chaturvedi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 25
Months after the NDA Government has gone out of office, former Minister for State in External Affairs, Digvijay Singh, continues to occupy his former official residence 15 Lodhi Estate — prime Luyten’s bungalow — now officially designated the Rajya Sabha’s guest house.

The change in nomenclature notwithstanding only a cosmetic change has happened. Mr Digvijay Singh’s nameplate has vanished and the house has been provided with a security detail as befits the official guesthouse of the Rajya Sabha.

Interestingly, Mr Digvijay Singh, who lost the election from Banka in Bihar, is no longer a member of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha and under the rules cannot occupy the house. It remains a mystery what rent Mr Digvijay Singh is paying since he seems to be a “permanent resident” of a “guest house”.

Mr Digvijay Singh is clearly not an unwanted guest since a whole series of rules were bent to facilitate his continuing to live at the bungalow. After he lost the election he made a request that the house be transferred to the Rajya Sabha pool from the Lok Sabha pool. The Urban Development Ministry gave in and the transfer was made.

Sources say after this was done the Vice-President intervened and got the bungalow designated as the Rajya Sabha guest house. It has been five months since Mr Digvijay Singh lost the official right to stay in the house but he continues to occupy it.

The Tribune asked the Rajya Sabha Secretariat for their official comments on the matter and faxed a questionnaire to the Secretary General, Dr Yogendra Narain on October 20.

The questions asked were

(1) Has 15 Lodhi Estate been converted into the Rajya Sabha guest house?

(2) Is Mr Digvijay Singh still living in this house?

(3) Was this house earlier allotted to Mr Digvijay Singh in his capacity as MoS in MEA?

(4) In what capacity is Mr Digvijay Singh currently living in Lodhi Estate?

Despite, a week-long wait and telephone queries the Rajya Sabha Secretariat refused to reply or comment and most of these questions remain unanswered.

An official, however, confirmed that the bungalow had been converted into a Rajya Sabha guest house, but added that only “a technical possession” of the premises had been taken. He said that Mr Digvijay Singh had not so far vacated the bungalow.

An official who did not want to be identified said: “What can I say when all rules relating to accommodation have been done away with in order to help an individual.”

This is not the first instance when Mr Digvijay Singh has broken housing rules. Earlier, he had, according to a confidential report of the CPWD, got additional construction done in the same house in violation of Luyten’s bungalow zone guidelines.

Several other former ministers of the NDA Government are also trying similar ruses to retain their official homes. In one case, a former minister who lost the election has got his house allotted in another MP’s name and continues to occupy it. Just like Mr Digvijay Singh only the nameplate has been taken off.

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