NEW DELHI: Even as the Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma was allotted former President APJ Abdul Kalam's bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi, the social activists and Delhi based- Aam Aadmi Party trained their guns against Central government and demanded that bungalow be converted into a "Knowledge Centre".
The issue is likely to generate controversy and may be even raised by political parties in the ongoing Bihar election against the BJP-led Centre.
Former President's house number 10 at Rajaji Marg built-up on a sprawling 7,367 sq m land has to be vacated by October 31 and his belongings, which includes numerous books, has already been packed. Sharma,who recently landed into controversy over Dadri beef lynching case for his inflammatory statement and is presently living in Noida from where he was elected, had described Kalam as "great man who was a nationalist and humanist despite being a Muslim".
The minister was allotted the the bungalow recently after Kalam's kin vacated the house on October 18. Attacking Centre, AAP questioned Centre over allotting Kalam's bungalow to Sharma saying suggesting that it should be converted into a Knowledge Centre instead. The party also urged the Centre to "hand over" the belongings of Kalam to Delhi government in case it lacks the required resources and space to create a memorial for the late President.
Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra said "limiting" Kalam's work to his place of birth Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and "shifting all his documents, books and even the Veena to Rameswaram is insulting."
"His residence should not be vacated but should be converted into a Knowledge Centre in loving memory of the legend. So many govt. residences being allotted permanently in the names of various political leaders, why so hurry in vacating Kalam's house?" Mishra said through a series of tweets.
However, in a bid to avoid any controversy over the issue, the Union Urban Development Ministry came up with clarification on Wednesday saying that Central Government by its decision on October 18, 2014 imposed a total ban on conversion of government bungalows into memorials of the departed leaders.
"Earlier, Supreme Court vide their judgement of July 5, 2013 in the matter of S.D. Bandi vs. Divisional Traffic Officer, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and Others held the view that no government bungalow be converted into memorial," the government said in the statement. The Centre also said that the executive assistant of former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has informed the Ministry of Urban Development that the said bungalow would be vacated by October 31, 2015. Government has already decided to build a memorial for Kalam at his birth place at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
"The bungalow at No.10, Rajaji Marg has been allotted to Mahesh Sharma under Rule 3 of the Minister’s Residence Rules, 1962, which says “Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State shall be allotted Type VIII accommodation subject to availability and in that order”," the Central government noted.
"All other Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State have been allotted Government accommodation and only Mahesh Sharma was waiting for official accommodation and accordingly, the said bungalow was allotted to him on vacation basis," the ministry added.