Media pressure may be a reason why cricket legend and newly nominated Rajya Sabha member Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar turned down the government’s offer of a five-bedroom bungalow in Lutyens Delhi for free. “I am not keen on staying in any government bungalow when I will be in Delhi for only a few days. I feel this would be a waste of taxpayers’ money and it would be better if the bungalow is allotted to someone else who needs the bungalow more than me,” he told a television channel on Saturday.
Questions are being raised after a flood of reports, quoting government sources, stated that Tendulkar has been allotted 5 Tughlaq Lane, a sprawling Type VII bungalow, within just a few days of taking oath to the Upper House on June 4. It is located right opposite 12 Tughlaq Lane, the official residence of Congress General Secretary and MP Rahul Gandhi. Type VII houses are normally allotted to cabinet rank ministers. Incidentally other celebrities nominated to the Upper House at the same time as Tendulkar—like Bollywood actor Rekha—have not been considered yet for a government bungalow, big or small. For politicians and parliamentarians, these huge white colonial bungalows, with their sprawling lawns, flowerbeds and long driveways, are much sought-after status symbols.
Rajya Sabha House Committee Chairman Bhubaneshwar Kalita told The Sunday Standard from Guwahati: “Nothing is finalised on allotting a bungalow to Tendulkar. I have heard the reports. Once I’m back in Delhi on Monday, I may be able to examine requests from MPs for accommodation and decide.”
Ironically, some cabinet ministers are staying in accommodation lower in status than they are entitled to. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has been living in 13, Talkatora Road for years. His is a Type VII house; Mukherjee is entitled to Type VIII accommodation. Minister for Shipping G K Vasan is staying in the Western Court Hostel. Minister of State for Human Resource Development D Purandeshwari stays in B-201, MS Flats, BKS Marg, New Delhi. Many party leaders in Parliament are also yet to get government accommodation. TDP’s leader in Parliament, Nama Nageshwar Rao has been waiting for a house for the last three years. Leader of AIADMK Thambidurai—a four-time MP—has been staying in Tamil Nadu House for the last three years. Recently, he was allotted 22, Gurudwara Rakabganj Road, which is under renovation.
Ironically, the government took more than four months to provide India’s former first citizen a home in the national capital. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who has Z-Plus security cover, had to stay in an army hut before moving to his government bungalow at 10 Rajaji Marg on December 16, 2007.
Nominated Rajya Sabha members such as Prof. M S Swaminathan, renowned agricultural scientist, stays in one of the multi-storied flats—503, Brahmaputra—on Dr B D Marg. Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar, economist, is residing in the same block of flats: number 201. Similarly, B Jayashree, theatre personality, is staying in an apartment in the multi-storied residential unit C-102, Swarna Jayanthi Sadan, Dr B D Marg.
As per Parliamentary House Committee norms, eight categories of MPs are eligible for bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi. These include the ones with ‘Z’ category security cover. They have to fill up a request form for the allotment of the bungalows. It is not clear whether Tendulkar has applied for a Type VII house. However, the government has hastily upgraded his security status to the Z-plus category. Currently, Mumbai Police is protecting him. The home ministry directed Delhi Police on June 7 to provide Tendulkar with Z-plus security whenever he is in the capital.