One of the best perks that Union ministers and parliamentarians in India are entitled to are sprawling bungalows in Delhi’s posh Lutyens' zone. While having a house in the area indicates the "arrival" on the national political scene for first-time MPs, the size and type of the accommodation is a prestige point for senior leaders.
So, when a news report on Tuesday suggested that Congress president Rahul Gandhi might lose his bungalow at 12, Tughlaq Lane, it became a topic of discussion in the corridors of power.
Rahul was allotted this bungalow in 2004 when he was first elected as a Lok Sabha member from Amethi. The bungalow is of the Type VIII category, which is the highest-category accommodation allotted to an MP or Union minister.
According to the process mentioned in the ‘Amenities for Member of Parliament’, bungalows to MPs of the Lower House are allotted by the Accommodation Sub-Committee of the House Committee, Lok Sabha.
The main function of the sub-committee is to provide advice on the allotment of residential accommodation to members of the Lok Sabha. An appeal against the decision of the House Committee or the Accommodation Sub-Committee lies with the Speaker, whose decision is final.
There are different types of accommodations available to members of Parliament. Generally, Type IV, V, VI houses have four bedrooms and a study. They are generally allotted to first-time MPs and are situated in areas like North Avenue and South Avenue. In recent years. new high-rise apartments have also been constructed for accommodating MPs.
Houses of higher categories are given to senior MPs (those who have been elected more than once) and Ministers of States. Type VII and Type VIII bungalows are usually allotted to senior Cabinet Ministers, and they have sprawling lawns, sometimes so large that they can accommodate several high-rise apartments.
However, these norms are not binding. It is the discretion of the party in power and the head of the House Committee that effectively matters the most. In some exceptional cases, even settled norms, like those about allotting a flat, or Type IV, V or VI house to a first-time MP, are bypassed.
When Rahul was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004, he was allotted a Type VIII bungalow, the highest level of accommodation. One reason for this was that Rahul had Special Protection Group (SPG) security, and such a person could not be given a flat for accommodation.
However, as a senior official in charge of security of a cabinet minister explained, while an SPG protectee cannot be allotted a flat, there is no protocol regarding the allocation of a particular type of bungalow.
“The SPG sets up a strategic guard and a close protection team. There are certain criteria that need to be fulfilled while allotting an accommodation to an SPG protectee. For instance, there should not be any high-rise building, or any source of public nuisance, in the vicinity. For this reason, such a person is allotted a bungalow, and not a flat," explained the official.
The type of bungalow to be allotted to Rahul would be at the discretion of the House Committee.
As things stand, bungalows are not allotted strictly according to seniority or a ministerial position. Many MPs have been allotted bungalows, while many ministers of State reside in flats. Actor Chiranjeevi, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012, was allotted a type VIII bungalow at Akbar Road because of his proximity to the top brass of the Congress party, which was in power then.
Similarly, when cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, he was also allowed a Type VII bungalow, which is generally allocated to senior union ministers.
It is important to note that any decision regarding the accommodation of Rahul, or any other MP for that matter, will only be made after the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is selected. This is because it is the Speaker who appoints the members of the House Committee. The Accommodation Sub-Committee consists of four members, including the Chairperson of the House Committee, who is an ex-officio member.
The members of the sub-committee are nominated by the Chairperson of the House Committee from amongst the members of the House Committee. Once this sub-committee is constituted, it will convene a meeting on the allotment of accommodation to MPs.
As far as the controversy over Rahul's bungalow is concerned, an official who has worked with the House Committee said, "Rahul Gandhi was allocated his current bungalow as MP of Amethi. But now, he has lost that constituency and has won from another constituency in Kerala. So, his bungalow may have been included in the list only for technical reasons. But that certainly does not mean that he will be asked to vacate the bungalow."
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Updated Date: Jun 11, 2019 18:51:08 IST