VVIP housing: It's simple, change the goalpost, score a stately bungalow

In 2009, Danish football goalkeeper, Kim Christensen, was caught on camera literally moving the goalposts in order to gain advantage over the opposing team. The referee had discovered the moving of the goalposts 20 minutes into the game; but Christensen escaped unpunished, unhurt causing bewilderment across the world of football.

Indeed, Akhilesh Singh Yadav, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, is as lucky as Christensen. He has changed the goalposts in broad daylight in the case of eviction of VVIPs from government bungalows; but nobody – not even the Supreme Court of India – has reprimanded him so far. Life goes on merrily in Lucknow as usual in the meantime.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP chief Mayawati, Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh and some others including ND Tiwari and Ram Naresh Yadav, who had led the state as chief ministers at one point of time or the other, retain their bungalows spread across acres of grandeur at public expense in the state capital. They have nothing to worry about. After all, friend Akhilesh Yadav is there to lend a helping hand even in the face of an adverse Supreme Court judgment.

Politics does make strange bedfellows. Don’t be fooled by what they rant and rave about in the run-up to elections. In peacetime, post elections, they stick together and look after one another’s interests very well. It’s a different thing altogether if the poor and the needy suffer in the process.

File image of Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

File image of Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

Times have changed. Nowadays, might is right in this land of Gandhi, who was known as a half-naked fakir, Ram Manohar Lohia, who always fought against the high and the mighty on the issue of the poor-man’s per capita income, and Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had caught the nation’s imagination by his simplicity and righteousness.

It’s perhaps time the present-day powers that be took a trip down the memory lane to draw inspiration from the simple, undemanding lifestyles of some of the great chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh – Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Sucheta Kripalani, Dr Sampoornanand and even Choudhary Charan Singh. None of these stalwarts retained any state bungalows after the expiry of their terms. And none of them owned any private property in Lucknow either.

Remember? Earlier this month, the apex court had ordered eviction of former chief ministers from government bungalows “within two months”. The court had also made it clear that the illegal occupants paid all the due rent.

But far from getting the Supreme Court’s order implemented, the UP chief minister hurriedly held a cabinet meeting and decided to amend the relevant Act to circumvent the judicial directive. It was done very cleverly. Once the proposed amendment to the existing Act is passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, there wouldn’t be any legal loophole left for the apex court to interfere. And as for the media and the masses, who cares?

Indeed, the goalposts are sought to be moved in the middle of the game — brazenly under the cover of legislative sanction. Retaining illegal occupation of government bungalows isn’t a new phenomenon in this country. In 2006, the Supreme Court had launched a drive against such squatters by asking the Centre tough questions regarding this culture of illegal occupation of prime state properties not just in Lutyen’s Delhi but across the states as well.

In this case, amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar had informed the court that Jammu and Kashmir topped the list of illegal occupants (605) followed by UP (594), Bengal (361), Orissa (269), Bihar (224) and MP (100). But things hardly improved thereafter. Men in power have mastered the art of circumventing scrutiny over the years rather well.

In 2010 again, a lot of hue and cry was raised when it was noticed that VIP squatters in New Delhi included big names such as Jagdish Tytler, Renuka Choudhary, Ram Vilas Paswan, Saleem Shervani, Ram Jethmalani and Ashwini Kumar.

Once again in 2014, the issue was discussed in detail when the nation came to know that those who had been occupying huge bungalows in the national Capital included A Raja, Mukul Roy, SM Krishna, PK Bansal and PC Joshi. These names apart, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Buta Singh were found to be enjoying ‘extended stay’ in the bungalows, thanks to the special concessions given to them by the then UPA government in contravention of a Supreme Court judgement.

Wait for a minute please. With elections round the corner in UP, we are about to witness fiery campaign trails and heated allegations and counter allegations. Chances are that nobody will give even a casual glance to the squatters and their imposing lifestyles any more.

All will be lost in sizzling politics.

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Updated Date: Aug 30, 2016 13:59:03 IST

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