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Navneet Sharma, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, June 28, 2013
When it comes to pampering the chosen Congressmen, few can match the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government in Haryana. After buying luxury vehicles for ministers and chief parliamentary secretaries last year, the state government is buying sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and cars for the newly-appointed chairpersons of boards and corporations in the state.

The state authorities have decided to purchase seven Toyota Fortuners and three Hyundai Sonatas for them. The high-powered purchase committee, headed by finance minister Harmohinder Singh Chattha, placed the orders for the new SUVs and cars last week. The new vehicles are expected to arrive in three weeks. While Toyota Fortuner is priced at Rs. 20.50 lakh each, Hyundai Sonata will cost Rs. 16.50 lakh each.

The chairpersons were given the option of selecting the vehicle of their choice from these two models, sources said. Hooda had appointed 14 persons, including four MLAs Sumita Singh, Anil Dhantori, Jarnail Singh and Ram Niwas Ghorela, and two former MLAs Raj Rani Poonam and Sant Kumar, as chairpersons of different boards and corporations in March this year.

Though his party colleagues had been eyeing, some even jockeying for, the posts of chairpersons of board and corporations from the time the Congress came to power in 2005, Hooda kept them waiting for years. Now that the appointments have been made, his government has loosened the purse strings for them.

While some of them have already been provided official vehicles by their boards and corporations, the state government will pay for the remaining 10 chairpersons.

The purchase flies in the face of the government's economy measures aimed at curbing expenditure, though. The economy measures, reiterated by the finance department on May 9, 2013, for "effecting economy in expenditure", include total ban on purchase of new cars except replacements. The official argument is that these are new appointments and there is nothing wrong in buying vehicles for them. The government's VIP fleet has 65 cars and SUVs, including Mercedes Benz, Hyundai Santa Fes, Honda CR-Vs, Toyota Camrys, and Hyundai Sonatas for the chief minister, ministers and chief parliamentary secretaries.