Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday said former Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was illegally staying in a government house that she had been allotted in her earlier capacity as the leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha.
"Security concern is no criterion to get an official accommodation. The moment someone ceases to hold a constitutional position, he or she is required to vacate the official accommodation," Sukhbir replied to a question during a press meet here, referring to Bhattal's reply to a notice to vacate the house.
Bhattal remains a legislator but was replaced as leader of opposition leader by the new CLP leader, Sunil Jakhar, after the new assembly was elected early this year. Sukhbir, who was accompanied by revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, remarked, however, that "it's an internal matter of the Congress as to who would reside in the accommodation earmarked for the leader of the opposition".
Chief secretary Rakesh Singh had recently issued a notice to Bhattal asking her to vacate the accommodation -- House No. 46 in Sector 2 -- which she has been occupying for several years. Bhattal then held a press conference and expressed her inability to vacate the accommodation citing security threats. She had said that in case the Punjab government forced her out of the accommodation, she would have "no choice but to stay in a tent outside the house in protest".
Referring to Bhattal's argument but without naming her, Sukhbir remarked on Tuesday that he had "no problem" if someone desired to live in a tent. "In fact, these days tents available in the market are of very good quality," he joked.
Meanwhile, Jakhar, who was allotted the house on March 22, had written to the government seeking an alternative. Jakhar has since been allotted a house in Sector 16, which he has not been able to occupy, as the house needs extensive repairs after former director general of police (DGP) PS Gill vacated it a few days ago.