The problem of 35 MPs of the 16th Lok Sabha not being able to find accommodation and, therefore, the government having to pick up the heavy tab is linked to the problem of previous parliamentarians not giving up their allotted houses or apartments.
That the MPs have been staying at the Ashok Hotel has made the problem more complicated.
The central government had been putting pressure on several previous MPs to vacate their official premises but somewhere the drive lost steam.
Now it has struck upon the plan, which is also good, of allowing MPs to stay in hotels only for the period when Parliament is in session. But this will partly solve the problem, in the sense the cost will come down.
But MPs will still insist on permanent accommodation in New Delhi, and this is something not illogical because those representing their constituencies need to have a permanent foothold in the Capital. For example, it is appropriate that communication and representations from their constituencies reach them in New Delhi.
It should be stressed that this is a problem that is of the Indian political class’s own making. In its over-eagerness to have memorials and palatial party offices, the parties and individual politicians forgot more essential things. Some damage in this regard has been done.
Now there are some long-term options with the central government.
First it can look for less expensive hotels for MPs to live in.
The Ashok Hotel has been an automatic choice for two reasons: one, it is an ITDC hotel, and two, it is close to Parliament.
Secondly, it has been found that many government accommodations have been sub-let to people. This must stop at any cost and if necessary, some of these can be given to MPs.
And finally, there should be a renewed drive to evict all former MPs from their bungalows. Constituents of the political class may bicker on issues but tend to be kinder to each other concerning housing matters.
That can stretch only for so long. Public property is public property, after all.