Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s refusal to move into two five-bedroom government flats triggered a debate on the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) anti-VIP culture on Saturday.
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid advised Kejriwal to follow protocols and accept the official accommodation, vehicle and security provided to him.
True to his party AAP’s ‘common man’ approach, Kejriwal had earlier turned down ‘Z’ category security, which the Delhi CM is entitled to.
Besides, in the first cabinet meeting of the AAP government, it was decided that no minister or bureaucrat would use red beacons.
In line with his stand, the new Delhi CM has refused to shift to the two five-bedroom duplex flats on Bhagwan Das Road in central Delhi.
“Kejriwal should not desist from accepting the facilities provided to him as per the protocol,” Khurshid said.
He wondered whether the AAP chief would accept security arrangements on foreign trips or when a foreign dignitary visited him.
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Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah also advised his Delhi counterpart to focus on the delivery of election promises, and not on the “fluff” surrounding the controversy over taking government flats.
“I don't think anyone voted against Sheila Dikshit (former Delhi CM) because of her residence, so best to focus on what really matters rather than the fluff,” Omar wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.
“No one will grudge Kejriwal (for) a 5-bedroom home, what they will grudge is poor delivery of election promises... so just let him move in and govern,” Omar requested the media.
Kejriwal had initially defended the duplex flat, saying he presently lived in a four-bedroom house and that moving to the new place wasn’t really luxury for him. But, a row broke out over Kejriwal, a proponent of simple living, accepting the flats.
Faced with criticism, Kejriwal told the media that he had asked the government to look for smaller accommodation for him.
“Since yesterday, my friends and supporters have been calling me and sending messages, saying I should not move into the five-bedroom flat,” he said.
Kejriwal said till a smaller accommodation was handpicked, he would function from his Ghaziabad residence. The AAP leader has been living in a society flat in Kaushambi in Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh.
Delhi government ministers are entitled to Type-Six or Type-Seven bungalows with three-bedrooms. Sheila Dikshit has since 2003 been staying at a Type-8 bungalow on 3, Motilal Nehru Marg in Lutyens Delhi.
Kejriwal, however, justified the use of government vehicles by ministers. "Friends, (the) controversy around government transport used by ministers is not right.
Ministers have to use government transport for their work... We never ever said that we won't use government transport. We said we won't use lal battis (red beacon),” he said.