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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Delhi CM Kejriwal defends new duplex accommodation, says it's modest

Atul Mathur and Sidhartha Roy, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 04, 2014
First Published: 00:28 IST(4/1/2014) | Last Updated: 10:24 IST(4/1/2014)

He first took the ‘sankalp’ of not accepting any official accommodation or an official car to move around, if elected to power. His stand changed as soon as he was sworn in as Delhi’s seventh chief minister and asked for a "small house" rather than moving to 3, Moti Lal Nehru Marg bungalow where Sheila Dikshit lived.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to accept two five-bedroom duplex flats at Bhagwan Dass Road is now being viewed as a complete turnaround of his earlier stance.

"Why were they taking such a high moral ground when they ultimately had to accept all the facilities given to chief ministers and ministers. It (official bungalow) is part of the perks of a chief minister. If the ministers do not take official houses, they will get Rs. 20,000 as house rent. They should take Rs. 1 as salary if they really want to prove they don’t want facilities," BJP MLA Sahib Singh Chauhan said.

Kejriwal, however, said it was a modest house. "If you want, take your cameras to the flat, see for yourself and compare with the earlier CM’s house," he told reporters outside Delhi Assembly.

While appreciating that Kejriwal finally accepted an official house, which is below his entitlement, former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal questioned the location.

"These are row houses. A large number of people come to meet the chief minister. Sometimes, demonstrations and protests too happen at the CM’s house. If 10 cars come there, the other residents in that area will not have space to park their vehicles. Won’t the neighbours be inconvenienced?" Saigal said. "Two former Delhi ministers live in Chanakyapuri, which are small but independent bungalows. He could have taken up that house," he said.

"I don’t think there is any problem in a chief minister or Minister occupying a government bungalow as logically, it is very necessary for the work of a chief minister. If he had carried out this work from a housing society in Ghaziabad, it would have been difficult for other people living there," said Dunu Roy, director of Hazards Centre, an NGO.

"This, however, would have been perfectly in order if he had not made those promises and protestations earlier about not doing something. That is why this stands out very glaringly," he said.

"There is a thread running through all that he is doing, be it taking an official accommodation, taking support from Congress or making life easier for the urban poor. He is backtracking on many of his promises," said eminent architect and Intach’s Delhi Chapter convener, AGK Menon.

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