Urban development (UD) minister M Venkaiah Naidu can count PM Narendra Modi’s lean cabinet as a blessing.
In 30 days flat, Naidu’s ministry — mandated to provide official accommodation to Union ministers — has completed the process of allotting bungalows to a majority of the 44 ministers.
A smaller cabinet has meant the ministry has been saved the nightmare faced by the previous UPA government of arranging suitable houses for 79 of its ministers.
So far the ministry has allotted bungalows to 29 ministers.
These include party heavyweights like finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has been allotted a 5,600 sq. ft. bungalow in 2, Krishna Menon Marg and highways, shipping and road transport minister Nitin Gadkari, who will get to live in a huge bungalow close to the Motilal Nehru Place-Janpath roundabout. Congress president Sonia Gandhi lives just a stone’s throw away.
But not everyone wants a bigger house. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj seems happy with her spacious bungalow, a short distance away from the hustle and bustle of the noisy Safdarjung Road. So are eight other ministers who have told the UD ministry that they don’t want to go in for the upgrade that their new ministerial berths can offer.
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The process of allocating bungalows might have been completed, but the tough part of Naidu’s job — persuading the former UPA ministers to vacate their official bungalows at the earliest — will begin now. Only a handful of former ministers have move out.
The UD ministry on Friday started the process of sending fresh eviction notices to the former ministers to vacate.
Naidu is keeping his fingers crossed that he is not forced to resort to what one of his predecessor, former UD minister S Jaipal Reddy had to do in 2009 when Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athawale did not vacate his Lodhi Estate bungalow despite several notices sent to him.
Ministry officials went to Athawale’s residence and forcibly removed all belongings from the house, thus evicting him.