It is a question nobody has been able to answer until now: Is Rajasthan’s spectacular 19th century Dholpur Palace owned by the government or is it the private property of the former royal family of Dholpur?
As the Congress and BJP slug it out over the ownership of the 13-acre property about 50km from Agra, documents available with Hindustan Times reveal the government returned the palace to the family of the erstwhile ruler in 1958 in exchange for another sprawling estate in the city, Kaiserbagh Palace, which now houses a military school.
The red sandstone palace, apparently built in 1876, has been at the centre of a political storm after the Congress called it a public property and alleged that Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and her son, Dushyant Singh, usurped and converted it into a high-end hotel.
Dushyant Singh formed a company, Niyant Heritage Hotels, to run the hotel called Raj Niwas Palace. Former IPL boss Lalit Modi’s company, Ananda Heritage Hotels Pvt Ltd, allegedly invested heavily in the property.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh showed a covenant of 1949, which didn’t mention the palace in the inventory of private properties of Udaibhan Singh, then ruler of Dholpur and father of Raje’s estranged husband Hemant Singh.
The party also showed documents from 1954 to insist that when the princely state of Dholpur merged with India after Independence, the palace was not on the government-prepared list of private properties of Udaibhan Singh.
The BJP countered that the palace was indeed government property until 1958, but ceased to be one on November 22 that year when it was given back to the family which owned it.
Advocate AK Jain said the Congress was right as far as the 1954 inventory was concerned but it failed to take into account the 1958 document that mentions the palace exchange.