Hit by a Rs 35 crore hotel bill for lawmakers who are yet to take up official accommodation, the government wants to change the rules to limit MPs’ hotel stay to the days when Parliament is in session.
As on April 6, 35 of the 543 members of the 16th Lok Sabha, which completes a year in a little over a month, were still staying in the Capital’s The Ashok hotel, sources said. The number was much higher in the weeks after the Lok Sabha results were declared on May 16, 2014.
At a meeting of the cabinet committee on accommodation on April 9, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu pushed for change in rules, questioning the need for the government to pay for lawmakers’ hotel stay when Parliament was not meeting and MPs not in the Capital, sources said.
“When Parliament is not in session, the rooms are either locked or occupied by either MPs’ staff or their acquaintances. Why should the government pay for this? If rules need to be changed we should change them,” a source quoted Naidu as saying.
A suite in the state-run luxury hotel, where MPs awaiting accommodation are put up, commands Rs 12,000 a day and a room Rs 9,000. Most of those who are staying in the hotel are among the 314 first-time Lok Sabha members.
The others have moved to the houses allotted to them.
Most of the 35 MPs had been allotted houses but were yet to move in as renovation was on, sources in the ministry said. Some, said sources, had requested a bigger house.
It is the urban development ministry that has to pay the Rs 35-crore bill tab picked up over the year, though the Lok Sabha house committee is tasked with providing housing to all members.
Naidu recently met the house committee chairman Arjun Ram Meghwal and asked him to revisit the allotment policy. Meghwal, said sources, quoted the rule book, saying the government had to provide a temporary accommodation to a MP till such time the house allotted to him/her has been certified as “habitable” by the CPWD. To this, the minister replied “rules need to be changed then”, sources said.
"We are looking into the rules. The existing ones do not define the time period -- one year, two years or more -- for which an MP can continue staying in a transit accommodation," Meghwal said.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, home minister Rajnath Singh and highways minister Nitin Gadkari are the other members of the cabinet panel.
Most of the Lok Sabha members live in the heart of the city’s power district in “MP flats” in North Avenue and South Avenue built close to the Rashtrapati Bhawan.