No 5-star hotel for new MPs in drive for cost-cutting
Newly elected members of Parliament (MPs) will not be staying in five-star hotels this year while they await their official accommodation, as part of the Lok Sabha secretariat’s cost-cutting measures. Instead, they will have to make do with their respective state guest houses or the newly renovated Western Court, the state-run transit hostel in the heart of the capital, Lok Sabha secretary general Snehlata Srivastava said on Wednesday.
An official close to outgoing Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan said that earlier this month, she chaired a meeting to oversee preparations for the induction of the next Lok Sabha, during which it was decided to stop the practice of housing newly-elected MPs, who don’t have any official residence, in plush hotels.
“The Speaker pointed out that a couple of years ago there was a big hue and cry over the highly subsidized food in Parliament complex. Following this, food prices were hiked to make the canteens a no-profit, no-loss proposition. Similarly, it was felt that the newly-elected MPs should not be hosted at hotels,” said the senior official at the Lok Sabha secretariat who asked not to be named.
A second official at the secretariat added that in 2014, “almost 300 newly-elected MPs had to be accommodated in hotels. And their duration of stay ranged from 15 days to three months. The estate department had to bear a huge expense.”
In 2014, as many as 315 new MPs, mostly from the BJP, were elected to the House, the highest number of newcomers since 1980.
Srivastava clarified that hotel expenses are not borne by the Lok Sabha secretariat but the estate department of the Union urban development ministry. An MP is entitled to official accommodation near the Parliament building, but outgoing MPs take time to vacate their accommodation.
In 2009, when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 2 government was formed, foreign minister SM Krishna and his junior minister Shashi Tharoor stayed at hotels at their own expense when their official residences were being renovated. They had to check out after public outrage as during that period the economy was in slow down and Congress managers felt that their stay in premium hotels was poor optics. Former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah welcomed the move and said, “It is always good to avoid unnecessary costs. The state bhavans in Delhi and the Western Court can easily accommodate the new MPs, but the secretariat should speed up the process of allocation and the renovation of their official accommodation.”