Until Monday, the first floor apartment at 144, North Avenue in Lutyens’ Delhi was what it had always been — nondescript. A day later, it ceased to be that.
The apartment allotted to Ram Nath Kovind, a two-term Rajya Sabha MP who became Governor of Bihar, was taken over by the security establishment after he was named the NDA choice for the next President — the Rashtrapati Bhavan is walking distance from 144, North Avenue.
While Kovind was in Bihar Niwas through Tuesday, security personnel were installing an X-ray scanner and door frame metal detectors at the apartment to screen visitors. New barricades were placed in the service lanes to regulate access to Kovind’s apartment.
“Before he became Governor, Kovind used to go for a morning walk till the outer walls of Rashtrapati Bhavan at the end of North Avenue. And in a month from now, he can take that morning walk within the President’s Estate. I will continue to walk outside as usual,” said one of his neighbours. Kovind had to discontinue his morning walk routine once he became Governor.
According to the neighbour, Kovind would spend the night at the apartment even while on an official visit to Delhi as Governor. “He would conduct his official engagements at Bihar Niwas and come home for the night whenever he was in Delhi,” the neighbour said.
And that was the case even Monday. After wrapping up his official engagements, Kovind came home late at night around 11.30 pm and left for Bihar Niwas Tuesday morning to start the day.
A source at the BJP headquarters suggested that Kovind may continue to stay at the apartment during the course of his presidential campaign. But security personnel said the modest apartment would be unable to receive the unending stream of visitors, likely to swell after he files his nomination papers on Friday. “I guess they will have to make alternate arrangements because it is too small a flat to handle so many visitors,” said a policeman stationed outside.
Kovind’s family, while in Delhi, also stay in this apartment. Fond of pets, they arrange food for stray dogs in the neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, Union Ministers Ananth Kumar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and BJP general secretaries Bhupender Yadav and Ram Lal called on Kovind at Bihar Niwas to complete the paperwork for his nomination papers. They were accompanied by party MPs Om Birla and Rakesh Singh who were tasked to collect signatures of the requisite number of legislators — MPs and MLAs — to propose Kovind’s candidature.