The extraordinary gesture of the government to allow BSP supremo Mayawati to amalgamate three Lutyens’ bungalows for expanding the Kanshi Ram Memorial came a day before the crucial vote on FDI in retail in the Lok Sabha, where the government’s survival had come into question.
Such was the urgency that the Directorate of Estates in the Ministry of Urban Development — headed by Kamal Nath, who is also the government’s chief troubleshooter as Parliamentary Affairs Minister — issued the formal communique granting permission on the same day, December 4, 2012, that Mayawati had written to them seeking certain clarifications on the allotment.
The discussion and vote in the Lok Sabha was on the next day, December 5, 2012, where the BSP abstained along with the Samajwadi Party, allowing the government to survive by a thin margin after the Trinamool Congress walked out of the UPA for allowing FDI in retail.
The Rajya Sabha, where the vote was a couple of days later on December 7, was equally critical because mere abstention would not have been enough. Either of the two parties from Uttar Pradesh had to vote in favour of the government for defeating the opposition’s motion against FDI in retail. The BSP obliged by voting with the government in the upper house, saying it wanted to keep “communal forces” out of power and in doing so, adopted different strategies in both houses.
Behind all this drama in the winter session of 2012, perhaps, lies a story of favours granted for Mayawati’s dream to build the memorial in the heart of Delhi through the Bahujan Prerna Trust. While the details about this unusual exception by the Directorate of Estates are now known, it’s the timing that raises questions.
The story about the amalgamation of the three bungalows — 12, 14 and 16 on Gurdwara Rakabganj Road — starts with a letter from Mayawati to Kamal Nath on November 19, 2012, just months after she was voted out of power in UP, making a plea for more space for the memorial. By November 29, 2012, the Ministry of Urban Development gave its permission.
However, on December 4, 2012 just a day before the crucial debate and vote in the Lok Sabha, Mayawati sent another letter as Chairperson, Bahujan Prerna Trust, to the Assistant Director of Estates seeking technical clarifications about the November 29, 2012 permission.
Clearly there was some panic because the government, in a display of unusual alacrity, responded on the same day with a fresh letter of permission, addressing Mayawati’s technical doubts.
When contacted, BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra said, “This must be a coincidence. We are against FDI in retail, but if you remember, we said we wanted to keep communal forces away.”
A few months back, Mayawati was allotted a house on Thyagaraj Marg as president of a national party. Here again, a waiver was given from an eligibility condition that specifies that such allottees should not own alternate accommodation in Delhi.
A similar sequence was seen in 2007 when the original permission was granted. The government was bracing for its first major survival crisis on the nuclear deal when it decided to conclude the 123 civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States on July 27, 2007. The Left had made it known that it would oppose any such agreement and so, the government was looking to secure its bases with support from parties like the BSP.
As it turns out, the Directorate of Estates hurriedly drafted rules to allot such bungalows to Trusts for building memorials. This was necessary because a 1996 Supreme Court order on a Public Interest Litigation, while allowing government departments such discretionary powers, had mandated that rules and guidelines must be in place for such allotments.
These rules were drafted overnight and the notification was issued on July 26, 2007. The first allotment was 12, Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Road, that was made the next day on July 27 — the same day that India and US officially concluded 123 negotiations — to Bahujan Prerna Trust.
Eventually, the BSP ended up withdrawing support to UPA-I over its demands for a special UP package though the main concerns were over the disproportionate assets case. The CBI put the case in deep freeze last year. But on Friday, the Supreme Court asked for a fresh CBI response to a petition in the matter.