More than a month has passed since the Prithviraj Chavan-led Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra was dissolved. A new government has been sworn in. However, nearly half of the former ministers — 22 of the total 41 in the previous government — have not vacated their official bungalows in South Mumbai’s prime locations of Malabar Hill and Nariman Point.
The list of those still occupying their sprawling bungalows has eleven names from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) including former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, ex-cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayant Patil, Jitendra Awhad , Sunil Tatkare, Rajesh Tope, Anil Deshmukh, Manohar Naik, Dilip Sopal, Bhaskar Jadhav and MSRDC’s ex-chairman Jaydatt Kshirsagar. While former CM Chavan himself vacated ‘Varsha’ , his official residence at Malabar Hill, last week, seven Congress ministers have overstayed their welcome. These include Harshvardhan Patil, Naseem Khan, Patangrao Kadam, Balasaheb Thorat , Abdul Sattar Abdul Nabi, Satej Patil and DP Sawant. Three former Congress legislators who have now got elected on a BJP ticket including Sanjay Deotale, Vijaykumar Gavit and Sanjay Savkare are also yet to hand over possession of their ministerial accommodation to the government while Uday Samant, former NCP MLA leader and now Sena legislator from Ratnagiri, is also on the list of defaulters. While the Chavan cabinet had a total of 42 ministers, Amit Deshmukh, son of former CM Vilasrao, never moved into an official bungalow after he was sworn in five months ago.
A detailed scan by The Indian Express shows that several of these former ministers already own plush apartments in prime locations of Mumbai at highly subsided rates under various preferential allotment schemes of the state government. For instance Bhujbal’s affidavit shows that he owns an apartment in Sukhada building on Worli Seaface where the government had allotted land to former legislators at a highly concessional rate. The apartment, which in 1995 cost Rs 17 lakh is now worth Rs 3.85 crore.
Others who also own homes in Sukhada include Kadam, Tatkare and Deshmukh while BJP’s Gavit owns a house in the adjoining Subhada society. Awhad has a three-bedroom house in Cuffe Parade’s controversial Adarsh Society. Harshvardhan Patil, Deotale and Thorat own a home each at Andheri’s Aashirwad Society while Nanded North legislator Sawant owns a house in Bandra’s Renuka Society, all of which were given under various government schemes.
While President’s Rule was imposed in Maharashtra on September 28, as per rules, ministers can continue to stay without paying rent or water and electricity charges for up to 15 additional days. In view of the elections, state’s chief protocol officer had issued orders allowing them to extend their rent-free stay until the elections are over with the condition that they vacate official bungalows before October 22.
“The administration was so firm about going by the rule book that they sealed the CM’s office immediately after he resigned. Then why are they letting the ministers overstay?” said RTI activist Anil Galgali who was instrumental in government raising the rent for those staying beyond their stipulated period from a measly Rs 5 per day per sq ft until recently to Rs 25 daily per square footage rate.
Former cabinet minister Naseem Khan said he is in the process of vacating his bungalow. “I do not own any house under any government quota. I am waiting for the administration to allot a house to me in the MLA hostel.”