A month after the Madhya Pradesh High Court asked the state government to get the houses of four former CMs vacated, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has allotted three of them the same bungalows using his discretionary powers. Former CMs Kailash Joshi, Babulal Gaur and Uma Bharati were expected to vacate by July 19 the government bungalows they had been occupying long after they left office. The BJP government cancelled allotments of the bungalows, but instead of getting them vacated, it found a way out for its leaders by making them send fresh applications. Gaur, who was CM for 15 months, has been occupying the current bungalow for more than 12 years after vacating the CM House on Shyamla Hills in late 2005. Bharati was CM for less than a year while Joshi was CM for less than seven months, from June 1977 to January 1978.
Using discretionary powers that empower him to allot government bungalows to prominent citizens, Chouhan allotted the same bungalows to the three leaders for three years on the condition that will pay rent and electricity expenses.
Former Congress CM Digvijaya Singh, who is also occupying a bungalow in the capital, has not made any fresh application and risks losing it. In a letter to the chief secretary, Singh said he would vacate the bungalow in a month but asked for office space to accommodate his staff, saying he enjoys Cabinet minister status. A CMO official confirmed that the same bungalows have been allotted to Joshi, Gaur and Bharati but not Singh, as he has not sent an application to the CM. He said the government would take care of maintenance of the bungalows, but the occupants will now have to pay rent and electricity.
A couple of years ago, the MP Assembly had amended a legislation to provide lifelong government accommodation, salaries and perks to former CMs on par with current ministers. A petition was filed challenging the amendment, after which a double bench of MP High Court struck down the amendment and ruled that former CMs be asked to vacate the bungalows within a month.
AAP leader Alok Agarwal said the CM’s decision was misuse of his discretionary powers. “The CM has gone against the basic spirit of the HC order. This amounts to misuse of power to extend undue benefit,’’ he said, describing the applications of the three former CMs as a farce.
In his application, Joshi, a former MP from Bhopal, said he was an active social worker for a long time. Bharati, who is MP from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, said she is a domicile of MP and was an MLA and CM. Gaur said he is a legislator for the last 35 years.