For all the Congress talk of austerity and sacrifice in the time of drought its MPs have been asked to pay 20% of their salary for drought relief two of its high-profile Ministers are comfortably settled in two five-star hotels in the capital.
For over three months now,External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is at ITCs Maurya on Sardar Patel Marg and his junior Shashi Tharoor at Hotel Taj Mahal on Man Singh Road. Both pay their own bills but neither of them nor the hotels say how much they have paid so far.
According to their poll affidavits,Krishna has assets worth Rs 18 crore and Tharoor Rs 15 crore. The ostensible reason for their five-star stay is that their official accommodation is not ready.
When Krishna entered Rajya Sabha in the UPAs last term,he was allotted the residence of former External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh at 19,Teen Murti Lane. However,he found the house in a poor state and so renovation was ordered. On becoming External Affairs Minister,Krishna got himself a bungalow allotted on Thyagaraja Marg which again is under renovation.
In the case of Tharoor,he was offered accommodation in Kerala House after the polls but is said to have turned it down. Hes been allotted a house in Lodhi Estate which is getting done up. His office says the Minister plans to move next week a good 100 days after the new government took charge.
Its learnt that Krishna is checked in at the Mauryas Presidential suite on the 16th floor. The suites tariff,hotel staff said,is on request. In other words,theres no declared tariff for the four Presidential suites in the hotel which have had guests like US President George W Bush and Bill Clinton. Industry insiders say the room tariff is in the range of Rs 1 lakh plus per night although it can be negotiated.
Hotel staff said Krishna meets people in the hotels coffeeshop,The Pavilion. Today,he met Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal there.
Mauryas general manager (corporate communications) Richa Sharma was sent a questionnaire but she said the hotel could not disclose any information about the guests. Krishnas office,too,did not respond to a questionnaire.
However,MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said that the minister is paying on his own and nothing is being paid by the ministry. He is in the hotel because he doesnt have official accommodation, the spokesperson said.
Tharoor has been staying in a Taj suite since he moved to Delhi as the minister,staff said,and the lowest tariff for suites in the Taj Man Singh is Rs 40,000 per night (executive balcony suite). However,these rates can be negotiated,said hotel staff.
The hotels director (public relations) Sanjukthaa Roy was sent an e-mail questionnaire to which she said: Regret we will not be able to participate in this story. I hope you will understand.
Tharoors office was sent a questionnaire and he replied: I am staying in a hotel because my allotted accommodation is not ready for occupancy.
The CWC discussion on austerity occurred well after I had already checked in and at a time when my move to my residence was supposed to be imminent,so it made no sense to move elsewhere in the interim. My stay costs the taxpayer nothing since I am paying the bills from my own savings after a lifetime of international work.