Shut the door
after you, will you?                   Virendra Kapoor
   January 22, 2001

Politicians do not give up their perks and privileges easily, do they?

In Delhi, a fair number of them stay put in ministerial bungalows long after they lost their official chairs. And despite several notices, refuse to move out.

The result is that some new members of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government continue to live in their humble quarters provided before their induction into the ministry.

Minister of State for Coal Ravi Shankar Prasad's case is instructive. It is four months after he came into power, but Prasad's quest for a ministerial house has led him nowhere.

He short-listed some six houses and sought to persuade the occupants to move out. He was rebuffed each time.

For instance, Beni Prasad Verma, a Samajwadi Party member who was a minister in the H D Deve Gowda government, asked him to take a long hike. N T Shanmugam, a Pattali Makkal Katchi politician and former minister in the Vajpayee government, told him the same. As did Jai Narain Nishad, a Janata Dal-U member of the Deve Gowda government.

And so, Prasad, an up-and-coming BJP leader from Bihar, makes do with his small first-time MP's flat in Meena Baug.

The Advani move

Union Home Minister L K Advani has at last been persuaded to move out of C1\16 Pandara Park, his home for over 31 years.

Advani was most reluctant to shift to a ministerial bungalow. But the persuasion of security and intelligence agencies broke his resistance.

What clinched the deal, however, was the inconvenience caused to his neighbours due to restricted movement in the area.

Intelligence agencies reckon Advani's present quarters is most unsafe, given the heightened threat perception to him. In recent months, his security had been upgraded to the level of the prime minister's.

The search for a safe house took his officials to several bungalows including one set in four acres of ground and occupied by a member in the P V Narasimha Rao government.

Another house short-listed was 10 Akbar Road, allotted to the late Rajesh Pilot when he was a minister in the Rao government. He had continued to occupy it even after he ceased to hold that job.

Then, 34 Prithviraj Road too was looked over, but, as we said above, its present occupant Beni Prasad Verma refuses to move out.

Sources tell us that a house has finally been found, into which Advani would shift shortly.

Diplomatic roulette

Remember Gopal Gandhi? The IAS officer, one-time secretary to President K R Narayanan who was accused by some observers of widening the gulf between Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Prime Minister's Office?

After his despatch to Sri Lanka as high commissioner, relations between Narayanan and Vajpayee were back on even keel. But Gandhi set his sights even higher and wanted one of the most prestigious missions a civil servant can hope for -- London.

For some reason, the Vajpayee government seemed eager to oblige. And so, it announced that Gandhi -- grandson of the Mahatma and C Rajagopalchari -- would go to London.

Now, the government seems to have second thoughts. Thus, Ronen Sen, our man in Berlin, who was originally to go to Islamabad as high commissioner, will move to London while Additional Secretary at the headquarters, the erudite Srinivas Rangachari, is tipped to take over from Sen in Berlin.

And Gandhi? Well, he will have to stay put in Colombo for now.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

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