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No takers for Vajpayee's BMWs
Onkar Singh in New Delhi |
June 10, 2004 15:48 IST
Four luxury BMW cars, custom fitted for then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, have become a headache for the new government.
While Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, known for his dislike for ostentation, is reluctantly using two of them, there are no takers for the rest.
The cars, that cost the government Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) a piece, are armoured vehicles capable of withstanding a landmine blast. They are fitted with latest security and communication equipment.
According to well placed sources, President A P J Abdul Kalam, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have all refused to use the cars.
S M Khan, the President's press secretary, said Rashtrapati Bhavan does not need the vehicle.
"At the moment there is no such proposal with us. The President's fleet of cars is complete and he uses a Mercedes for travelling. Hence, we do not require any more vehicles," Khan told rediff.com
"Why should the President touch the hot potato? Even the vice-president does not seem to be interested in them (the cars)," a senior intelligence official said.
Sonia too has made clear her preference for Ambassador cars.
The four BMWs were bought about six months ago on advice from the Special Protection Group, which provides protection to the prime minister, his family, former prime ministers and their families.
Dr Singh, who drove a white Maruti 800 till he was appointed prime minister, was uncomfortable with the idea of moving around in a BMW. But the SPG put its foot down.
What must also bother Dr Singh is the fuel efficiency of these cars. According to sources, Vajpayee's office spent around Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million) these past six months on fuel for these automobiles.
Top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders now claim that only one BMW was initially ordered for use by Vajpayee. But SPG agents objected because a single BMW would have stood out like a sour thumb in a cavalcade of cars that the prime minister travels in and become a security nightmare.
That is one reason why Ambassador cars have been preferred for so long by Indian VIPs.