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Vajpayee's new address: 8, Krishna Menon Marg

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | May 17, 2004 08:42 IST

From a sprawling complex of bungalows, swanky made-to-order BMW car, helipad, protected shelters and encrypted communication links, Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be moving to more earthly environs this week.

In compensation, Vajpayee would gain as neighbours some of Indian politics' shrewdest, longest surviving masters such as K Karunakaran, George Fernandes and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

His new home will be 8, Krishna Menon Marg, which was last occupied by late Murasoli Maran. The latter was once a member of his cabinet and the trusted interlocutor between the former prime minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhaghan chief M Karunanidhi when the party was a member of the National Democratic Alliance.

But political fortunes don't take much time to change and within a span of five years, DMK transformed from a trusted ally to the NDA's nemesis, wrecking Vajpayee's chances of retaining 7, Race Course Road, the sprawling complex that has been earmarked as the prime minister's residence.

At the new house, which has been vacant for some time now, work is going on at a furious space to prepare the place for its new occupant. A couple of labourers are trimming the grass while someone else is painting the boundary wall of the bungalow built as part of Luyten's Delhi in the early 20th century.

South Block, which was Vajpayee's office since he took over as PM, is only a stone's throw away. So are North Block, Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate.

"We have to finish work by Tuesday," says S K Srivastava, an official of the Central Public Works Department, who was going from room to room giving instructions. "This is one of the biggest bungalows in the area with a central gallery, a dedicated guest wing, three big kitchens, office space, and 12 servant quarters," he informs. The house also has six bedrooms and five toilets.

A couple of officers from the Special Protection Group that guards the prime minister, ex-PMs and their families are silently overseeing the entire work. A posse of Delhi policemen is guarding the bungalow. An inspector says the Delhi police took over security of the house after Vajpayee decided to occupy it.

There are no indications when the next prime minister, in all probability Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, would move into 7, Race Course Road but, according to officials, Vajpayee wants to vacate the PM's official residence and move into the new house at the earliest.

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