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A palace for the J&K chief minister
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
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December 20, 2006 18:05 IST

Jammu and Kashmir [Images] Chief Minister Ghulam [Images] Nabi Azad will check-in at former Dogra King's palace 'Hari Niwas' when he comes back to Srinagar [Images] with the annual Darbar move next year.

This will end a long quest for the chief minister's residence after Azad refused to move into the multi-crore residence of former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at the fashionable Maulana Azad Road.

During the reign of the last Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, 'Hari Niwas' was the official residence of Maharani Tara Devi.

The palace has had a chequered history since being used at times as a joint interrogation centre and finally making way for the headquarters of the state intelligence department, which was put at short notice before it was evicted from the former palace.

Former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's planned conversion of the palace into state museum was shelved after the changeover in November, 2004. The palace is brewing with construction activity with dozens of masons, carpenters, plumbers and furnishers working over time to refurbish the 'Hari Niwas' to the chief minister's taste and status.

The choice of 'Hari Niwas' conversion into the chief minister's residence came following growing security concerns for the chief minister. Moreover, security agencies found the location overlooking the Dal Lake and some distance away from the Raj Bhawan, the official residence of the state governor secure from the security point of view.

The chief minister has been using Jammu and Kashmir Bank's guest house in the vicinity as his transitional abode.

Azad had declined to move into the official residence of the outgoing chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed since that residence was located in the heart of summer capital Srinagar causing inconvenience to the people and traffic on the busy Maulana Azad Road. Mufti had spent over Rs 3 crore to re-do up his official residence.

During his tenure as the chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah used his private house on the Gupkar Road as the chief minister's residence, but the state government had to spend huge amounts of money to build the visitor's lobby and security barracks around the residence.

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