Updated Saturday, June 3, 2006


No CM House, Azad stays put as paying guest


Srinagar, June 2: Even as the former Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed enjoys the state guest protocol, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad doesn’t have the official residence and is staying in JK Bank guesthouse. Strain has been constantly brewing within PDP and Congress ranks over the issue with most of them ridiculing the state government for not constructing the CM House.

During Farooq Abdullah regime the state government had planned to build the Chief Minister’s House in Ishbar, Nishat at a cost of Rs 25 Crore. Abdullah was keener to accomplish the project and had even spent Rs 5 Crore on the project. After the change of political guard here, Mufti Sayeed stopped work on the project terming the expenditure as “unproductive.”

Sources said the government had requisitioned JK Bank guesthouse on the lush Zabarwan hills against a monthly rent of Rs one lakh soon after Deputy Chief Minister shifted to MA Road residence.

Following his takeover as Chief Minister in 2002 Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had chosen to stay in the prestigious mansion at M A Road, which is famous for being the residence of the former “Kashmir Prime Minister” Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad. The building, according to sources, was refurbished at a whopping Rs 4 Crore before Mufti Sayeed stepped in. Estates and Works departments had given a massive face-lift to the mansion and a big sum was spent from Security Related Expenditure to erect fences and build protection tiers around the VIP bungalow.

Why Azad chose JK Bank guesthouse even as the state had spent huge funds to construct an “ideal CM House” in the heart of the City? Azad’s detractors believe that he wanted to impress his “Delhi bosses” by being less ambitious about politics and more concerned about the governance. However senior Congress leaders contend that just before his resignation in November last, Mufti Sayeed had swapped the M A Road residence with his party colleague and minister, now Dy CM, Muzaffar Beg’s Fairview Guesthouse.

Situated in the verdant ambiance of Zaberwan hills, Fairview guesthouse has a dubious past for being the primary torture cell, officially known as “Papa two” in early nineties.

According to some human rights groups a number of Kashmiri youth had been done to death in “Papa Two” under the operation “catch and kill.” During National Conference rule, troops evacuated the Fairview guesthouse and the then Chief Secretary Ashok Jaitely spent Rs one crore to renovate the building. He was so much conscious of the tales of atrocities attached to the “Papa Two” that he performed certain purification rites to exorcise the “ghosts” before he settled down in the picturesque mansion.

A top PDP functionary while refuting the Congress theory asserted that following his resignation from office, Mufti Sayeed wanted to move to his Nowgam residence but the security officials had not permitted him citing threat perception. “Beg sahib,” he added, “offered him his Fairview guesthouse residence and himself shifted to M A Road mansion. But the new CM was duly informed about the decision.” The PDP leader who pleaded anonymity further said that Azad was reluctant to reside at M A Road and had argued that the place was not “appropriate”.

“Why should the outgoing Chief Minister be worried about his residence even as the National Conference government had passed a law terming the former Chief Ministers as state guests and entitled to all VIP emoluments,” a PDP leader said. However, former Chief Ministers G M Shah resides in his personally owned house, although he enjoys other privileges and due protocol.
Presently, the chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad stays at JK Bank guesthouse next to Raj Bhawan. The residence is not only inaccessible for common people but also appears isolated from the public.

Congress circles feel that if Mufti or Muzaffar Beg had better accommodation they were morally bound to offer to the Chief Minister. “It’s the matter of courtesy. How can Dy CM remain comfortably poised in the lavishly built mansion at M A Road while his Chief Minister manages to stay in a guesthouse,” one of Azad’s close confidantes said.

Curiously, PDP is shortly entering into seventh year of its existence yet it has no party headquarters in Srinagar. The party is operating from an estates building on posh Emporium road, which was allotted to PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti for residential purposes. “Estates rules don’t permit the political usage of a residential accommodation. If someone is doing that he is violating the law,” a top government official informed.


Source: Greater Kashmir. Read the news story at the original site.