The Supreme Court on August 1 ruled that former chief ministers are not entitled to any government accommodation for lifetime. Many former chief ministers have been living in government bungalows, but there are others who do not take advantage of government resources and set austerity measures for themselves.
One of them is Manik Sarkar of Tripura, who is considered the poorest of all chief ministers in the country. The 67-year-old Marxist stalwart has less than Rs 40,000 in bank. “I don’t even have a house of my own,” Sarkar told THE WEEK. And, what about former chief ministers in his state? “In Tripura, we don’t have the provision of giving government accommodation to former chief ministers. But, if a sitting chief minister doesn’t have a house of his own, we provide him with one.”
Sarkar said his immediate predecessors in office, Dasarath Deb and Nripen Chakraborty, lived in their own houses after laying down office.
“Sometime ago, the family of our first chief minister, Sachindra Lal Singh, requested us to provide them a house in Agartala, as they were based in Delhi. But we simply refused,” said Sarkar. “My government is quite strict on such matters.”
Former chief minister of Puducherry N. Rangasamy is considered to be a people’s leader. Said Rangasamy to THE WEEK: “Even when I was chief minister, I lived in my own house. I follow a simple life.” Rangasamy created a flutter some years ago when he went to the polling booth on his motorcycle, without any security. In fact, he used to ride around the Union territory on his Yamaha.
The Supreme Court ruling came on a petition filed by a Lucknow-based NGO, Lok Prahari, which challenged the validity of a rule that allowed allotment of residence to former chief ministers in Uttar Pradesh. Said S.N. Shukla, general secretary, Lok Prahari, to THE WEEK: “It is the verdict of the Supreme Court. Former chief ministers have no option but to obey the order.”
Among the former chief ministers in UP affected by the August 1 ruling of the Supreme Court are N.D. Tiwari and Ram Naresh Yadav of the Congress, Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh of the BJP, Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati of the BSP. Tiwari’s private secretary Akrosh Nigam told THE WEEK: “Sir [Tiwari] is not keeping well. He is admitted in a hospital. We will follow the verdict of the court and do whatever is necessary.” He said Tiwari stayed once in a while in his official bungalow in Lucknow.
The Supreme Court ruling will have a bearing on other states also.
Jharkhand, for instance, has five former chief ministers—Babulal Marandi, Arjun Munda, Madhu Koda, Shibu Soren and Hemant Soren—who have retained their government houses.
Said Madhu Koda to THE WEEK: “I have come to know about the Supreme Court judgment through the media. Let a proper notice come to me from the concerned officials. I will thereafter decide if I need to vacate my government house in Ranchi.”
In Kerala, former chief ministers are not given government accommodation. Said S.M. Vijayanand, chief secretary, Kerala, to THE WEEK: “No chief minister in Kerala had asked for a government house after they resigned. It doesn’t happen that way in Kerala. Here, chief ministers happily vacate their official bungalows and go to their native place.”