Rent decided by govt, same as others in category: Priyanka Gandhi denies special treatment
New Delhi: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has issued a clarification saying that the rent she paid for the government bungalow was in accordance with the decision of the then BJP government and that there was no special treatment metted out to her.
The clarification follows a media report today that cited an RTI response to claim that 14 years ago, Priyanka went into some tough negotiations with the then NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to pare down the monthly rent for her 2,765.18 sqm bungalow from Rs 53,421 to Rs 8,888.
A statement issued by Priyanka’s office today said that the rent (Rs 8,888) was determined by the government and was the same as others in the category.
“In pursuance of all rules and regulations of the then BJP government, the Market Rate/Special License Fee of Directorate of Estates, Govt of India has been punctually and regularly paid by her for the entire duration of her occupation of the government accomodation, including the period in question. The said rent that she paid was determined by the government and was the same as others in her category,” the statement read.
The RTI reply cited by the report said that Priyanka had in May 2002 written a letter to the then government arguing that ‘it was beyond her capacity to pay the hiked amount from Rs 28,451 to Rs 53,421’.
Back then, Priyanka had made the case that she was occupying the bungalow on the request of the SPG and that a large part of the bungalow was used by the security officials and not by her family. Therefore, Priyanka requested that the rent be pared down and she be allowed to continue to pay rent at the earlier rate of Rs 28,451 per month, instead of the increased rate of Rs 53,421 per month.
“The then Director of SPG subsequently informed her of the decision of the security agencies of the government denying her occupation of the rented private accommodation on the ground that it did not fulfil the security requirements....she was directed to occupy government accommodation on security grounds,” reads the latest clarification.
Besides Priyanka, three others - former Punjab DGP KPS Gill, All India Anti-Terrorist Front chief MS Bitta and Punjab Kesari editor Ashwani Kumar, who were provided accommodation by the government on security grounds, raised similar concerns. All four continued paying the same rent despite the increase, which resulted in an increase of Priyanka’s outstanding dues of Rs 3.76 lakh up to in January 2004, the report said.
In her statement, Priyanka further points to the fact that multiple protectees occupying government accommodation on security grounds had brought to the notice of the then Union BJP government that a 90 per cent increase, from one month to the next, in the year 2002 from 'Market Rate/Special License Fee' to 'Damage Rate' was contrary to prevailing rules and regulations.
“None of the said persons were 'unauthorised occupants of the premises occupied by them. They were, in fact, authorised occupants and the Damage Rate did not apply to them. This error was subsequently corrected by the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation of the then BJP government pursuant to a letter and a meeting between current BJP MP Ashwini Kumar (Minna) and the then PM A B Vajpayee,” the statement clarified further.
The report said that a note from the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation on July 8, 2003, accepted Priyanka’s argument that she was occupying the government bungalow as per policy of the government (due to security purpose) and hence she is unable to pay the rent as per the market rate.
The special licence fee, the note mentioned, was then revised to Rs 8,888 per month for Priyanka. Also the rent for remaining 3 other was brought down. While Gill’s monthly rent was slashed from Rs 60,741 to Rs 10,715, for Bitta it was revised to Rs 10,203 from Rs 55,536 and for Kumar from Rs 50,311 to Rs 8,555.
However, the one clarification that Priyanka's statement has missed out on is why she chose to plead her inability to pay the said rent, when her husband just said a few days agp that he was and has always been capable enough of leading a good life. "I have enough, I have always had enough. My father gave me enough. I have been educated enough to sustain in all types of situations,” he said in an interview recently.
Priyanka is the occupant of a government bungalow - 35, Lodhi Estate. It is also the official address of Robert Vadra in his legal documents. As per the official website of Directorate of Estates, Ministry of Urban Development, this type-6B accommodation was allotted to Priyanka on February 21, 1997 at Rs 19,990 per month. The registration number is 99907375 and the allotment ID is 243820.