The Celebrity Neighbour Headache

Busy’ CM House – Power atrracts hundreds

WHEN INFOSYS FOUNDER N. R. Narayana Murthy refused to be provided high security at the middle-class house he continued to live in even after Infosys turned a bellwether company that set the IT culture of India, many were surprisd.

Now that a celebrity lives nextdoor, a Chief Minister. I am not.

Murthy had then said it may inconvenience his neighbours, which he did not want. But the one person not the least concerned or does not mind troubling others is the State Chief Minister who is yet to shift to the official residence for the last six months because his predecessor’s predecessor has not vacated the palatial bungalow. So, he thinks, he cannot be blamed.

It does not matter that roads around the house are blocked with police barricades and cars parked everywhere or that over 100 people, including many police (both men and women) and officials hang around the CM from early morning. Scores loiter around his house just to say ‘namaste’ and giggle, only to be noticed by him. Scores of favour-seekers wait outside for his nod. Many news photographers and Outdoor Broadcasting Vans of TV channels wait around the house with video cameras ready. This ‘VIP Culture’ of India evolved in the last 75 years.

Why there should be a motorcade of over a dozen vehicles, with many policemen

CM House
Roads barricaded to public

clearing the roads and stopping all others from using the road just because ‘saheb’ will pass that way 30 minutes later, cannot be understood by any foreigner – or even a sane Indian.

He lives in his house because the predecessor’s predecessor has still not vacated the super-luxury CM house, He perhaps, got so used to it that he did not want to leave it – at least to justify spending of crores of rupees on its renovation to suit his ‘taste’ — and horoscope.

It is not for taste alone that ministerial bungalows are renovated. Changes are also made for conforming to ‘vastu’ – the Indian belief in ‘auspiciousness’ of the structure, like Feng Shui of China. Every time a new CM takes over, crores are spent on ‘renovation’ of the CM bungalow and his chambers. New ministers follow his footsteps and spend lavishly on ‘renovation’ of their free bungalows and offices, often resorting to false accounts under some fake head for the tax-payers’ money spent. Crores were thus paid for Andhra CM’s house built years before he got elected, it is alleged.

And the problem of ministers, MPs and legislators not vacating their official residences is one of the earliest the Narendra Modi government Centre faced. It tried to be strict and even ordered the eviction of some – leading to complaints of vendetta. Many ex-CMs live in official bungalows. Some MPs lived in 5-star hotels at our cost.

We read of No.10, Downing Street in London and the White House in Washington, official residences of the heads of state of two powerful nations, UK and the USA, being vacated the day the new incumbent takes over. And there are no reports of millions being spent for renovating them for EVERY new occupant.

But a poor country like India, which imitates them on many issues, does not follow this practice. Will we ever develop the political culture of disclosing the actual expenses on ‘renovation’ of all official bungalows and chambers every time a government changes?
You and I, the tax-payers, bear the cost.