This is a peculiar case of trying to evict his political rival from his official bungalow but ending up losing his own palatial accommodation in the process! Sounds weird but that’s what has happened to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who held as many as three government accommodations—two in Patna and one in Delhi—until Tuesday.
As such, RJD lawmaker Tejashsi Yadav, younger son of party chief Lalu Prasad, had been allotted an official bungalow by the state government in 2015 soon after he became the deputy chief minister in the erstwhile Grand Alliance government which Nitish Kumar was heading. Last year, Kumar broke away from the ruling Grand Alliance and formed his new government with the BJP’s support which left Tejashwi as the Bihar Opposition leader overnight.
Within days of forming the NDA government, the state government issued a notice to Tejashwi to vacate his bungalow to make way for his new successor Sushil Kumar Modi but he refused saying he being the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly too enjoys the minister rank and moreover, this bungalow has not been earmarked for the deputy chief minister in the past.
The matter eventually reached the Patna High Court. In October last year, a single bench of the High Court dismissed Tejashwi’s petition challenging state government’s order to vacate the official bungalow. Subsequently, he filed an appeal against the single-judge order before two-judge bench but he failed to get any reprieve. On January 7, the double bench of the High Court rejected his appeal again saying, “The present appeal lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed.”
However, the same bench of the High Court, comprising chief justice AP Shahi and Justice Anjana Mishra, came across some startling revelations during the hearing of the case. The court learned how chief minister Kumar, along with five former chief ministers, has been allotted government bungalows for lifetime without any financial limits. The leaders included Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi, Jagannath Mishra, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Satish Prasad Singh, and also Kumar, who happens to be in possession of a palatial mansion meant for former chief ministers despite him being the chief minister.
The court instantly took a suo motu cognizance of the case and on Tuesday served notices to six ex-chief ministers enjoying government bungalows. This all happened after the state government, headed by Kumar, brought out new legislation which entitled former chief ministers to retain for lifetime fully furnished government accommodation.
Taking a serious note of this, the Patna high court has now served notices on its occupants and asked them to reply within four weeks over the matter. The court also found the government order of lifetime accommodation to former chief ministers as unconstitutional saying its provisions were in violation of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the case of Lok Prahari Vs Uttar Pradesh government whereby the court asked the former chief ministers to vacate bungalows after quitting office. The court asked why not this provision be struck down.