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BJP, AAP trade barbs over expenditure on renovation of Kejriwal’s official residence

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New Delhi: The political slugfest over the alleged Rs 45 crore expenditure on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s official residence intensified on Wednesday, with the BJP accusing him of building a “palace of corruption” while the Aam Aadmi Party alleged that the BJP was trying to divert attention from real issues.

In a dig at the AAP founder and Delhi chief minister, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra called him a “Maharaj” and said even kings will bow to Kejriwal for his choice of “superior” products at the residence and his “lust for luxury and comfort”.

It is not only about the renovation of the residence but also of the Aam Aadmi Party’s ideology and its leaders’ mindset, he alleged.

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AAP leaders including MLA Naresh Balyan shared on social media purported videos of the rubble that had fallen off from the roof of the chief minister’s old residence and claimed the house built in 1942 was in a state of disrepair.

The BJP alleged that Kejriwal, who had claimed to promote honesty and simplicity while entering politics, has built a “palace of corruption”.

This is the story of a king who is “shameless”, Patra said, in a counter to Kejriwal’s recent attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Delhi Assembly where he mocked the top BJP leader by narrating a story of a king.

Patra also alleged that Kejriwal offered Rs 20 crore to Rs 50 crore to media houses to not highlight the story but news channels and newspapers ignored the offer.

Hitting back at the BJP, AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said at a press conference that it was trying to divert attention from important issues.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s official residence was built in 1942 and the roof had collapsed thrice, Singh said.

Following the roof collapse incidents, the Public Works Department (PWD) suggested a new house be built and this was done, he said claiming Rs 30 crore was spent on the rebuilt house.

Kejriwal has been occupying the official residence- at 6 Flagstaff Road in the Civil Lines area after becoming chief minister in 2015. The residence also has the chief minister’s camp office spread over a 5000 square metre area, officials said.

A group of Delhi BJP leaders, including its general secretary Kuljeet Chahal, were pushed away by staff and security personnel when they were holding a symbolic protest outside the chief minister’s official residence.

The BJP leaders also alleged that “private” security staff had misbehaved with a news channel reporter.

Meanwhile, sources claimed that the expenditure of Rs. 44.78 crore on the renovation of Kejriwal’s official residence involved a “blatant violation” of government financial rules (GFRs) through the “connivance” of then PWD ministers and officials of the department.

“One is forced to wonder as to why an expenditure of about Rs.45 crore was not incurred through a single tender and work order. The answer lies in the fact that doing so would have involved due processes of an open tender, thereby making the clandestine exercise public,” a source claimed.

No official reaction was available from the AAP government over the fresh charges.

The sources further claimed that the engineer-in-chief of PWD and the PWD secretary were kept out of the loop in the exercise undertaken to renovate Kejriwal’s bungalow.

“The files were sent directly to the PWD minister without routing through the engineer in chief and secretary of PWD, with the sole aim of subverting laid down procedures so that the project does not exceed Rs 10 crore and become a public document,” the source alleged.

The sources claimed that documents establish that all five work orders regarding the renovation of the residence were below Rs 10 crore – Rs 7.92 crore, Rs 1.64 crore, Rs 9.09 crore, Rs 8.68 crore. and Rs. 9.34 core, approved between September 2020 and June 2022.

The expenditure sanctioned for renovating the camp office at the chief minister’s residence also amounted to Rs. 9.99 core, marginally below the Rs 10 crore limit, they said.

Citing documents, Patra said marble worth over Rs 1.15 crore was brought from Vietnam while Rs 4 core was spent on pre-fabricated wooden walls.

Senior AAP leaders defended the renovation work saying pieces from the roof of the room where Kejriwal’s parents lived, his bedroom and the room where he meets people had fallen off.

“Since yesterday, there have been attempts to divert attention from key issues such as the Pulwama attack and the Adani matter by discussing the chief minister’s residence. It was an 80-year-old house constructed in 1942. There had been not one but three instances of the roof collapsing,” Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said.

Singh also hit out at Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena, saying his residence underwent repairs worth Rs 15 crore.

“Former Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani’s aircraft cost Rs 191 crore while Rs 65 crore was spent on buying an aircraft for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan,” he claimed.

The BJP had on Tuesday claimed that about Rs 45 crore was spent on the “beautification” of Kejriwal’s official residence and demanded his resignation on “moral” grounds.

Congress leader Ajay Maken had also raised questions on Kejriwal’s right to remain in his position.

Listing out the promises made by Kejriwal, Maken said he had claimed that he would not use a car with a red beacon or request security beyond what is necessary for a common citizen and would refuse a large bungalow and instead live in an ordinary house.

“Despite naming his party ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ (common man’s party) and making these pledges, Mr Kejriwal spent a fortune on his bungalow when the people of Delhi were desperately seeking oxygen cylinders during the COVID pandemic,” he alleged.

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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