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BJP, Congress squatting in Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone: What perks are recognised national, state parties entitled to

Among the many perks that recognised national and state parties enjoy is the allotment of land at subsidised rates for constructing their own offices.

According to a 2006 policy of the Union government’s Land and Development Office (L&DO), the recognised parties are supposed to vacate any government bungalows allotted to them as offices within three years of the land allotment or as soon as the building is constructed, whichever is earlier.

Despite the allotment of bungalows being cancelled years ago, the BJP and Congress continue their “unauthorised occupation” of the properties given to them, official records obtained under Right to Information show. While the BJP’s own office on the land allotted to it was completed in 2018, the Congress’ new national office is yet to be completed.

What are national parties entitled to?

In an office memo on July 13, 2006, the L&DO laid down the land allotment policy for political parties. National parties recognised by the Election Commission of India and state parties that have at least seven MPs in total in both Houses of Parliament “shall be considered for allotment of land for construction of office building in Delhi”, the policy states.

It adds that in case the party is occupying a government bungalow or suites at Vithalbhai Patel House for an office, it will have to vacate the same immediately upon the completion of construction of its office building or three years from taking over possession of the land allotted to it, whichever is earlier.

The policy says the parties will have to use the buildings for their national units as well as any other wings or organisations. “Premises shall not be used for residential/commercial purpose,” it adds. The land will be allotted on leasehold and the party will have to pay a premium as well as annual ground rent. The size of the plot will depend on the party’s strength in both Houses – starting with 500 square metres for strength up to 15 MPs till 4 acres for strength over 201 MPs.

On November 22, 2022, the L&DO notified a change to the rates charged for such land allotments. Earlier, the parties were charged institutional rates that were linked to the zonal variant rates. Now, they are being charged premium and annual ground rent (2.5% of the premium) on Central government rates, which is what is charged to government departments. This reduced the outstanding dues of the parties already allotted land.

Who has been allotted land so far?

In an RTI reply, the L&DO said the Communist Party of India, the CPI(M), the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, the All-India Congress Committee, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (United), the AIADMK, the Trinamool Congress, the DMK, the BJP and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (now renamed Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi) were allotted land in Delhi.

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All but the CPI, CPI(M) and DPCC allotments were done post-2006 policy. The Congress was allotted an 8,093.72 square metre plot on Kotla Road in 2007, giving it till 2010 to complete the construction and vacate the bungalows allotted to it. However, it is yet to complete the construction and continues to hold 24, Akbar Road as its national office and 5, Raisina Road as the Indian Youth Congress headquarters.

The BJP was allotted 8,095.80 square metres on DDU Marg in August 2014, where it constructed its office in 2018. The party shifted its headquarters to the new building but retains the bungalow, 11, Ashoka Road, where its national office used to operate. Now, the BJP IT Cell works out of the bungalow.

What is the status of the bungalows?

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Records of the Directorate of Estates, which manages the allotment of bungalows to parties, Ministers and government officials, obtained through RTI show that the BJP and Congress are in “unauthorised occupation” of the bungalows allotted to them.

In the case of the Congress, the allotment of three Type-VIII bungalows, 5, Raisina Road, 24, Akbar Road and 26, Akbar Road were cancelled on June 26, 2013 — three years after handing over land to build a party office. The BJP’s allotment of a Type-VII bungalow, 14 Pandit Pant Marg, where its Delhi state unit is based, and 11, Ashoka Road, where its national office used to be till 2018, was cancelled in 2017.

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Last year, the DoE issued a notice to the Congress for vacating 26, Akbar Road, which has been vacated by the party. 24, Akbar Road continues to be the party’s national office. According to government officials, there has been no action against the parties for vacating the remaining properties yet.

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