Yesterday, the Prime Minister inaugurated the BJP’s gleaming new headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in New Delhi. Naturally, this event was highlighted prominently by most major news portals, channels and newspapers.
Predictably, there were also people on social media taking potshots at the PM and the ruling party, mocking them for making a show of wealth and asking why the party needs grand new headquarters. While these people were misinformed, I feel that it is unfair to call them trolls. Because the media at large has done a very poor job of informing the public about what goes on in Lutyens’ Delhi. This is likely a direct result of the fact that the media is closely involved with the exact same power elite that has benefited all these years from the colonial comforts of Lutyens’ bungalows.
So, here are the facts. Why is the BJP moving? Because there is actually a directive from the Supreme Court asking not just BJP, but all parties to vacate their Lutyens’ bungalows and move out.
So, for any Modi baiters out there on social media trying to shame the ruling party, the BJP is not making a show of wealth. It is merely being the first and only party so far to comply with the Supreme Court order. Too bad for you.
And, for sure, the Congress Party has also been allotted space in New Delhi for its own office. In fact, Dr Manmohan Singh and Madam Sonia Gandhi laid the foundation stone for the Congress’ new HQ as far back as December 2009. And the Congress has done with this new space exactly what you would expect the Congress to do with anything it can get its ‘hands’ on. It took the new space *and* kept all the four bungalows that it was already occupying in Lutyens’ zone.
Their real election symbol is a closed fist, the open palm of the hand is just for show.
This also seems like an opportune moment to talk about the cleaning up that has happened in Lutyens’ Delhi since the Modi government came to power. In the first year itself, more than 460 squatters were sent packing out of their cosy Lutyens’ bungalows. Many of them had been staying there for generations, some approached the courts with appeals to let them keep their fiefdoms. But to no avail.
Ajit Singh, the son of former PM Charan Singh was squatting on a bungalow. He was locked out and his belongings thrown on the lawn.
Painter Jatin Das, the father of actor Nandita Das, was enjoying another bungalow in Lutyens. Evicted!
Have you ever wondered why Modi has no friends? Why it is always “Modi vs all”?
That is one possible answer right there. Only today, Kumar Ketkar was asking in The Print why Narendra Modi does not have an army of intellectuals defending him, unlike the Nehru-Gandhis. Dear Ketkar, this information may be of interest to you!
More than 460 evictions from Lutyens’ Delhi in his first year alone. But Narendra Modi was just getting started. By late 2016, the number of evictions had swelled to 1500.
You know why they love living in Lutyens’ bungalows so much? Because of the colonial sense of privilege, the prestige and the fact that all of it comes for the low price tag of only around Rs 16,000 a month.
But, as The Hindustan Times reported,
“the government came up with a rule, fixing 10% additional charge to the rent for the first month of overstay. For the second, the penalty goes up to 20%, and doubles each subsequent month until the charge reaches the maximum limit of Rs 10 lakh.”
The penalty doubles each subsequent month?
You can draw a graph and sketch the rising intolerance.
As I mentioned before, there are only a handful of articles in the media documenting this cleanup mission in Lutyens’ Delhi. There is even a whataboutist article in The Wire explaining how the Congress had been more generous in letting people, including BJP leaders, hang out in Lutyens’ bungalows in the past. But while scanning these few articles, I found this absolute gem of a quote in The Telegraph from an unnamed Congress MP.
“The Congress had a long tradition of not implementing the rules so strongly.”
This quote should go on the Congress party’s flag. Now you know why it is always “Modi vs all.”
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.