Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been asked to vacate her government bungalow in Delhi by August 1. A government notice said her allotment stands cancelled from today and she owes Rs 3.46 lakh in dues.
Priyanka Gandhi was "expecting this decision after the withdrawal of SPG (Special Protection Group) security," sources close to her told NDTV, adding that this would not deter from her political work or from criticising the government.
Shortly after the notice, she also made an online payment to ensure that her dues were all paid, according to sources.
In the notice, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs said Priyanka Gandhi must exit bungalow 35 on Lodhi Estate allotted to her in 1997 as she no longer has Special Protection Group security. She is not entitled to a bungalow, said officials, unless the home ministry makes an exception on grounds of security.
"Consequent upon withdrawal of SPG protection and grant of Z+ security cover by Ministry of Home Affairs, which does not have provision for allotment/retention of government accommodation on security ground to you, the allotment of Type 6B house number 35, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi is hereby cancelled with effect from 01/07/2020," said the ministry's notice.
Priyanka Gandhi has been told that if she stays beyond August 1, she will have to pay penalty.
Sources close to the Congress leader said she had been reluctant to take the government bungalow in the first place but was forced to do so because of the SPG, which did not allow her to move into Sainik Farms in south Delhi after she married Robert Vadra.
Elite SPG cover given to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi since the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was withdrawn in November last year. The SPG, a 3000-strong crack commando force that comes with armoured vehicles, now only protects Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Unlike her mother and brother, Priyanka Gandhi is not an MP and therefore, not entitled to a government bungalow, said an official of the ministry. The Congress says te government will now have to take a call on senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who have retained their bungalows though they are no longer MPs.
Many Congress leaders protested the stunning move. Among them was Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who said on account of threat perception, Priyanka Gandhi's SPG security and bungalow should be restored. He also pointed out that despite his political differences with the Akalis, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal stayed in a government house with security arranged by the state.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the move "signals the anxiety" of PM Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. "We will not be cowed down by these petty decisions of a frustrated government," he said.
Soon after the government's move to downgrade the Gandhis' protection to Z+ category last year, the Congress had alleged a security breach at Priyanka Gandhi's house. On November 25, 2019, a car drove into Priyanka Gandhi's home in Delhi without being stopped. Home Minister Amit Shah rubbished the allegation, saying the car had Congress workers. He said Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to visit his sister at the time so when a similar SUV drove in no one stopped it.