If Eknath Khadse is emblematic of
how crassly insensitive our politicians can become, can be, the row over
Priyanka Vadras' (or Priyanka Gandhi's) house rent is equally disturbing.
The only thing is, we have
forgotten 'getting disturbed' over such 'undemocratic developments'.
Not so long ago, a senior party
leader of Congress, the party of Priyanka Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi and her brother Rahul Gandhi, Mr.
Kapil Sibal, had taken a house in the same tony location, Jor Bagh, though
certainly not as posh and VVIP as Priyanka's house is, and less than half in
size, for a whopping monthly rent of Rs. 1600,000 or Rs. 1.92 crore a year.
Now, let's jot down the obvious:
Priyanka Gandhi pays a 'super'
subsidized rent of just Rs. 31,300 a month for her Type VI house in Lutyens' Delhi.
The house measures 2765 sqm in
size and reports say that no such big house with all its natural extensions
like lawns and amenities is available for rent in the area Priyanka's house is
If we go by the reports of
sky-high rent being paid by Kapil Sibal, the minimum that Priyanka Gandhi needs
to pay as rent around Rs. 35 lakh a month. And even then, the rent cannot match
house's expanse and location.
Priyanka Gandhi was given this
house in 1997 at a monthly rent of around Rs. 53,000. Her request for
subsidized rent was accepted in 2002 and her rent was fixed at 8,888 by the
then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Now, the person who fixed it can only
tell us about this interesting combination.
The revelation here is, the loss
to the public exchequer since 1997 - because even a rent of Rs. 53,000 a month
for a larger than life bungalow in India's most VVIP zone in Delhi, a city where
people are cursed to live in cramped houses and flats, was a jaw-opener for
anyone - for its sheer meekness.
Let's go by the simple logic -
that we common folks have to shell out 10% more every year on our housing rent.
That makes it roughly around Rs. 350,000 a month after these 20 years - for
Priyanka's Rs. 53,000 in 1997.
Her current house rent of Rs.
31,300 is more or less in line with this 'annual 10% hike' norm. So, it is a direct
loss to the public exchequer - running in millions - when India's successive
governments have failed to define a proper poverty line in the country - a political class that still accepts the
wisdom of expert panels that find a person above poverty line if he earns Rs.
40 a day or so (Rs. 32 rural and Rs. 47 urban) - even if Rs. 40 cannot earn a
decent one time meal on the prevailing market prices.
Like the Bombay High Court said
while hearing the petition on water wastage by BCCI on conducting IPL matches
in Maharashtra - that it was criminal that BCCI was wasting hundreds of
thousands of water in every IPL game when Maharashtra was facing the worst
drought of 100 years, when people were not getting water to drink and bathe -
this, too, is criminal when poverty, quality literacy, education and healthcare
still need critical attention.
How can this paltry sum be
justified by anyone, let alone by the party that has been in power for some 60
years of India's 70 sovereign years?
How can Congress counter this
when a simple two bedroom house less than 100 m in size in Delhi costs around
Rs. 20,000 in monthly rentals and its goes up to around Rs. 50,000 or so in
many upscale areas?
How can Sonia Gandhi and Rahul
Gandhi justify that Priyanka Gandhi indeed needs a 'super' subsidy for her housing
rent when Robert Vadra, her millionaire husband, claims that 'he always had
enough and he didn't need Priyanka Gandhi to enhance his life'?
But nothing will move folks,
except some hue and cry. It will die down soon. That is the state of affairs in
Indian politics. That is the standard here.
Be it BJP for Eknath Khadse or
Congress for Priyanka Gandhi - the colours fade into oneness, the lines blur
when it comes to 'certain' political compulsions. It was a BJP government in
2002 that had 'super' subsidized Priyanka Gandhi's housing rent. It was a BJP
government that had retained Robert Vadra on 'no frisking VVIP list' at the
country's airports in 2014 in spite of strong reservations. It is a BJP
government in Maharashtra whose minister has made mockery of farmers' plight by
wasting precious water even if his chief minister says in the Bombay High Court
that the IPL matches could be taken out of the state to save water.