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Modi govt plans relief for 14 political parties owing 150 cr in land dues, BJP dues maximum

Cabinet likely to pass proposal to change category of land allotments for party offices in Delhi, made between 2000 and 2017, from 'institutional' to ‘central govt-to-govt’ transfer to slash rates.

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New Delhi: The Modi government has proposed to bail out some 14 political parties, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which together owe dues to the tune of Rs 150 crores to the union Housing and Urban Affairs ministry, for the land allotted to them for their respective party offices in Delhi, ThePrint has learnt.

The parties, which include the BJP, the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (United) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam among others, were allotted land between 2000-2017 at government-fixed institutional rates that are way below the market rates.

While the BJP, which was allotted three land parcels totaling a little over 4 acres in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, owes the maximum dues of about Rs 70 crore to the land and development office under the housing ministry, the Congress’s accumulated dues for a 2-acre plot in Kotla Road is close to Rs 20 crore.

The ministry has now proposed to change the allotment category for political parties — from ‘institutional’ to ‘central government-to-government’ transfer. The land rates under the government-to-government category are three-to-four times cheaper than the institutional rates, depending on the area where the land is allotted.

Land was allotted to these parties at pre-2000 institutional rates (as the ministry could not revise rates between 2000-2017) with a pre-condition that as and when the land rates are revised, the political parties will be charged the difference (between the rate at which the land was allotted and the revised rate), retrospectively.

“Once the proposal is cleared by the cabinet, it will not only bring down the accumulated dues of these 14 political parties, but will also ensure that all future land allotment to political parties happens under the government to government category, which is cheaper than under the institutional category,” a government source told ThePrint.

The cabinet is likely to clear the proposal shortly. 

A senior official in the housing and urban affairs ministry, who did not want to be named, however, refused to comment on the proposed changes, saying it was under cabinet’s consideration.

ThePrint reached BJP chief spokesperson Anil Baluni, BJP treasurer Rajesh Agarwal and BJP national office secretary Mahendra Kumar on phone and over email, but received no response till the time of publication of this report. The copy will be updated once a response is received.

ThePrint also reached the Congress’s communication head Jairam Ramesh for a response, but again received no response from him till the time of publication of this report. The copy will be updated once a response is received.

The CPI(M)’s politburo member Nilotpal Basu told ThePrint meanwhile that he was not aware of the matter.

Political parties are allotted land in Delhi based on their strength in Parliament. A party with 101 to 200 members in both the houses (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) is entitled to two acres. Having more than 200 members in Parliament allows a party four acres, according to allotment rules framed for political parties in 2006 by the UPA government.

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How political parties accumulated dues totalling Rs 150 crore

Government sources said the parties were allotted land, mostly in Central Delhi, between 2000 and 2017 for building their party offices at institutional rates fixed by the housing ministry.

However, the housing ministry, which is supposed to revise the land rates every two years for different categories, could not do so for about 17 years between 2000 and 2017, because of a host of bureaucratic reasons, added the sources and the 14 parties which were allotted land during the period received it at pre-2000 institutional rates.

According to the sources, the housing ministry (earlier known as the urban development ministry) had clearly specified in the allotment letter that as and when the land rates were revised, the political parties will be charged the difference (between the rate at which the land was allotted and the revised rate) retrospectively.

“This was the pre-condition for allotment. All the 14 parties had also given an undertaking agreeing to pay the difference amount as and when the land rates were revised,” said the sources.

After a lot of back and forth, the housing ministry in June 2017 finally brought out a notification revising the land rates,  with effect from 2000 onwards.

“Subsequently, all the parties allotted land between 2000 and 2017 were sent demand notices to pay the accumulated dues, said the government source quoted above.

The source added that though compared to the market price of the land that was allotted, the increase in institutional allotment rate was far cheaper, political parties were not forthcoming in clearing the accumulated dues.

“This despite agreeing to pay at the time of allotment. The parties claimed that the accumulated dues are very high,” the source said.

It was the reluctance of political parties to pay the Rs 150 crore dues that forced a rethink of the allotment rules by the government, the two sources added.

“Following a series of meetings it was decided that political parties should be treated at par with the central government and allotted land at government to government rates instead of institution rate,” said a second source in the government.

Land rates for allotments under institutional categories are almost 10 times more than those under government-to-government category, the second source added.

“For instance, the provisional allotment rate at which land was allotted to political parties under the institutional category in 2000 was Rs 88 lakh per acre. After the land rates were revised, the institutional allotment rate in 2007 came to Rs 698 lakh per acre, as against Rs 74 lakh per acre under the government-to-government category,” said the second source.

The market price of the land in Central Delhi, where land was allotted to political parties, is much higher. According to real estate experts, the going rate for an acre of land in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, where the BJP was allotted a two-acre (8095.80 square metre) plot in August 2014 at the institutional rate of Rs 1864 lakh per acre for setting up its national headquarter, is upward of Rs 200 crore.

In 2015, BJP was allotted a second two-acre plot abutting the land parcel allotted to the party in 2014.

The All India Congress Committee of Indian National Congress was allotted a 1.99-acre (8093 sq. mts) land parcel in Kotla Road in November 2007 for less than Rs 2 crore. The prevailing market rate of the land during that time was more than Rs 100 crore.

Similarly, the CPI(M) was allotted two smaller plots of 0.45 acre (1849 sq. mt.) and 0.21 acre (868 sq mt) in March and May 2014 respectively, at Kotla Road and DDU Marg.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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