Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma has been allotted the bungalow of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, a move severely criticised by AAP, which said Centre has "insulted" the late President by not converting his residence into a 'Knowledge Centre'.
Kalam was staying at 10 Rajaji Marg residence in Lutyen's zone after his eventful term as President ended in 2007.
"I have been allocated 10 Rajaji Marg by the Urban Development Ministry and I have accepted the offer," Sharma, who has been staying at his private residence in Sector 15, Noida on Delhi's outskirts, told PTI.
Asked about the demand from friends and supporters of Kalam to convert the Rajaji Marg residence into a memorial, Sharma said, "It is the government's policy not to convert any Lutyen's bungalow into a memorial.
"RLD leader Ajit Singh had also demanded converting the Tughlaq Road residence of his late father Charan Singh into a memorial but the demand was not accepted."
The former President's house has to be vacated by October 31, 2015 and his belongings, which includes numerous books and his Veena, have been shifted out to his home town Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu.
Criticising Centre for not converting Kalam's residence into a memorial, senior AAP minister Kapil Mishra said, "limiting Dr. Kalam's work to Rameswaram only and shifting all his documents, books and even Veena to Rameswaram is insulting...His residence should not be vacated but should be converted into a Knowledge Centre in the loving memory of the legend."
The Delhi Tourism and Culture Minister also added that "If Central government doesn't have resources and space to build a memorial for Dr.Kalam, let them just hand over all his belongings to Delhi government. Delhi deserves a memorial of Dr.Kalam, he belongs to all of us. His memorial should be in Delhi as well as in Rameshwaram."
Incidentally, Sharma was also in the eye of a storm last month for his remarks that Kalam was a great nationalist "despite being a Muslim".
"I am getting an official accommodation after 11 months. Earlier I was allotted 7 Tyagraj Marg but I could not move there as it was not vacated by the earlier occupant," Sharma said.
The Minister also asserted that the "walls of former President's house" will inspire him to do better.
The JD(U) also condemned the government's decision to allot the house to Sharma and demanded that the residence should be developed as a Kalam memorial.
Reacting strongly to Sharma's statement that he had been allotted the bungalow, JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said it was very "uncultured" of him.
"Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu had said that Kalam's residence should be developed as Children's Art Gallery. In the memory of the late President, we request to the President to kindly intervene in this matter as it will hurt the sentiments of millions of Indians," he said.
He said Sharma should withdraw his "claim" in Kalam's honour and memory.
Meanwhile, the Urban Development Ministry issued a statement saying government has already decided to build a memorial for Kalam at Rameswaram.
It clarified that as per the government decision on October 18, 2014, a total ban on conversion of government bungalows into memorials of the departed leaders was imposed.
Earlier, Supreme Court in its judgement on July 5, 2013 in the matter of SD Bandi vs Divisional Traffic Officer, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and others held the view that no government bungalow be converted into memorial.
Regarding allocation of 10 Rajaji Marg bungalow to Sharma, the ministry maintained that Executive Assistant of Kalam has informed it that the house would be vacated by October 31.
The bungalow at 10 Rajaji Marg has been allotted to Sharma under Rule 3 of the Minister's Residence Rules, 1962, which says "Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State shall be allotted Type VIII accommodation subject to availability and in that order."
All other Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State have been allotted government accommodation and only Sharma was waiting for official accommodation and accordingly, the ministry said, adding the bungalow was allotted to him on vacation basis.