Minister's renovation move may drive Oppn up the wall

Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya does not seem to be bothered about the controversy that his order to the Public Works Department (PWD) may kick up.

The minister said on Saturday that he had asked the PWD to expand room number 339 of the Vidhana Soudha, which he occupies now, by ‘connecting’ it with room number 340. In other words, he wants the separating wall to be demolished.

Leaders have courted controversy in the past for trying out similar things in the secretariat building, with the issue being raised in the legislature. But that has had little effect on those holding top posts in successive governments.

Anjaneya’s cabinet colleague and Forest minister Ramanath Rai had faced flak last year when he proposed the renovation of his room in the iconic Vidhana Soudha. The issue was discussed at length in the legislature, with the Opposition crying foul over the matter.

The previous government is not blemishless in this regard either. In 2012, Shankar Patil Munenkoppa, political secretary to the then chief minister Jagadish Shettar, had come under attack for ordering the demolition of a wall in room number 340 for fixing a door to make it ‘vaastu compliant’. It is the same room number 340, which Anjaneya intends to merge with room number 339.

Anjaneya defended his move on the ground that he needed a large office space for his ‘vast’ portfolio. What’s more, he tried to take the high moral ground, saying that he was not interested in any “wasteful expenditure of public money”. Occupying a room in the adjacent Vikasa Soudha is not even on the minister’s mind where the enclosures are much bigger. He only evaded a reporter’s question in this connection.

Anjaneya ruled out that he was getting the renovation done to make it vaastu compliant. The room had been allotted to him after the induction of two new ministers, he said.
“I did not ask for this room. The only thing I have asked for is that the PWD should provide me a larger space with seating arrangements for the department officials and visitors,” he said.

The minister further justified his move, saying there were not many ministers when the then chief minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah got the Vidhana Soudha constructed. The rise in numbers had necessitated more space, he said. Anjaneya said he was not disturbing the “aesthetics” of the majestic structure.

“I am just asking the PWD to bring down the partition wall between the two rooms,” he said.

Anjaneya had taken strong objection when the newly appointed minister D K Shivakumar wanted to occupy room 339, forcing the latter to back off.

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