10 Ra­jaji to 10 Ak­bar: Tale of two pres­i­dents, two bun­ga­lows

The Northlines - - FOODS -

Fin­ish­ing touches are be­ing given to an iconic her­itage bun­ga­low in Lu­tyens' Delhi to wel­come out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Pranab Mukher­jee who demits of­fice on Tues­day.

The 10, Ra­jaji Marg man­sion will now be the hum­ble abode of 81-year-old Mukher­jee as he moves out of the grand Rash­tra­p­ati Bhawan, where he had as­sumed of­fice as the 13th Pres­i­dent on July 25, 2012. The Raj-era bun­ga­low, en­dowed with slop­ing redtiled roof and fit­ted with chim­neys, has been given a fresh coat of paint while its wide lawns and gar­dens spruced up.

The two-storey house had also served as a re­tire­ment home for for­mer pres­i­dent the late A P J Ab­dul Kalam till his death in 2015, after which it was al­lot­ted to Union Cul­ture Min­is­ter Ma­hesh Sharma.

Sharma va­cated the 10, Ra­jaji Marg house after it was al­lot­ted to Mukher­jee and has shifted to the bun­ga­low at 10 Ak­bar Road, a sin­gle-storey Lu­tyens' man­sion, a se­nior of­fi­cial said.

In­ci­den­tally, the min­is­ter's of­fi­cial bun­ga­low is also serv­ing as a tem­po­rary res­i­dence of Pres­i­dent-elect Ram Nath Kovind, who has been stay­ing in it since fil­ing his nom­i­na­tion as the NDA can­di­date.

And, so, while Mukher­jee, after bid­ding farewell to Rash­tra­p­ati Bhawan, will move to the bun­ga­low pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied by Sharma, Kovind will as­cend to the coun­try's first res­i­dence from the min­is­ter's present of­fi­cial bun­ga­low, in what can be de­scribed as a sort of full cir­cle to the tale of these two pres­i­dents.

The 10, Ak­bar Road bun­ga­low on the day of the dec­la­ra­tion of the pres­i­den­tial poll re­sult last week, had be­gun to as­sume the aura of a res­i­dence of the Head of State, as a string of vis­i­tors, from Union min­is­ters to se­nior lead­ers and MPS poured in to con­grat­u­late Kovind on his vic­tory.

Both bun­ga­lows, built dur­ing the cre­ation of the new im­pe­rial cap­i­tal of the Bri­tish Raj, would now be brack­eted with the high­est sym­bol of demo­cratic In­dia. The two res­i­dences are also em­blem­atic of ar­chi­tec­tural ex­cel­lence as ev­i­denced in the 10, Ak­bar's white pil­lars or the 10, Ra­jaji's slop­ing roof.

The 10, Ra­jaji Marg house is spread over an area of 11,776 sq ft with the ground floor hous­ing a li­brary and an at­tached read­ing space for Mukher­jee, an avid reader. Mukher­jee re­tires as the Pres­i­dent, crown­ing a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of over five decades of ex­em­plary ser­vice to the na­tion in the gov­ern­ment as well as Par­lia­ment.

Kovind last served as the gov­er­nor of Bi­har be­fore be­ing elected as the suc­ces­sor to Mukher­jee. Sharma had ear­lier said the ur­ban de­vel­op­ment min­istry had asked if he had any ob­jec­tion to va­cate the bun­ga­low at 10, Ra­jaji Marg. The Union min­is­ter had in his re­ply said the place was more im­por­tant as it would house the out­go­ing pres­i­dent than him.

A re­tired pres­i­dent is en­ti­tled to rent-free ac­com­mo­da­tion any­where in In­dia with free wa­ter and elec­tric­ity for the re­main­der of life as per the Pres­i­dent's Pen­sion Rules, 1962.

Ra­jaji Marg was ear­lier known as King Ge­orge Av­enue (named after Bri­tish monarch King Ge­orge V). After In­de­pen­dence, it was re­named after C Ra­j­gopalachari, the last Gov­er­nor-gen­eral of In­dia, who was fondly called 'Ra­jaji'. — PTI

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