Controversy over the proposed high rise building adjacent to Rashtrapati Bhawan continues to swirl without focusing on the real issue. The DLF Company obtained permission from the Urban Development (UD) ministry to construct the building. DLF was already mired in controversy in Haryana over certain land deals it transacted with Mr. Robert Vadra, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law. There were conflicting reports about whether or not the building would create a security threat to Rashtrapati Bhawan. The security agencies at first cleared the project but second thoughts arose after objections raised by the security wing of the Delhi Police.
Subsequently a joint security survey by the Delhi Police, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the President’s Secretariat upheld the view that a grave security threat would indeed be created if the high rise building was constructed.
A second joint survey pointed out that the building would provide a platform from where a rocket or sniper attack on the Mughal Garden could be launched, which is the common venue of VVIPs and VIPs including Army personnel for meetings held in Rashtrapati Bhawan. Meanwhile, a preliminary probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been instituted to find out the circumstances in which the UD Ministry gave permission to DLF to construct the building.
Diverse views are being expressed about whether a genuine security threat exists; whether the sanction to construct the building was above board; and whether the monies spent on the transaction were at the market rate.
Whether the concerns expressed were justified or not is irrelevant. The real issue is altogether different. The security agencies raised objections; the President’s secretariat concurred with these and dispatched a letter opposing the construction of the building. The Prime Minister in a note wrote that possibly officials in the UD Ministry took the decision because of financial considerations (meaning bribes). Despite all this not only did the UD Ministry stick to its decision but even approved a further request by the builder to double the height of the proposed building.
The issue is not whether the objections were valid or not. Assume that the view expressed by the President, the security agencies and the PM was flawed. The moot point is that these views were officially stated. Yet, the UD Ministry, headed by Mr. Kamal Nath, chose to ignore these warnings and persist with its decision. The real issue and aspect of deep concern is the source of Mr. Kamal Nath’s power to ignore warnings from the highest in the land. What was his source of strength?
It is ironical that while the President, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Prime Minister have been exposed as being politically impotent, the real source of official decision making remains an undeclared extra constitutional authority.
This is worse than being a banana republic. The responsibility for this state of affairs rests squarely on the shoulders of the President and Prime Minister. If neither dignitary is prepared to exercise constitutional authority and responsibility, why blame anyone else? History will take a grim view of their dereliction of authority.