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BJP saves Rs 73 cr, Congress to get 27 lakh as govt gives political parties relief on land dues

Cabinet has approved housing ministry’s proposal to change category of land allotted to political parties for their offices in Delhi, bringing down dues significantly for 14 parties.

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New Delhi:  The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to save approximately Rs 73.22 crore that it owes to the government in land dues, with the Union cabinet approving the housing and urban affairs ministry’s proposal to change the category of the land allotted to political parties for their offices in Delhi, ThePrint has learnt.  

This also means that the that the government will return Rs 27 lakh to the Congress. In all, the dues owed by 14 political parties who were allotted land by the Land and Development Office (L&DO) under the housing and urban affairs ministry between 2000 and 2017 will come down significantly.

“The Union cabinet approved the proposal to change the allotment category for political parties — from ‘institutional’ to ‘central government-to-government’ transfer on 7 September,” a senior government official told ThePrint, adding that the decision had not been made public yet. 

The official said that land rates for the institutional category — while far below market rates — are almost 10 times more than those under the government-to-government category. 

Charitable institutions, socio-cultural organisations, and, until now, recognised political parties were allotted land under the institutional category. The government-to-government category is the criteria under which government institutions are allotted land.

Fourteen political parties — including the ruling BJP, and parties such as the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Janata Dal (United), and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) — owed Rs 150 crore to the Land and Development Office (L&DO) for the land that was allotted to them for their party offices between 2000 and 2017.  

The cabinet’s approval also means that all future land allotted to political parties will happen under the government-to-government category, the official said.

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BJP dues came down from Rs 91 cr to Rs 17.78 cr

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

The latest change in the land allotment category has benefitted each of the 14 political parties by bringing down their land dues manifold. 

For instance, the BJP was allotted three land parcels that came up to a little over 4 acres (and a Floor Area Ratio of 100) in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg under the institutional category, a government source told ThePrint. The party’s accumulated dues were approximately Rs 91 crore, which was the highest among the 14 political parties that were allotted land by L&DO.

However, after the allotment category was changed to ‘government-to-government’, the party’s land dues have come down to Rs 17.78 crore, the source added.

Likewise, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s dues have come down to Rs 52 lakh from Rs 4.5 crore, while those of the TMC have come down to Rs 25 lakh from Rs 2.5 crore, the source said.

In the case of the Congress, the party’s accumulated dues for a 2-acre plot in Kotla Road was about Rs 13 crore. But the change in the land allotment category means that the Congress no longer owes any dues to the government. It’s the L&DO that will have to pay back a difference of Rs 27 lakh after the change, the source said.

And it’s not just the Congress that will be paid money. The L&DO will also be returning approximately Rs 10 crore to Samajwadi Party, Rs 2.6 crore to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rs 6.5 crore to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Rs 6 lakh to the RJD, and Rs 15 lakh to the Communist Party of India (Marxist).  

The L&DO will soon start the process of sending demand notices to parties that owe it money, and also start returning money to parties the government has to pay, sources said.

ThePrint had previously reported that the cabinet is likely to give the go-ahead to the housing ministry proposal to change the land allotment category of some 14 political parties. 

Why the change?

Government sources said the parties were allotted land, mostly in Central Delhi, between 2000 and 2017 for building 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, couldn’t do so for about 17 years between 2000 and 2017, because of a host of bureaucratic reasons, the sources said. As a result, the 14 parties that were allotted land during the period received it at pre-2000 institutional rates. 

The government sources said the housing ministry (earlier known as the urban development ministry) had clearly specified in the allotment letter that parties would have to pay the difference retrospectively when the land rates were revised.  

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

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. Subsequently, all the parties allotted land between 2000 and 2017 were sent notices asking them to pay the accumulated dues, the sources said.

Although even the revised institutional allotment rate was cheaper compared to the full market price, political parties were not forthcoming in clearing the accumulated dues, said government sources.

It was then that the housing ministry decided that political parties should be treated at par with the central government and allotted land at government-to-government rates, a government source said.

Land rates for allotments under institutional categories are almost 10 times more than those under the government-to-government category. For instance, the provisional rate at which land was allotted to parties under the institutional category in 2000 was Rs 88 lakh per acre. After the land rates were revised in 2017, the institutional allotment rate in 2007 retrospectively came to Rs 698 lakh per acre as against Rs 74 lakh per acre under the government-to-government category.  

The market price of the land in Central Delhi, where land was allotted to political parties, is much higher. Real estate experts had earlier told ThePrint that the going rate for an acre of land in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg — where the BJP was allotted a two-acre (8,095.80 square metre) plot in August 2014 at the institutional rate of Rs 1,864 lakh per acre for setting up its national headquarters — is over Rs 200 crore. 

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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