President accepts invite that Pratibha Patil turned down
In July 2012, the then President had declined to inaugurate the guesthouse, as it was mired in controversy
The controversial New Maharashtra Sadan, a government guesthouse in Delhi, which was to be inaugurated on May 30, has been further postponed and is likely to be inaugurated on June 4 or 5 after the Maharashtra government received an unexpected call from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Ever since the plan to build a government guesthouse to accommodate dignitaries and commoners visiting from the state was floated in 2006 at Kasturba Gandhi Marg in Lutyens’ Delhi, the construction has had its fair share of ups and downs. Controversy first dogged the structure consisting of 139 lodging units when it emerged that there were financial irregularities.
According to BJP, the cost of the project shot up to Rs 152 crore from Rs 52 crore and sub-contracts of the project were given to a firm being run by family members of PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal. Bhujbal, at the time, refuted all the allegations saying the government was not going to incur any expenditure and the issue of sub-contracts was an internal matter of the developer and the firm.
Owing to the controversy, then President Pratibha Patil had refused to inaugurate the structure on July 21, 2012. As time passed and the building neared completion, it was decided that the guesthouse — spread across over 16,000 sq metres at Kasturba Gandhi Marg in Lutyens’ Delhi — would be inaugurated by NCP President Sharad Pawar and Minister of Home Affairs Sushilkumar Shinde in the presence of Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan on May 30.
However, NCP officials received a shock when they saw the invites for the inauguration. The invite clearly stated that CM Chavan would be inaugurating the mega guesthouse in the presence of Pawar and Shinde.
But, this was not the end of the matter as there were further twists in the story. It later emerged that state officials received a call from Rashtrapati Bhavan saying that the invite to the President of India, which was given last year, still stood and that the president would be present for the gala event. However, the president was not available on May 30 and that officials would have to postpone the event to June 4 or 5. “The invitation still stands, as it was accepted by the President of India and will be honoured. The government was told by the officials from the Bhavan,” a senior minister said.
When asked, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal confirmed that the ceremony was scheduled for May 30 and that they had received a call from Rashtrapati Bhavan.