On Tuesday, June 8, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) slammed the Left government in Kerala over its decision to renovate Cliff House, the official residence of the Chief Minister. The renovation will reportedly cost Rs 1 crore, and it comes at a time when the state is reeling under a finance crunch. Raising the issue in the Assembly, Congress MLA PT Thomas sought the government’s response on how its declared policy of financial austerity and spending the large amount for the ‘refurbishing’ of the CM’s bungalow would go together.
"The Finance Minister has ensured the House that he would implement financial discipline. So, he should explain how the austerity measures and the spending of crores of rupees for the refurbishing of the buildings would go with each other," the Thrikkakkara MLA said. Finance Minister KN Balagopal, however, rejected the criticism of the opposition, saying the government was taking all possible steps to reduce expenditure.
"At the same time, it is also important to conserve the heritage buildings under the ownership of the government by making necessary repairs and renovation," Minister Balagopal said during the Question Hour. There are buildings which are 100 to 120 years-old in the state and necessary maintenance work should be carried out to preserve them; Cliff House was one among such old buildings, he added.
Balagopal also cautioned the opposition that avoiding extravagant spending does not mean refraining from minimum things to be done by the government. There were some reports in the media that the LDF government has granted permission to renovate the CM’s official residence at a cost of over Rs 90 lakh. There were also allegations that the contract for the project was awarded to Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society Ltd, a company based in north Kerala, without inviting any formal tender.
A royal-era building constructed 79 years ago, Cliff House, located at Nanthancode in the heart of the Thiruvananthapuram city, had been the official residence of the majority of Chief Ministers, after the state of Kerala was formed in 1957. Earlier, it was the residence of the 'diwan peshkar' (secretary of the state) during erstwhile royal rule.