‘Jinxed’ official bungalow in south Mumbai scares away ministers

A perceived jinx is scaring ministers from moving into a sprawling, sea-facing bungalow in the upmarket Malabar Hill area of south Mumbai — even two years after its previous occupant, former revenue minister Eknath Khadse, vacated it.

In the corridors of power, the Ramtek bungalow is considered jinxed, with almost every politician who made it home in the past two decades suffering setbacks to their careers. The most recent of them was Khadse, the senior BJP leader who was the state’s revenue minister till 2016, and considered the number two in chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ government. In June that year, he was forced to resign following allegations of impropriety in a land deal. This was just two years after he took over as minister. Khadse resigned from the cabinet and vacated Ramtek in September 2016. No other minister has moved since, even though Ramtek has the most attractive features among all official residences in the area.

“I have not received any application for the Ramtek bungalow yet,” confirmed Nandkumar, the secretary, state protocol department. The ground-plus-one structure is spread over 8,857 sqft. It has five bedrooms — three on the ground floor, two on the first — a hall, living room, dining hall, office, meeting hall, and space for personal assistants.

Of all ministerial bungalows in Malabar Hill and Nariman Point, Ramtek is the only one with a seafront.

While Khadse admitted that many consider the bungalow to be unlucky, he said he didn’t believe in superstitions.

“My well-wishers and some officials had advised me against chosing it in 2014, but I don’t believe in superstitions,”Khadse told HT. “Even today, I don’t believe that whatever I faced was because of the bungalow. We get whatever is written in our fate,”he said.

Before Khadse, the bungalow was home to former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, and former deputy chief ministers Gopinath Munde and Chhagan Bhubjal.

In 1995, Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was a senior minister in the Congress government, suffered a major setback when he lost the Assembly elections from the Latur constituency. He was defeted by Shivajirao Patil Kavhekar, a Janata Dal candidate.

That year, a Shiv Sena-BJP alliance came to power, and after Deshmukh moved out, Ramtek was allotted to then deputy chief minister Munde.

While Munde had made several changes following ‘Vaastu Shastra’, he too was caught in a controversy within two years. In 1999, the alliance lost the Assembly elections and Munde moved out.

The next occupant was Bhujbal, who had to resign four years later following the fake stamp paper scam, popularly known as the Telgi scam.

Bhujbal, however, continued to stay at Ramtek. He re-entered the state cabinet a year later, in November 2004, as Public Works Department (PWD) minister, and remained in that position till 2014 when he faced fresh charges of corruption. In March 2016, he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for allegedly receiving kickbacks in the Maharashtra Sadan case.

“No minister is now showing interest in the bungalow,” a senior PWD official said. “Not that all of them are superstitious, but in the highly unpredictable world of politics, many probably don’t want any insecurity in their minds.”

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 01:18 IST

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