Costly delay in buying Ambedkar’s house in London

Citing a prolonged delay, the owner of the 2,050-sq.ft, three-storey bungalow, has threatened to withdraw the offer.

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:22 pm IST

Published - August 24, 2015 02:39 am IST - Mumbai

The home of Dr B R Ambedkar on King Henry's Road in North London.

The home of Dr B R Ambedkar on King Henry's Road in North London.

A big question mark looms over the Maharashtra government’s move to acquire the London bungalow where B.R. Ambedkar lived as a student in the 1920s.

Citing a prolonged delay — eight months have passed since the State initiated the process — the owner of the 2,050-sq.ft, three-storey bungalow, has threatened to withdraw the offer if the deal is not processed by Monday. The house on 10 King Henry Road, NW3, costs Rs. 40 crore.

In a letter to M.N. Singh, Indian High Commissioner in London, an officer from the broker agency expressed the owner’s “disappointment” at the indecision. If the Maharashtra government did not proceed with the transaction by Monday, the owner would “withdraw the offer and start the process of renovating the property, which will be kept within the family trust”, the letter said.

The High Commission communicated this to the Secretary of the State Social Justice Department Ujjwal Uke. The Fadnavis government plans to convert the bungalow, where Dr. Ambedkar lived while pursuing higher studies at the London School of Economics during 1921-22, into a museum-cum-memorial. The government hoped the memorial could be thrown open to the public by April 14, his birth anniversary. The delay has become an embarrassment for the government, with the Congress questioning its will.

‘Govt. not responsible’ Dilip Kamble, Maharashtra Minister of State for Social Justice, however, said the government could not be held responsible for the delay as the deal required an international transaction involving governments. Certain elaborate procedures would have to be taken care of.

He expressed confidence that the deal would be clinched over the next couple of days. “There is no need to raise an alarm over it. The procedure is on and we will purchase it. But we need to be cautious and check all parameters so as to not find any faults later. Also, pay the right market price,” Mr. Kamble told The Hindu .

The State had appointed two surveyors for the valuation of the property. The reports submitted by them have quoted different prices — Rs. 32 crore and Rs. 34 crore, Mr. Kamble said.

The State has transferred a Rs. 3.5-crore token amount into the account of the owner as a gesture of its intent. Mr. Kamble said that he, along with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Minister for Social Justice Rajkumar Badole, might soon travel to London to sign the papers.

The previous Congress government initiated the purchase process, but it could not materialise during its tenure. In January, after the BJP came to power, the party indicated its interest in the property, and sought the Centre’s assistance. The same month, State Education Minister Vinod Tawde visited London and announced that the government would buy the house. In April, a three-member delegation led by Mr. Badole went to London to finalise the deal.

However, not much has been achieved after that. Former Congress Minister Nitin Raut, who first made the proposal for the purchase, said the BJP government lacked the “heart” to seal the deal. “The BJP has only noise and photographs to show. Their inability to get the house even after so long shows it is not a priority for them,” he said.

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