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Power haunts

R. Gopalakrishnan Nair, private secretary to five former ministers (M. N. Govindan Nair, Chithiranjan, V. V. Raghavan, V. K. Rajan and Krishnan Kaniyamparambil), narrates the myths and beliefs that centre on the `Minister's bungalows'.

Photo: S. Mahinsha

Manmohan Bungalow

Each time a Minister assumes power, he chooses a residence that invariably dictates his future. Some such houses are considered to bring forth misery and wreck the political career of its inhabitant, while some usher in good luck. And hereby hangs a tale...

R. Gopalakrishnan Nair, private secretary to five former Ministers (M. N. Govindan Nair, Chithiranjan, V. V. Raghavan, V. K. Rajan and Krishnan Kaniyamparambil), narrates the myths and beliefs that centre on the `Minister's bunglows':

"Rose house, earlier known as `Ross House', was said to be haunted. It was said to bring in bad luck. The first to reside here was the then Chief Minister, Paravoor T. K. Narayana Pillai. Held responsible for police atrocities, his reputation was tarnished and subsequently lost the Parliament elections form Chirayankizh. The next person to reside in this `ill-fated' house was T .M. Varghese, the Home Minister during the K. J. John ministry. The RSP leader, R. Sreekandan Nair, levelled corruption charges against him, marring his image to a great extent. He was also accused of chopping a Mahogany tree on the premises. His political ambitions too met with the same fate... R. Shankaranarayanan Thampi, Communist Party leader and the first speaker in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, did not fare any better than his predecessors at the Rose House. "The house, which was said to be doomed, caused T. V. Thomas and his wife, Gouriamma, to part ways. While Thomas was in Rose House, his wife,Gouriamma, lived in the house next door, called Xanadu. A small gate was made breaking open the compound wall between the two houses, for the husband and wife to meet. But their relation went from bad to worse."

Then it was the turn of M. N. Govindan Nair, who, while living in this house, lost his son in a car accident. After this incident, the house was renovated according to Vastu Shastra (the Indian science of architecture). Now the residence of K. Shankaranarayanan, it had earlier housed P. K. Vasudevan Nair, E Ahamed, C. P. Ahammed Ali, A. C. Shanmughadas and P. J. Joseph (with his cattle!). "There is hardly any point in blaming the house for all the mishaps. Such things happen in life. P. T. Chacko toofaced several charges while he lived here."

B. Arjunan, director, Arjun & Associates, a construction company which constructs houses according to the Vastu Shastra, says that health, wealth and well being of the dwellers depend on the Vast of the house. Vastu Shastra recommends certain norms in constructing a house and if these norms are violated, it will bring forth tragedies.

`Manmohan Bungalow' was not constructed according to Vastu Shastra. The senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, who was the Chief Minister then, had to step down following allegations levelled against him in the `Rajan Case'. The house remained vacant until R. Balakrishna Pillai occupied it. He was accused of the `Punjab Model Speech', which eventually led to hisresignation. Once again, architects took refuge in Vastu Shastra, before M. V. Raghavan moved in. It was at `Xanadu', Vazhuthacaud, that Gouriamma, the then Revenue Minister and T. V. Thomas, the then Transport Minister got married, in 1957. Balakrishna Pillai had stayed at `Ushus' for six months. But K. M. George, the then Transport Minister, died while residing here. E. Chandrashekaran Nair stayed at the `Nest', all three times he was a Minister. This house was not favoured by Ministers. This was probably due to the fact that T. V. Thomas had died here. "The house (`Nest') is not at all clean; leaches even get to the first floor during rainy season," says E. Chandrashekaran Nair. The `Kalpana' bungalow at Jagathy was the most sought after in the political circle."In the race between P. K. Velayudhan, the Transport Minister in the Karunakaran Ministry and polecats, the minister was defeated and he left the house.

`Essendene', now the residence of Muneer, was the "house of fortune" for Baby John. He resided there for several years.

The `Lyndhurst' bungalow is the favourite of the Ministers from the Muslim League. Avukhadar Kutty Naha too had resided here. During the second tenure of EMS in 1967, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) had to face a severe political crisis. The CPI, RSP, SSP and Muslim League together formed a separate front known as `Kurumunani'. Their meetings were held at `Lyndhurst'.

Achutha Menon was the first in the history of Kerala to complete his tenure of five years. During the time, his stayed at `Contonment House', which once housed C. Kesavan, Kalathil Velayudhan and P. K. Kunju. When E. K. Nayanar became the Chief Minister in 1980, he too chose to stay here. Later, the `Cantonment House' became the residence of many Leaders of the Opposition.After Independence, when Pattom Thanu Pillai became the first Prime Minister of Travancore, he chose to reside in the `Residency Bungalow' at Thycaud (now KITTS) on the Government Guest House compound. T. M. Varghese, who was in the same Ministry, chose to stay at the `Cliff House'. Later, C. Kesavan, the Chief Minister of Thiru-Kochi stayed here. After Kerala was partitioned, the first Chief Minister, EMS, too chose the Cliff House as his official residence. Chief Ministers such as R. Shankar, C. H. Mohammed Koya, P. M. Abubecker and E. K. Imbichibava stayed there during their tenure.

In 1982, Karunakaran took over the `Cliff House' after he became the Chief Minister. In 1987, Nayanar stayed here. The `Cliff House' is considered as the most glamorous of all the bungalows that house various ministers. During the time of Shankar, fish rearing and agriculture was carried out on its vast compound. After Karunakaran met with an accident, a swimming pool was constructed at this bungalow. Antony also stayed at the Cliff House, though he first resided at the `Ajanam' during his first tenure as Chief Minister.`Thycaud House', near the Thycaud police ground, was the residence of K. P. Gopalan, the Industries Minister during EMS's first Ministry. Gouriamma, C. M. Sundaram, P. R. Kurup, Neelalohidadasan Nadar and Kadavoor Sivadasan have also stayed here.

Other bungalows such as the `Kowdiar House' and those built in 1975 such as `Prasanth', `Ashoka' and `Pournami' did not feature in the Ministers' list of `favourite' residences. Many such bungalows were later converted to offices. One such is the `Park View', now the directorate of the Department of Tourism. It was once the residence of A. J. John, the president of the Constituent Assembly, which came to power soon after Independence. After that, P. R. Kurup, T. V. Thomas and Gouriamma, and K. T. George stayed here. While residing here, K. T. George (the Finance Minister in the second Achutha Menon ministry) fainted during the Budget session in the Assembly and died. Since then, no Minister has stayed here.

Other bungalows, which were abandoned by Ministers, are Nalanda (the office of Language Institute) and Barton Hill Bungalow, where the office of IMG functions now.

BINU JOHNSON

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