Is the BJP led Prem Kumar Dhumal government in Himachal Pradesh too late in taking corrective steps to sort out the Bantony castle controversy.
The controversy surrounding this Raj era building has been raging all winter and summer in Shimla but it is only now that chief minister Dhumal has ordered top officials of the state government to acquire the building in public interest.
But observers say action has been taken late. Also a serious effort was made by the state government to relax building norms in the heritage area of Shimla to allow a commercial complex, some say a sprawling five star hotel to be built at Bantony.
BJP insiders say the three and a half year old BJP government has already taken a dent as the government acted only when its intentions were fully exposed by angry heritage activists and the local media.
The sudden order to acquire Bantony castle late Tuesday has also been clearly speeded up by the senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar shooting of a letter to the BJP high command asking the party to weed out corruption and family politics in all BJP ruled states.
There is also a pending complaint by Kangra MP Rajant Sushant to the BJP president about the growing corruption at high places in Himachal Pradesh.
All these may have prompted the government here to take action ahead of the state monsoon assembly session next month.
Observers say the opposition Congress has no reason to gloat over the BJP taking a back step on the Bantony castle issue as it has hardly been vocal on the controversy all these months.
The 19 the century colonial Bantony castle is perched on a Ridge near Grand hotel building and overlooks downtown Shimla.
Until a few years ago it housed the state police headquarters but was vacated after a court verdict in favour of the owners.
After this there was speculation that it is being purchased by powerful people to build a hotel. Recently a London based NRI had sought permission to build a spa resort from the stateâ€™s tourism department.
No permission is allowed to build high rise structures under the existing laws in the fragile heritage zone of old Shimla,but new laws are now being proposed by the government to allow multi-storied structures,many say largely to accommodate the proposed resort project at Bantony among others.
But conservationists and heritage lovers should not rest until the proposed draconian law seeking to allow multi-storied buildings on the fragile slopes of Shimla is put into the garbage bin.