NEW DELHI:The Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government is fighting a legal challenge, ironically, in “support” of political rival and former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. The issue: Whether Raje gets to keep a government bungalow or be evicted. In January, the Gehlot government made Congress’s former CM Jagannath Pahadia vacate the government bungalow (Number 5) allotted to him, even as it chose to “defend” its move to allow BJP’s Raje to retain her government accommodation. The justification it provided to the Rajasthan HC in February, in response to a contempt petition, was that Raje “continues to occupy the said Bungalow being entitled for it as Member (of the) Legislative Assembly”. This has come despite the High Court last year ordering that no former chief ministers be entitled to free government accommodation and other facilities. That ruling was also upheld by the Supreme Court in January. The government’s move to defend Raje is in response to a contempt petition filed by one Milap Chand Dandia through his lawyer Yogesh Tailor in November, seeking punitive action against the government for “deliberately” violating the High Court’s September 4, 2019, judgement. The High Court had, through this ruling, struck down an amendment made in 2017 by the Vasundhara Raje government to the Rajasthan Ministers’ Salaries (Amendment) Act, 1956, entitling former chief ministers a freegovernment residence, a vehicle, telephone and a staff of nine members — including one personal secretary, one personal assistant or stenographer, one driver, one grade 1 clerk, two informatics assistant and three class 4 employees. When the Gehlot government appealed against the ruling, the apex court on January 6 dismissed it, finding no force. Subsequently, on January 19, the state government issued notice to Pahadia to vacate the government bungalow, which he did within two days. However, the Congress government’s response to Dandia’s contempt petition, which came in February, is silent on whether a similar notice was issued to Raje. The government told the High Court that no case of contempt is made out, since the staff allotted to Raje had been relieved in January. Through separate orders, Pahadia’s staff was also ordered to be repatriated to their parent cadre. Both Raje and Pahadia have returned government vehicles allotted to them along with the services of the drivers, it said. The facilities provided to former chief ministers were withdrawn, it told the court. The petitioner, however, demanded in a rejoinder filed last month that Raje be evicted and that penal charges of `10,000 per day (as per rules) be levied from the date of the High Court judgement till the time Raje vacates the bungalow. The amount spent by the state government for utilization of the facilities to the ex-chief minister should be recovered, either from the former chief minister or from the contemnor in the interest of justice, the petitioner has demanded. Dandia also claimed in the petition that Raje was allotted the government bungalow within two days of her application, on December 11, 2018 — and just a day after her government lost the assembly elections.