The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left serves Centaur ultimatum on Centre

New Delhi , May 9: The Left parties have demanded that the government announce an inquiry into the undersold Mumbai-based Centaur hotel deals by tomorrow.

Sources said the government is not averse to ordering a probe but is waiting for the momentum to build up.

But the Left virtually served an ultimatum on the UPA government, demanding that it come out with a 'concrete' proposal to investigate the deal by tomorrow.

'We are disappointed. The government has not yet come out with a specific investigation proposal. We will come out more strongly and vigorously if the government does not come out with a proposal tomorrow,' said CPM MP and central committee member Nilotpal Basu in a news conference today.

Last week, the Left had raised the Centaur hotel issue in a calling attention motion. Finance minister P. Chidambaram had then said the government was waiting for the report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) to decide the form of inquiry.

The CAG has since come out with a report rapping the divestment of the Centaur hotels when Arun Shourie was disinvestment minister.

The Left, which is demanding a CBI inquiry into the deal, wants the government to take action against the guilty and cancel the sale agreement.

Basu did not specify what kind of 'vigorous and strong' action the CPM would take if the government did not come out with a probe order tomorrow. 'We will express our dissatisfaction more strongly and vigorously,' he said.

The Left is likely to turn the heat on the government. The issue came up in both Houses today with the Left demanding that the government 'nail those who have squandered millions of rupees'. CPI legislator Gurudas Dasgupta said: 'Criminals must be put in their place.'

In the Rajya Sabha, CPM MP Dipankar Mukherjee said Chidambaram had promised on the floor of the House last August that he would give a detailed statement once the CAG report came out.

'Now that the findings are out, the government should take the House into confidence about what action it is going to take,' he said. The CAG has criticised the manner of sale of the two government-owned hotels by the former A.B. Vajpayee-led NDA government.

The CAG report has said Tulip Hospitality, floated by a former Air-India director, was allowed to bid for Juhu Centaur despite having a paid-up capital of Rs 2,000 only. The firm could pay the bid amount after several extensions, that too after the disinvestment ministry intervened and asked a government-owned bank to fund the deal.

The other hotel, Airport Centaur, was sold to the Batras who are known to have links with the Sangh parivar. The CAG says this deal too was undervalued. The Batras picked up the hotel for Rs 83 crore and sold it for approximately Rs 30 crore more to the Sahara group after a month.

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