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Mamata down Paris memory lane

The chief minister’s stay at Shangri La hotel in Singapore was not her first brush with a star address.

Mamata Banerjee, who wears simplicity on her sleeves, has been to Paris and stayed in a Novotel, a brand of the French hospitality major Accor, according to a statement by the chief minister herself.

Mamata, however, did not mention when she had been to Paris or the specific hotel where she had stayed. There are 113 Novotels in France, 15 of them in the capital.

“I went to Paris. I stayed at your hotel also. So I remember you have big hotels there,” Mamata said at the inauguration of Calcutta’s first Novotel. The 347-room property has come up in Action Area 1 of New Town, Rajarhat.

In a television interview last week Mamata had said she was well-travelled, underscoring the fact that her trip to Singapore in an attempt to woo investors was not a one-off.

“I went abroad (to Singapore) for the first time in 15 years. I have been to the US, London, France and Germany. I have addressed the United Nations General Assembly,” Mamata said in an interview to Bengali news channel 24 Ghanta, aired on Friday.

At the Novotel inauguration, the chief minister said the new hotel would be a key address of New Town.

“This is a very important place…. The Rajarhat-New Town area is coming up as an eco-tourism area. The eco-tourism park is a very important park. We are doing a Madame Tussaud-like wax museum. The financial hub is also there. A convention centre and a world trade centre are coming up. It would be one of the destinations for the future. The Novotel hotel has opened before the Biswa Banga Sammelan (scheduled for early next year) and it would be one of the places for guests to stay in,” Mamata said.

The chief minister stressed that the hotel would further strengthen the “beautiful relationship” between India and France.

She pointed out that JW Marriott and ITC Sonar Two are among the major upcoming hotels in Calcutta.

Novotel, which also houses 48 service apartments, is developed and funded by the city-based Salarpuria group. Accor will be responsible for managing the property.

For Accor, Novotel is not the first tryst with Bengal. The hospitality major has finally managed to set its foot in Calcutta after its attempts, during the tenures of Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as chief minister, to take over Great Eastern Hotel failed following trade union agitations.

The Jyoti Basu government had in 1994 wanted to hand over the state-run Great Eastern to Accor in an attempt to showcase Bengal to foreign investors but had to backtrack in the face of trade union pressures. The second attempt to hand over the hotel to Accor, during Bhattacharjee’s tenure, fell flat too for the same reason.

The BBD Bag hotel was sold to Lalit Suri’s Bharat Hotels in 2005 through competitive bidding.