The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM seeks CBI probe into hotel selloff

New Delhi, Oct. 19: The CPM has demanded a CBI inquiry into the privatisation deal of Mumbai’s Centaur airport hotel. The hotel was sold for Rs 83 crore to A.L. Batra of Batra Hospitality, who later sold it for Rs 115 crore.

“The fact that the buyer made Rs 32 crore in such a short time shows how public sector assets are undervalued by the department of disinvestment. Deals for selling PSUs are designed to encourage racketeering,” the CPM politburo said in a statement here today.

“The owner of the company which originally bought the hotel is known to be close to the RSS,” it added.

According to reports, A.L. Batra sat next to RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan on the dais on October 2 when he was addressing a 2,000-strong gathering of Delhi’s elite. Batra is believed to have been the chief guest.

Disinvestment minister Arun Shourie said the resale of the hotel was not in violation of the lock-in period since it was an outright sale and no lock-in period was prescribed in the transaction barring the transfer of the property within a stipulated time.

When asked about the resale valuation, Shourie quoted the Balco case, saying valuation is a price the buyer was willing to pay. The new owner, he clarified, will have to honour the commitments made by the government to protect the employees.

The minister also hit out at the Shiv Sena for its “double speak” on disinvestment. The Sena, along with another NDA ally, the Samata Party, have been strong critics of Shourie’s disinvestment policy. Squaring up with the Sena, Shourie said the party had approached him for privatising a hotel in Mumbai.

Shourie also accused the Sena of putting up a brief for hotelier Ajit Kerkar for the acquisition of Centaur’s Juhu hotel in Mumbai. He added that the Sena had repeatedly asked him for the favour even when Kerkar was unable to pay for the hotel.

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