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Bihar minister, hotel trade thrash charges

Suresh Sharma

Bolpur/Patna: The management of a hotel in Birbhum's Tarapith filed a police complaint, accusing a Bihar BJP minister of thrashing an employee and damaging a computer during an argument over allotment of rooms on Monday morning.

However, urban development minister Suresh Sharma said it was the hotel staff who had assaulted him and his entourage.

Sharma had gone to Tarapith, around 220km from Calcutta, for pilgrimage.

Sources said the minister had booked three rooms - one four-bedded room and three two-bedded rooms - through a website three days back by paying Rs 15,000 online. Sharma, a BJP MLA from Muzaffarpur, was supposed to check in on Monday.

"He came with eight associates, including three security personnel, and told us to cancel the booking and refund the amount in cash," said Sunil Giri, the manager of the hotel.

"We told him that he had to cancel the booking online and the amount would be automatically refunded to whichever account he had used for the online transaction."

Giri said the minister then introduced himself as a cabinet minister of Bihar and asserted that his demand be met.

"When we said the minister's demand could not be met, he grabbed a lathi from one of his security guards and started beating up my colleague Pranab Manna. The minister also damaged a computer in the reception. When other employees rushed in to save us, the minister and his associates fled," he said.

The hotel staff lodged the complaint with the Rampurhat police against Sharma and the entourage.

Police sources said Sharma had later checked into another hotel at Tarapith.

Birbum superintendent of police Sudheer Kumar said: "We have started a case based on the complaint by the hotel staff but not against the minister."

Giri, however, said: "I have lodged the complaint against the minister who beat up our staff with the lathi."

He also alleged in the complaint that a member of minister's entourage had showed gun to the hotel staff.

Sharma later told the media at Tarapith that the hotel staff had attacked him and those in his group.

"We had booked the rooms online but the staff of the hotel made us wait for 15 minutes. They were not allotting rooms to us. Then, an argument started between my people and the staff. We demanded the refund of the money. The staff attacked us and hit my official vehicle. Two persons, including my security guard, were injured," said Sharma.

The minister's private secretary Sanjeev Kumar issued a statement in Patna, accusing the Bengal government of not providing Sharma with security according to protocol despite being informed earlier.

The statement also alleged that it was the hotel staff who had attacked the minister and not the other way round.

"The minister's guards have received injuries while saving him," the statement said.

It also said Biharis living in Tarapith had gathered to ensure justice for the minister and decried "those spreading canards".

Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly Tejashwai Prasad Yadav tweeted: "Nitish Kumar's Minister doing Goondagardi in WB. He & his goons beating hotel staff. BJP goons defaming Bihar. Minister is blue eyed boy of Sushil Modi. Will CM ask for his resignation? Irony is Bihar's Media without verifying facts telling that Minister is attacked in WB."

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