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Meet CPM firebrand who prefers spa 'treatment' to clinic 'crowd'

Meet CPM firebrand who prefers spa 'treatment' to clinic 'crowd'

Author: Bidyut Roy
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: August 31, 2009
URL: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/meet-cpm-firebrand-who-prefers-spa-treatment-to-clinic-crowd/509191/

As the burning of the Vedic Village Spa and Resort adds fresh fuel to the heated land acquisition debate in West Bengal, guess who may find his hands singed? The state's Minister for Land and Land Reforms, Abdur Rezzak Mollah, better known for his strong opposition to land for industry and for his "simple" lifestyle. In the long list of those known to have enjoyed the five-star luxuries of the resort - which was allegedly raised on illegally acquired land - Mollah's name figures prominently.

CPM's Minister for Tourism Manabendra Mukherjee is also reported to have been a regular visitor to Vedic Village.

Mollah says he went to the resort for "treatment". "My Ayurveda consultant, Padyumna from Kerala, examines me in his chamber at the spa. His other chamber is at Belle Vue (clinic), but I preferred the Vedic spa to avoid the Belle Vue crowd."

Fingers have been pointed at CPM ministers and party functionaries since last week's incident, when a football match between two teams - one sponsored by the Vedic Village management and the other by local villagers - turned violent and resulted in the attack on the spa.

Angry that were "armtwisted" into handing over land to the spa management, villagers burnt a 5-star resort, and CPM's sweating firebrand minister down property worth crores during a late-night rampage.

Charges swirled about irregular land acquisition, and involvement of CPM leaders. Rezzak himself was accused of helping the resort's owner, Raj Kisore Modi, get 44 acres of government land at a price much less than the market rate.

Now come reports that Mollah and other CPM leaders also enjoyed hospitality of the resort, which claims to "transport guests to another world" with its vast choice of suites, studios, farmhouse rooms, and super-luxury lakeside and earth villas. Locals living around the resort claim to have seen many of them, including Mollah and Mukherjee, visit regularly.

Mukherjee doesn't deny that he went there once on "a formal invitation from the resort management", but insists: "I am not a regular visitor."

However, it is Mollah who finds himself in deep waters in a state that hasn't forgotten his strident line during the Singur episode. "Bengal will turn into a graveyard and the people will throw us out," was his repeated warning to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya at the time.

For the CPM too, the Vedic Village incident threatens to blow up into a major embarrassment. Even as the party's government reiterates its new caution on land acquisition, other local party functionaries were direct beneficiaries of the Vedic Village project. Leaders like Rashid Ali Mondal and Sibnath Banerjee supplied labour; others such as Parimal Mistry and Nuruddin Gazi were reportedly engaged in land dealings and construction material supplies.

Gazi, the former chief of the Chandpur gram panchayat, claims farmers willingly gave land for the resort in return for lucrative amounts. "Villagers would secretly contact us to sell their land," says Gazi, who was incidentally defeated in the 2008 panchayat polls due to his involvement in land controversies.

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