I-T raid on leader leaves Marxists red-faced

CPM district unit split on action against ex-Rajya Sabha member

Recovery of huge unaccounted property worth more than Rs 300 crore has left the party leadership red-faced, particularly on the eve of the assembly elections.

During the raid early this week, I-T sleuths unearthed records which revealed that Maheswari, a CPM wholetimer, had bought acres of land at various places in North 24 Parganas district since 2004. Except 17 acres in her name, the land had been registered in the names of peons, relatives and other staff of the real estate firm run by her husband Arun Maheswari and son-in-law Amitav Kejriwal.   

I-T officials sealed several bank lockers and sought income details of all the relatives, staff and peons in whose names the land had been bought. Officials have also been investigating into the expenditure incurred during the marriage of her son Avimanyu at the Nalban Boating Complex. The entire makeshift reception venue, it was learnt, was airconditioned.

The officials declined to reveal the total amount of the unaccounted property and land disproportionate to the known sources of income of Maheswari. Sources in the department here said that Maheswaris started purchasing the land under a project called “Olive Garden.” At least nine companies had been floated to acquire the plots, some of which were located close to the IT township of Rajarhat.

The raids, the first time on such a scale on any CPM stalwart, have triggered massive uneasiness in the party barely a couple of months before the Buddhadev Bhattacherjee Government prepares to seek a fresh mandate for a record eighth term in the Assembly. “I have no idea what the Income-Tax authorities have recovered. However, if charges of fudging income tax are proved, then we may think of initiating action against her,” West Bengal state CPM secretary Biman Bose said.

In fact, according to sources, the North 24 Parganas district unit of the CPM has virtually split over initiating action against her. While a section is keen to give Maheswari time to come clean on the charges, a majority of leaders are keen that the party must not earn bad name for her, especially when the CPM had lost all the seats in the district in the last general election.

Land and Revenue Minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who was extremely critical of Maheswari for her “land acquisition spree,” himself ordered confiscation of land that exceeded the statutory ceiling of the Land Ceiling Act of the state government. Despite several pleas from Maheswari who had also moved the court, Mollah declined to review her appeal.

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