Shimla: Not having stumbled upon any serious irregularity in the setting up of Hotel Pavillion, a star property of HP Cricket Association (HPCA) at Dharamshala, the government is looking for a way out to save face.
With not enough grounds to cancel the land lease for The Pavilion, chief minister Virbhadra Singh, last week, fended off media queries with, “more information about HPCA hotel is being collected and if necessary, action would be taken only after receiving the final report.”
Dust kicked up during the 2012 assembly election campaign about the then BJP government having put ‘Himachal on sale’ has yet not settled and the cricket hotel is one of the issues that the Virbhadra government is trying to find fault with.
After a lengthy discussion on the issue at a cabinet meeting on Saturday, the memo is said to have been withdrawn as no decision could be arrived at.
When contacted, P Mitra, additional chief secretary said, “the matter would again be taken to the cabinet.”
Intent upon pinning issues on young MP Anurag Thakur, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the government has been combing records of the 32,806 sq meter leased land on which in a 6350 sq meter built up area the HPCA 72 room hotel has come up.
Thakur happens to be not just the son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal but also the president of HPCA.
“No land or construction law has been violated in putting up The Pavilion”, asserts Thakur.
To obtain recognition for hosting international matches at one of the world’s best stadiums, we waited for 10 years – since 2000, for some entrepreneur to put up a star hotel to house international players and guests, he adds.
“When everything failed and international match fixtures continued to be denied to the Dharamshala stadium, HPCA was forced to set up the hotel and bridge the gap,” says Thakur.
Since 2009, when the land was leased for 99 years, the government for three years collected Rs 13,04,454/ lease amount per year and on converting it into a commercial lease in 2012, the annual lease was increased to Rs 27,03,214 – which too stands collected.
“It would have been much cheaper to buy land than to have leased it,” says Thakur.
Giving details about the Rs 45 crore built up property, Surinder Thakur, a HPCA member who was responsible for construction of the hotel says, “tourism department approved Hotel Pavillion in September, 2012 after the building was cleared by the country and town planning department.
“It was the hotel that provided the essential infrastructure for hosting the first one-day international cricket match at Dharamshala on Jan 27. Both the India and England teams were put up at The Pavillion and it was the present government that sanctioned a bar license, days ahead of the match, for which a fee of Rs 70,000 was deposited,” says Thakur.
For the India-England match chief minister Virbhadra Singh was the chief guest and gave away prizes at the award ceremony.