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Sex scam: CPM scrambles for damage control

August 17, 2004 23:04 IST

West Bengal's ruling Marxists are scurrying to control damage in the wake of the arrest of a party MP's husband in a prostitution racket.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has said it could not be asked to answer for parliamentarian Jyotirmoyee Sikdar's husband, Avtar Singh, because he was not a member of the party.

"We are responsible only for our party members and our party's people's representatives," said CPI-M's state secretary Anil Biswas.

The CPI-M, however, has initiated a probe into the matter. The party said Singh's guilt is yet to be proved and it also needed to be checked if he had leased out the hotel where the prostitution racket was uncovered.

The scandal came to light when on Independence Day police raided Singh's Merlin Park hotel, which he built in 2001, on land provided to Sikdar by the state government for winning the 800 and 1500 m gold in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games.

Police picked up four men and four women besides Singh and the hotel manager. The couples were said to be in compromising positions when policemen knocked on their doors. All of them have been remanded in jail custody for 14 days.

Biswas said Sikdar had spoken to him, but the two did not discuss Singh, himself a national record holder in 800m and once his wife's coach.

The opposition is trying to corner the CPI-M on the issue. The Trinamul Congress has called for Sikdar's resignation.

"We demand her resignation," Trinamul leader Tanmay Mondal told Trinamul supporters attacked Sikdar's house in Krishnanagar pelting it with stones.

Mondal said his party would begin a campaign to "unmask" the criminal connections of the CPI-M.

The opposition parties claimed this wasn't the first time Singh had got into trouble with the law. They claimed his hotel did not have a licence to run the bar.

Sikdar hasn't come out yet to clear her husband's name.

M Chhaya in Kolkata