Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today alleged that the owner of Durgapur hotel which is hosting an array of BJP’s key leaders has links with coal mafia and called it “the BJP’s epicenter of strategic campaign”. BJP leaders from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and even some Union ministers have been staying in the hotel for the past couple of months.

The palatial hotel located on an expensive piece of land on Shaheed Kshudiram Sarani at City Centre though is run by a reputed hotel chain, the structure and the land however is owned by one Rajesh Jha alias Raju who incidentally joined the BJP on 22 December 2020 in presence of party’s state president Dilip Ghosh.

Jha, allegedly a former mafia linked to illegal coal mining and trafficking, has been arrested on several occasions in connection with possessing scrapped currency notes, hashish, firearms and detonators.

Raju’s rise from the slums of Raniganj was meteoric which began with petty coal theft but by early 2000, he became an important link to coal mafia. Such was his clout in the Asansol-Durgapur zone that trucks carrying his pads were allowed to go unchecked due to his close rapport with the police.

In 2006, Raju was arrested for the first time. On 4 July 2011, soon after TMC ousted Left from power, he was picked up by Humayun Kabir, the then SP, Burdwan from Raniganj. On 6 December 2016, the STF, Kolkata Police arrested Raju along with Manish Sharma, the Raniganj Shahar Mandal president of BJP on charges of possessing demonetised Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes worth Rs 1 crore and three firearms. They were intercepted at Baguiati, Kolkata.

Raju today told reporters: “I own the land but the hotel is run by ITC. I just earn a rent. I am least bothered about the persons checking-in there.”