He built empire with connections
Ponty Chadhaís close links with powerful people helped him rise fast in business
As the results of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections started trooping on news channel across the country on March 6 this year, Gurdeep Singh Chadha alias Ponty Chadha turned and tossed uncomfortably on a couch in the presidential suite of Lucknow’s Vivanta by Taj hotel.
Close to outgoing chief minister Mayawati, whose benevolence helped him pocket 80 per cent of UP’s liquor market, 21 government-owned sugar mills at a pittance, major land deals in Noida, Greater Noida, Lucknow and Agra, and many other known and unknown business favours, Ponty expected retaliation from the new regime.
As the evening drew close and it became clear that Samajwadi Party has romped home with a thumping majority, Ponty was a really worried man.
In the next six days as he camped in Lucknow, Ponty not only managed to get an audience with SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav but also an invite for the swearing-in ceremony of the new chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav.
However, unbeknownst to him, the clout and myth of Ponty Chadha had so immensely grown in the five years during Mayawati’s reign that after his meeting with the senior Yadav, his cousin and Member of Parliament Ram Gopal Yadav proudly revealed the meeting to a group of journalists.
“Aaj toh Ponty aaya tha,” Ram Gopal Yadav had beamed. The bridges with the Yadavs of Etawah had been mended in just an hour of meeting.
It is hard to believe that a man with such perseverance and patience, controlling a business empire worth over Rs 10,000 crore across several states, would be killed in a shoot-out reminiscent of a B-grade Bollywood film, that too by a brother who owed him almost everything.
Ponty’s tale of rags to riches will inspire many. Starting out as a snack seller outside a liquor vend at Thakurdwara, 20 km from Moradabad, Chadha’s family rode on to his success to build a business empire that was envied by the richest of the rich.
Ranging from liquor production and distribution to film production and distribution, bottling plants to power plants, sugar mills to stone crushers, education to shopping malls, Ponty had diversified his business to earn huge profits. However, this empire was not built on the basis of his business acumen alone.
Ponty realised early in life that political and bureaucratic connections help. “He learnt all the tricks of the trade in Moradabad. From greasing the hands of local municipal and police officials 30 years ago, Ponty now dealt with ministers and secretaries,” says a Moradabad resident who has known Chadha from his struggling days in the city.
Giving expensive gifts to politicians and bureaucrats had become a habit with Chadha, which earned him immense power and political clout over the years. Close to former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala, former Punjab CM Amrinder Singh, Mayawati and Mulayam, Chadha had an impressive friends’ list that also included Bollywood stars, business tycoons, sportspersons and journalists.
Ironically, the very money that Ponty spent his life building became the cause of his downfall. And tragically, he did not die at any of the hundreds of vast properties created by him — a palatial house in Civil Lines, Moradabad or the multi-crore farmhouses strewn across Delhi, UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab — but on the roadside, in front of the closed gates of a farmhouse that he thought belonged to him.