Close ties with Akalis spirited Ponty’s growth in Punjab

Liquor baron and real estate giant Gurdeep Singh Chadha, alias Ponty Chadha, ventured into Punjab about 15 years ago, and went on to become a major player in the state's liquor trade.

When the SAD-BJP government came to power in Punjab in 1997, it was on the lookout for a big liquor group to break the monopoly of the liquor conglomerate.

After Ponty was introduced to a senior minister in the Badal Cabinet, there was no looking back for the liquor baron. He soon monopolised the liquor trade in the state. His main business at that time was liquor and sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh.

Ponty gained entry in the state through the Akalis, but he managed to get close to the then Congress government in 2002. Such was his influence that auction of liquor vends would not begin till he reached the venue. It was at his insistence that the norm of clubbing vends was started. Smaller players were either pushed out or forced to join as partners.

Sources said after the Akalis returned to power in 2007, Ponty again tried to mend fences with them. Though he failed initially, he later managed to come close to the corridors of power. It was only with the introduction of a new liquor policy by Punjab in 2006 that his monopoly was broken.

By then, Ponty had already diversified into real estate in Punjab. The liquor brands manufactured by his distilleries were sold at all vends in the state, and the prices of liquor also shot up. The integrated business — Chadha Group in Punjab — includes two distilleries, one at Kiri Afgana village in Gurdaspur called AB Grain Spirits and another at Randhawa village in Hoshiarpur.

They also have a bottling plant at Amritsar called Wave Beverages and a mall in Ludhiana known as Westend Mall. The group had planned to set up Fairlakes Country, an 264-acre residential-integrated township in Sector 85 of Mohali, under another one of their companies, Wave Estate.

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