Namdhari once had 14 cases against him

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In the late Nineties, liquor baron Ponty Chadha attempted to make a foray into the mining business in areas adjacent to Haridwar. The problems which he faced from local goons in the mining business reportedly brought him close to Sukhdev Singh Namdhari, an association brought to spotlight following the shootout that killed Ponty.

Namdhari, who was present during the firing that left both Ponty and his brother Hardeep dead, has now been arrested by the Delhi Police that is probing the incident.

According to sources, it was Namdhari's reputation as a "muscleman" in the crime-prone Udham Singh Nagar district, apart from him being a fellow Sikh, that drew the two together.

Namdhari, for his part, benefited by rising in state politics as he came to be known as Ponty's man in Uttarakhand. Apart from politics, he is in the mining business and owns stone-crushing machines and a dhaba near Bajpur.

Namdhari's name once figured in 14 cases, including that of loot and dacoity, in Uttarakhand — that's now down to two. Most of the cases were registered in the Bajpur police station of the district, apart from two cases in Haridwar.

He started dabbling in politics about two decades ago when he developed ties with current BJP Kashipur MLA Harbhajan Singh Cheema. He was also said to be close to Congress leader Rana Gurjeet Singh, who has links in Punjab politics. "Rana Saheb has his political base in Udham Singh Nagar district too," a source said.

His next political "friend", sources said, was then BJP MLA from Bajpur Arvind Pandey (he is now a legislator from Gadarpur). "Although I know him, I maintain a distance from him now," Pandey told The Indian Express. He also claimed that Namdhari had worked against him in the last Assembly elections and he had complained against him to the state party leadership.

Namdhari soon tried to extend his political reach to Uttarakhand's capital Dehradun. It was then BJP chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank who appointed him chairman of the State Minorities Commission in March 2010. Sources in the Uttarakhand BJP said that another former party CM, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, too had backed Namdhari's name for the post.

On his Facebook account, Namdhari flaunts photographs showing him with VHP leader Praveen Togadia, former Karnataka CM B S Yeddyurappa, former RSS boss K S Sudarshan and Pokhriyal, apart from Ponty himself. In the account, he identifies himself as president of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat and as "organiser" of Gurukul Kangri University.

Following his name cropping up in the Chadha deaths, Namdhari was removed from the minorities commission post.

The state BJP leadership says it is waiting and watching for now. "The party will wait for the police decision in this case before initiating any action against him," party Uttarakhand chief Bishan Singh Chuphal said.

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