Successive govts in UP helped him rise

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Liquor baron Gurdeep Singh alias Ponty Chadha's business flourished despite changes in regime in Uttar Pradesh. It was often perceived that a new government, headed by a political adversary, would go tough on Ponty. But Ponty managed to expand his business through three governments.

In 2005, then UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav inaugurated Ponty's Wave Multiplex, the first mall and multiplex in Lucknow. During Mulayam's tenure, Ponty bought an 18-acre prime plot in Lucknow's Gomti Nagar for group housing and a multi-crore contract for supply of nutritional supplements under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

Ponty continued to expand and diversify his business during Maywati's tenure as Chief Minister. His first major deal was finalised in 2009, when he was given control over wholesale liquor trade in Uttar Pradesh. The deal brought him into the limelight. "Ponty was given the total wholesale business of liquor in UP along with the lucrative retail business in Meerut. Across the state, nearly 40 per cent of retail liquor trade was in Ponty's hands. We had protested against it, but in vain," Lucknow Liquor Association spokesperson Anil Aggrawal said. His company Flora and Fauna Pvt Ltd handled country-made liquor, while his firm Prakash & Company took care of Indian-made foreign liquor.

Ponty also bought 21 sugar mills owned by state government. A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report severely indicted the two companies which purchased the sugar mills — Wave Industries Pvt Ltd and PBS Food Pvt Ltd — both allegedly owned by Ponty. The report said the state suffered a loss of Rs 1,179.84 crore due to anomalies and discrepancies in the process of disinvestment in state-owned sugar mills. It highlighted undervaluation of land and buildings of the sugar mills by advisers.

Akhilesh Yadav spoke about these discrepancies during his poll campaign and after assuming power, he handed over the probe into sale of sugar mills to the UP Lokayukta.

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