The liquor baron that all parties loved

Sukhbir Badal

Ponty was Mayawati's favourite businessman, whom her government made the sole wholesale distributor of liquor across Uttar Pradesh. There were whispers about him being the BSP's chief bagman, and allegations that he had been given a free hand in deciding the price of liquor. The real estate interests of the Chadhas got a boost under Mayawati, and many residential and commercial projects came up in Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad. The family got two farmhouses in Noida under a controversial scheme — now under probe — begun by Mayawati's government.

Punjab was Ponty's other playground. As far back as in 1997, when the SAD-BJP was in power, he acquired a major stake in the liquor business in the state. In the Congress regime that followed, he made himself ubiquitous.

In February, income-tax officers raided Noida's Centrestage mall and 12 other premises owned by Ponty in the NCR, Delhi, Moradabad and Lucknow. Massive hype about the reported recovery of Rs 100 crore was followed by the embarrassing revelation that all that the I-T department found in a safe in the basement of the mall were two five-rupee coins and a large silver coin. There was widespread suspicion that Ponty had been tipped off about the coming raid.

It is relatively unknown that this shrewd businessman also ran a school for mentally and physically challenged children in Noida, established in memory of his grandmother Bhagwati Chadha.

"I have plans to expand the school to benefit more such children," Ponty had told The Indian Express in the 2009 interview.

On October 5, gunshots were reported from Ponty's ancestral home in Moradabad district, where a relative was reportedly trying out his new firearm. Saturday's shots in the Chhatarpur farmhouse turned out to be deadlier. The businessman who had always worked hard to keep a low profile could not ultimately be ignored, either in life or in death.

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