Thursday, September 06, 2001   

Special Report

Pappu Kalani is free: bluster intact, not his base

After 9 years in jail and barred from home, Ulhasnagar MLA finds freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be


SURAT, SEPTEMBER 5: House-hunting is not exactly a pastime he is used to. But he has little choice. Without a home for nine years and with eight murder cases tagging him, Suresh Budharmal Kalani alias Pappu Kalani (49) is anxious to sleep in his own bed after spending nine years in Pune’s Yerawada jail.

Banished to Surat by the Supreme Court, which released him on conditional bail in the eighth case pending against him under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986, the legislator from Ulhasnagar in Thane is currently staying at the Kapadia Health Club here.

It’s not exactly what he had in mind when he stepped out of jail but it’ll have to do. While pronouncing its order on Tuesday, the apex court externed him from Maharashtra and ordered him to remain within the Surat municipal limits and report to the Udhna Police Station once a day. Though his city of choice was Hyderabad, the court has directed Kalani to live in Surat for its proxmity to Pune and Thane, where he has to attend court hearings.

But just in case anyone has any doubts, he’s lost none of his swagger. ‘‘There is no politician in India who has contested two elections from jail and has won both. I am among the very few persons in the country with eight TADA cases registered against me’’, without any hint of sarcasm.

At first glance, Kalani can pass off as just any wealthy mobile-wielding businessman. But nine years of incarceration has not dimmed the fire that won him his first Assembly seat in 1990 on a Congress ticket. The triumph, for a person who was later accused in the infamous JJ Hospital shootout case — where gangster Dawood Ibrahim aides killed Shailesh Haldankar in retaliation for the murder of Ibrahim’s brother-in-law — was sweeter as he wrested the seat from the BJP-Shiv Sena, with the second highest margin in Maharashtra.

Anxious to catch up with family and friends, who have driven here from Mumbai, the three-time legislator from Maharashtra says he was just waiting to exhale. ‘‘In all this, it is my family which ends up being the loser. I have not been able to carry out my responsibilities towards them,’’ says Kalani, who also owns six distilleries employing 3,000 persons.

Kalani says his family, close friends and confidants have helped him reach out to the voters in his constituency while he was in jail. Ask him whether it was money or muscle power that saw him through two Assembly elections under incarceration and there is vociferous denial. ‘‘Money or muscle can work just once, but not in two consecutive elections when I am in jail. It was my work, my reputation and my family’s reputation that made me victorious that too as an Independent candidate.’’

About the cases against him, Kalani says, ‘‘I was arrested on November 12, 1992, from my residence at Ulhasnagar (for the murder of Maruti Jadhav, a henchman of archrival Gopal Rajwani) and within 15 days the police had heaped 19 cases against me when I did not have a single non-cognizable offence registered against me before that.’’

Kalani won his first Assembly election in 1990, when he contested on a Congress ticket. On the eve of the 1995 elections, he was expelled from the party due to the cases pending against him and the furore over the September 12, 1992, JJ Hospital shootout case. He contested and won the 1995 Assembly elections as an Independent candidate and then the 1999 elections, when he was president of the Ulhasnagar People’s Party, which he floated himself.

Before his debut to the state Legislature, Kalani was a force to reckon with in the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation, of which he was president. Was it money or muscle power? Or was it both?

Write to the Editor
Mail this story
Print this story
About Us | Advertise With Us | Feedback
© 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.