Till a suicide note named him over the weekend, Gopal Goyal Kanda seemed unstoppable. A series of criminal cases had no bearings on his political aspirations. His range of businesses, including real estate interests in Gurgaon, delivered an A-list lifestyle including a palatial mansion in his constituency of Sirsa with a range of SUVs lined up in the driveway.
Locals in Sirsa say the complex also has a makeshift helipad. His brother, Govind, is seen often is car with a lal batti
or red beacon, reserved for ministers - which Mr Kanda was till this weekend when he quit after being accused of abetment to suicide. It is common knowledge that when Mr Kanda's supporters are seen breaking the law, taking them on is risky business. Mr Kanda says that for two months, he had not spoken to the 23-year-old who killed herself, Geetika Sharma. Her family's allegations that he drove her to suicide, he says, are inaccurate expressions of misplaced grief. He refused to comment about other criminal cases against him.
In just 15 years, Gopal Kanda went from shoe-shop owner to Haryana's Minister of State for Home. He carefully designed his own ascent, using his wealth to power his political ambitions, and by switching teams at opportune moments.
From 1999 to 2004, the Chautalas were in power in Haryana with their INLD party. Mr Kanda, who is married with three children, was a loyalist, and was often described as the protege; of then chief minister Om Prakash Chautala. When the Congress came to power in 2004, Mr Kanda began flirting with its leaders. In 2009, when he failed to secure a ticket from either the Congress party or the INLD, Mr Kanda decided to run as an independent candidate. He won Sirsa from a man who had been elected from the constituency five times, making good on his threat to corner a chunk of the Chautalas' political turf. There are different views on his success though - some claim it was anti-incumbency while others say it was his growing power in the region.
The Congress had 40 legislators. To form the government, it needed at least another six. Mr Kanda was among a group of independents who decided to support Bhupinder Hooda as chief minister. Mr Kanda was rewarded with the important Home portfolio - useful, since he had 10 criminal cases pending against him by then.
His affidavit filed with the Election Commission in 2009 during the state elections said he was worth 62 crores. Since then, say associates, his business has expanded into areas like education, with profitable results.
In 2008, Mr Kanda was accused of assaulting income tax officials who visited his home in Sirsa to evaluate his property and assets. In July 2011, his security guards beat up former cricketer Atul Wassan for overtaking Mr Kanda's car.