Ponty Chadha's death puts focus on his strong Punjab connections

Ponty Chadha's death puts focus on his strong Punjab connections
Chandigarh:  From security personnel from Punjab Police moving around him and his family members with sophisticated weapons and close ties with leading politicians from the state to major real estate and industrial investments, liquor baron Ponty Chadha had strong connections with Punjab.

When Ponty Chadha, whose real name was Gurdeep Singh Chadha, was killed in a shootout with younger brother Hardeep at a disputed farmhouse in Delhi's Mehrauli area on Saturday, both sides had their respective Punjab Armed Police security personnel with them.

Punjab Police, which had provided Mr Chadha and his family with security as he enjoyed patronage from top state leaders cutting across party lines, has now sent a senior officer to Delhi to inquire into the role of its personnel in the shootout that left him and his brother riddled with bullets and dead.

Though he did not hail from Punjab, being from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, Mr Chadha broke into the big league of the state's liquor trade for the first time in 1997.

Thanks to the patronage extended by the Akali Dal, which was in power then, Mr Chadha was brought in to break the monopoly of the Ludhiana-based Garcha group in the liquor trade.

After that, there was no looking back.

Using his clout with the Congress leadership in the central government, Mr Chadha was able to hold sway in Punjab's liquor trade even when the Akali Dal government went out of power and the Congress regime was back in 2002.

Within no time, he was considered the closest to Congress Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the coterie around him. Mr Chadha held absolute monopoly over the liquor trade in Punjab for the next few years.

He set up two distilleries, in Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur districts, in recent years. His company also bought a Coca Cola bottling plant near Amritsar. He invested heavily in malls and real estate in Ludhiana, Mohali (near Chandigarh), Jalandhar and other places. He had been a film distributor in the state earlier.

Mr Chadha, a Sikh by religion who had humble beginnings selling snacks outside his father's modest country liquor vend in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, soon rubbed shoulders with top leaders from Punjab and Haryana alike. (Read: Ponty Chadha - From snack seller to liquor tycoon)

During a family wedding earlier this year, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and other leaders could be seen with the liquor baron. Even at his funeral on Sunday, Mr Chautala was present at the cremation ground in Delhi.

Mr Chadha's interest in Punjab's liquor trade was reduced in 2006 after the liquor policy was changed and his monopoly was broken. But by then, he had established himself as the liquor king in Gurgaon and Uttar Pradesh.

The business tycoon and his companies also hit the big league in Uttar Pradesh with his alleged proximity to top Samajwadi Party leaders and former chief minister Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party.

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