New Delhi: A posh house in Chandigarh's Sector 9 is the official residence of Manu Sharma's father, Venod Sharma. Others assets, worth 1000 crores, include four hotels, a cinema, and three sugar mills.
But what makes the Sharma family fortune a real force to reckon with is that it's loaded with serious political influence. And it's that heady combination of money and power that many blame for Manu Sharma's behavior.
A convicted killer, Manu was on parole on Friday when he was spotted at a Delhi nightclub owned by actor Arjun Rampal. It was an image that immediately drove home what the media, the legal fraternity, and those close to Jessica Lall have always maintained: Manu believes he can get away with murder because of his father's position.
Venod Sharma has served thrice as a Congress MLA in the Haryana Assembly, but he can brag of links to some of the country's biggest leaders. His father was close to Indira Gandhi. He is also related to Shankar Dayal Sharma, a former President.
Many expected him to become Haryana's chief minister. If Sharma did indeed aspire to that position, he had to surrender his ambitions after his son was convicted in 2006 of killing model Jessica Lall. At the time, Sharma was Excise Minister. He was forced to resign. But he has remained the most-trusted aide of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Just last month, Sharma proved why. The Congress failed to get a majority in Haryana's assembly elections; it was Venod Sharma who roped in the critical support of seven Independents.
Sharma is so feared for his proximity to Hooda that on Tuesday, when his son voluntarily returned to jail surrounded in controversy, not a single Congress politician ventured an opinion. The Opposition, naturally, had lots to say. "Today, Venod Sharma's stature and his clout in the Congress is no secret. The parole which they got is not because of any legal conditions, but only because of Sheila Dikshit's Congress government,'' says Vineet Joshi of the BJP.
Whether Manu Sharma violated the conditions of his parole will now be examined by the Delhi government, very much on the defensive because Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had recommended his parole. Standard procedure, she had claimed on Monday. But on Tuesday, as the Delhi police confirmed that Sharma had visited Rampal's club, she snapped, "I am not his lawyer. Why are you asking me? "In Chandigarh, a similar denial was issued by Hooda, who said he had not helped the Sharmas get bail for Manu.
In a letter written to his mother before he left Chandigarh for jail, Manu blamed the media for his misfortune, saying it "has formed a very biased opinion about me without any facts...they are very powerful and they will not let me live."
But time and again, it's Manu Sharma who doesn't do himself any favours.