The Dangerous Obsessions of Gopal Kanda

Kanda can very well try to spend his way out of trouble; but it is unlikely that he can fight the curse of a ‘trapped’ Geetika who was forced to hang herself
Hardnews Bureau Delhi 

A year ago, former Test cricketer Atul Wassan was beaten up brutally by the security guards of a Haryana politician for daring to overtake their boss’s vehicle in Delhi. Fearing media scrutiny, the politician and then Haryana’s Minister of State for Home, Gopal Goyal Kanda, tamely apologised.

Nobody then knew the Haryana politico. However, his obsessive notoriety caught up with him as he finally hit the headlines. And predictably, for all the wrong reasons.

On August 5, 2012, Geetika Sharma, a former airhostess in the now defunct MDLR airlines, committed suicide in her West Delhi residence. Her suicide would have got a quite burial in newspapers as one of those 400 odd suicides that take place every day in the country if it hadn’t been for the note she left behind. In her suicide note, Sharma wrote: “Two people responsible for my death are Aruna Chaddha and Gopal Goyal Kanda.” She also said that Kanda had betrayed her trust and ruined her life and they were trying to “sabotage my family members”. There is rage and helplessness. Geetika claimed that Kanda, “a cheater and a crook,” had exploited her “innocence” and made her life “abnormal”.

Kanda was not well known in Delhi, but he was a powerful minister in Haryana’s Congress regime, one of those ‘millionaire independents’ who had helped Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda cobble together a majority when he was running short of numbers after the last assembly polls. He was also the flamboyant megalomaniac, forever flashing his newly acquired wealth. Kanda owns an airline (now defunct), two five star hotels, two casinos, a mall, large tracts of land in Haryana and elsewhere and a sprawling castle loaded with latest gizmos and a helipad. So, when his name popped up in the suicide note, he instantly reinforced the stereotype of a dirty, dubious, diabolical politician who made money by shady means and was involved in sex and sleaze. It was B Grade Bollywood unleashed on TRP chasing breaking news TV.

Kanda is accused in a case of “abetment of crime”. Mostly, this charge is difficult to sustain in a court of law, but if the Haryana politician is indeed nailed then his sentence can go up to 10 years. Delhi Police has shown extraordinary interest in this case, thus lending credence to Kanda’s claim that he is ‘a victim of a political conspiracy’. He has apparently broken down a few times during the police interrogation. He has also apparently threatened that he will once again ‘get back’ his power and glory.

Before we really visit the reasons behind Kanda’s neurosis, it is important to highlight his sudden, phenomenal rise and how the last 10 years of real estate boom has given wealth and legitimacy to all kinds of buccaneers and rough necks, especially in the shadowy terrain of big bucks power politics in contemporary India. 

The Haryana minister was the flamboyant megalomaniac, forever flashing his newly acquired wealth. Kanda owns an airline (now defunct), two five star hotels, two casions, a mall. large tracts of land and a sprawling castle loaded with gizmos and a helipad

Many people still recall Gopal Kanda as a sidekick of former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala’s muscle-flexing son, Abhay Chautala. He used to do odd jobs for the powerful son; it is widely known in Haryana that he was routinely roughed up by Abhay for either not measuring up or if he misbehaved allegedly with the women folk. Locals vouch that a belligerent Abhay used to beat up even his party’s MLA when his father was in power. However, proximity with the Chautalas helped Kanda as he began to make quick money.

His attempts to do business did not take off till he got into real estate with the help of an IAS officer. His modus operandi was simple: he would target disputed properties and buy them cheap. Subsequently, his bureaucrat friend would either arbiter, or do whatever it takes to sort out the dispute, thus giving bounce to the value of the land. He also got insider information about the change in land use so that he could invest in cheap real estate and make big bucks when it became more expensive.

Kanda had learnt the art of using proximity to people in power to earn big bucks. Hence, he was ready when Om Prakash Chautala came to power in 1999. His predatory instincts for acquiring land got full play during this period, which coincided with the real estate boom. When Congress came to power in 2005, he was considered to be a benami of the Chautala and his premises were raided. He quickly disowned Chautala and continued with his merry money-making ways.

People who know him claim that he also dipped his hands in a honey pot of lucrative spiritualism when he became the ‘caretaker’ of local godman, Tara Baba. “Since he began to look after the affairs of Tara Baba, he had no shortage of money, legitimacy or even political support”. He also built temples and organised functions to enlarge his area of influence in Sirsa.

What is remarkable about Kanda’s rise — also true about many others like him across the new Indian power landscape — is that the State, despite its plethora of laws and an army of inspectors to implement them, never stopped him from transgressing the law of the land and becoming absurdly wealthy. The bane of booming India has truly been the retreat of the government from performing its core issue of maintaining the rule of law that has allowed the dubious and the diabolical to corner land and other natural resources. Subsequently, all the financial beneficiaries of this corrupt regime cemented their position in the new hierarchies of political power and pelf by aggressively entering politics.

The Bellary mining mafia of Reddy brothers, backed by BJP satraps in the state government, including central leaders in Delhi, and the extraordinary control they exercised over the affairs of Karnataka and on the lives of the people of that region, proved an inspiration for many of those who fattened on the riches from the land. 

Did she become an obsession for Kanda, or there is more to it? He showered her with gifts, promotions, foreign travel and high life that would have been unimaginable for someone who was so young with no particularly outstanding academic or professional qualifications

Experiencing mercenary power comes in different ways. For Kanda it meant surrounding himself with women, often innocent, unsuspecting young girls, and manipulating and controlling their lives through all kinds of means. At times, even of their families. It was like a seductive, addictive trap in the beginning, often becoming a hell-hole later. Young Geetika’s painful end is manifestly an outcome of his machinations.

Kanda used to especially target women from lower middle class families in small towns and used their ambitions to manipulate their lives. From investigations into Geetika’s suicide, it becomes clear that he not only extended undue favours and money to her, but also to her family. Police sources claim that Kanda knew Geetika’s mother and he encouraged her to send her daughter when she came of age. At that time, she was reportedly just about 17. She applied for the job of an airhostess in Kanda’s MDLR airline — a three-aircraft airline that closed down after a few years when it failed to pay leasing charges to the British aircraft company, Bae. One of the 65-odd airhostess on his payroll, Geetika became the favorite of Kanda. She figured in his promotional film, ads, brochures, etc.

Did she become an obsession for Kanda, or is there more to it? He showered her with gifts, promotions, foreign travel and a high life that would have been unimaginable for someone who was so young with no particularly outstanding academic or professional qualifications. She was made vice president and later a partner in another company. He exhibited relentless control and ownership on her and her family.

Hence, when Geetika tried to break her shackles to join Emirates airlines in Dubai, he forced her to come back. Not only did he fudge documents, but also resorted to other shady devises to retrieve her. From the flood of reports appearing in the media, much of it leaked by Delhi Police, Kanda was not doing charity. There is a strong stink of sleaze in the way he went about the ‘trappings’ of his life.

Kanda took fancy for other women and gave them lucrative positions. There was Ankita, Nupur Mehta and others. One wonders whether he had any male employees. 

Senior police sources claim that some of these women served as attendants in high-end parties and also as hostesses for his powerful guests. “He managed to extend these special privileges to his VIP friends once his five star hotel came up,” claims an informed source. It has remained unstated, but something was not right about these parties.

Uncannily, Geetika was asked to report to an obsessive Kanda every evening — this was apparently part of her contract! Geetika’s leaked post mortem report suggests evidence of recent sex — even what the cops call “unnatural sex”. What the police are trying to ascertain is whether she was being forced to indulge in these activities against her wishes.

Kanda also took fancy for other women and gave them lucrative positions. There was Ankita, Nupur Mehta and others. One wonders whether he had any male employees. Once his airline closed down, he set up two casinos in Goa. One casino was on a fast boat that was retained by the Leela Hotel. Like all his projects, this, too, came to grief, but it seems he did not sack his harem of hostesses.

Police is still trying to build a case against him for pushing Geetika to her death. It will be a difficult case giving Kanda an opportunity to howl in protest. He allegedly feels that Hooda and his influential friends are behind his discomfiture. Kanda can very well try to spend his way out of trouble; but it is unlikely that he can fight the curse of Geetika, who wanted him punished for the harm that he has brought on her and her inconsolable family.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: SEPTEMBER 2012