Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

In 1993, The Chadhas left Moradabad and settled in Delhi. By now, Chadha had established good relations with politicians across the spectrum. In 2003, he used influence to change the liquor policy of Uttarakhand with the help of the then chief minister and grabbed the entire liquor trade in the state. His biggest break came in 2005 in UP under the patronage of Mulayam Singh Yadav. He constructed Lucknow’s first multiplex, Wave, that was inaugurated by Yadav himself. He also bagged the contracts for supplying nutritional supplements to children under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)  and a 4,800-acre hi-tech city in Ghaziabad.

Moreover, in 2004, the SP government also gave a contract worth Rs 2000 crore to Chadha’s firm, Great Value Food, to supply supplements through the Anganwadi network under the ICDS, sponsored by the Union government. It is well known that Amar Singh helped Chadha bag
the contract.

Chadha had an ear to the ground through his liquor vends. Based on his feedback, he predicted the defeat of the SP government and Mayawati’s comeback in 2007. Sensing the mood, he got closer to Mayawati, who gave him total control over the wholesale liquor trade and retail outlets in 16 districts of the state.

Chadha was now the undisputed liquor baron of the state and dictated terms over liquor companies and he decided which brand of IMFL would be sold in the special zone. Vijay Mallya, who allegedly ignored him at some stage, found that his brand was not sold in UP and other areas under Chadha’s sway. Till this date, spirit companies have to go through Chadha’s channel to sell their brands in the state. He even charged Rs 20 on every bottle, also known as the Mayawati tax.

When Mayawati decided to go for disinvestment of state public sector companies, it was Chadha who benefited the most. He bought several sugar mills for a song and even the CAG pegged the loss to the state government from this sale at Rs 1,179.84 crore. The SP government, during its election campaign in 2012, promised to initiate an inquiry into the irregularities, but the issue died out as soon as Akhilesh Yadav took over as the chief minister. It is learnt that, on the first day in office, he had a meeting with Chadha and a few other businessmen to establish the rules
of engagement.

Chadha’s influence wasn’t limited to UP and Uttarakhand, he even had close friends on both sides of the political divide in Punjab. He entered the state in 1999 and established ties with leaders of the Akali Dal and invested in the liquor trade, mining, real estate, sugar and paper mills, and distilleries. Here, too, he monopolised the liquor business and soon after the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government came to power in 2002, he grew in strength.  

It is also believed that several politicians and bureaucrats parked their money with Chadha who invested it in several of his companies. Sources told Hardnews that most of the Rs 5000 crore siphoned off from the National Rural Health Mission were invested in Chadha’s businesses.

With his death, the Chadha business empire has taken a major hit and it remains to be seen whether it will come out of this loss. Relatives say that though his son and brother may have taken over the reins of the empire, they lack the charisma of Chadha who was an enigma both in life
and death. 

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