Lucknow: Barely two days after his gruesome death in a shootout in Delhi, billionaire Ponty Chadha's liquor and other businesses in Uttar Pradesh could be the first casualty of the incident, government officials said Monday.
While admitting that it was a bit "early" to speculate about such an eventuality, officials said that Ponty's death could mean bad news for his Wave Group.
"Other than the money that he so craftily used to his advantage, his personal charm and well−oiled network" furthered his business empire in the state, recalled a bureaucrat, pointing to the state's excise policy that was allegedly tilted in his favour.
He said all liquor sales in the 70 districts were routed through his company or other subsidiaries during the Mayawati government's regime. Chadha controlled nearly 60 percent of the liquor business in Uttar Pradesh.
But things may change now, officials said.
The excise policy is set to end March 2013 and the Akhilesh Yadav government is learnt to have made up its mind to make the liquor business a "level playing field", an official said.
With many controversies dogging Ponty Chadha's group, specifically the sale of 21 government sugar mills to him for a pittance by the Mayawati government, Akhilesh Yadav never saw the slain tycoon as a "valued" businessman, said an aide of the chief minister.
A probe by the Lokayukta has already been ordered in the sugar mills' deal, he said.
Officials fear that with Chadha's sudden death, his group might get locked in legal wrangles and the supply of foreign liquor and Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the state might suffer for some time.
In Lucknow alone, Chadha owned 18 beer shops, 92 country liquor shops, 35 model shops and 115 foreign liquor shops. In the entire state, 16,000 big and small liquor shops were being run by him.
Officials foresee little problems for Chadha's cinemas, multiplexes and shopping plazas. "In case of any family feud, the properties would be maintained and secured as per the law of the land," said an official.
But the mid−day meal supplies worth Rs.5,000 crore that the firm owned by Chadha, a billionaire who rose from being a snack seller in Moradabad, was making in the state could be hit, said a bureaucrat.
The suppliers were being made under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls.
He had been providing supplies under these schemes for the last seven years and the tendering process for the current financial year was underway, the official said.
Some food−processing companies had challenged a few terms and conditions in the tender in courts, sources said.
Chadha's firm supplying food under these schemes was also facing the heat as the National Human Rights Commission, after a probe of the supply in Gorakhpur, had questioned the quality of the articles, they said.
Chadha and his estranged brother Hardeep were killed in a shootout between their groups at a Delhi farmhouse Saturday. The two were cremated Sunday.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)