Business magnate-cum-politician, Venod Sharma's (66) decision to quit the Congress may have come as a shocker to many. But Sharma, known for his canny political acumen, seems to have made the move with an aim to protect his corporate interests.
A shrewd politician he is, Sharma probably knows that a change of guard at the Centre and in Haryana could adversely harm his entrepreneurial interests. Sharma is known to be close pal of Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and owes his politico-business revival to the nine-year-old Congress regime in the state.
Despite being stripped of his ministerial status by the Congress high command for allegedly using his clout to influence witnesses in Jessica Lal murder case (in which his son Manu Sharma is serving a life sentence), Sharma continued to wield tremendous pull in the government affairs. "His business empire also grew manifold and he flourished,'' said a Congress leader. Sharma who owns the Piccadily group of companies- having a sugar mill and distillery in Karnal, hotels and other enterprises has business interests in the real estate development projects in Gurgaon.
Robert Vadra link
A real estate company - Mark Buildtech Private Limited - having Venod Sharma link (one of its directors Harvinder Singh Chopra is on the board of directors of Piccadily group also) has association with Onkareshwar Properties - a company which sold the controversial 3.5-acre Shikohpur land to Robert Vadra, the businessman son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The two companies - Mark Buildtech and Onkareshwar properties - have procured group housing license (LC 1657) under the umbrella of Vatika Land Base in Shikohpur and Sihi in Gurgaon, respectively. Vatika Land Base is a company owned by real estate developer, Anil Bhalla.
The chain of association and events clearly point out that Venod Sharma and his associates were in one or the other way responsible for providing "assistance" to Vadra in land deals. "The Vadra land deals are going to come under the scanner of investigation if the NDA gets to power at the Centre. Similarly, there are prospects of a change of guard in Haryana. All this will harm Venod's business interests. He could actually be in a soup. So, it does not come as a surprise if he is trying to switch sides,'' said a Congress MLA.
Even tried INLD option also
Sharma seems to be so desperate that he had also send feelers to the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). In fact, his incarcerated son, Manu Sharma seems to have acted as a bridge between him and the INLD leadership. "Manu has developed some rapport with former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Singh Chautala as all three are serving sentences in Tihar jail. In fact, the three eat the home cooked meals together every other day,'' said an INLD functionary. INLD chief Chautala, however, for the moment, seems to have expressed his disinclination to induct Sharma in the party.
Deal with Kuldeep and BJP
In making efforts to join the BJP and later Kuldeep Bishnoi's HJC, Sharma is learnt to have played his moneybag card. " In fact, the deal with the HJC was that he would take care of the entire finances during the Lok Sabha and Haryana assembly polls. The BJP leadership on the other hand was given hints that Sharma being a Congress insider could also provide valuable inputs against the Congress regime in Haryana,'' sources said.