Sudhanshu Mittal is not just known as the man who runs the largest tent business in Delhi. In BJP circles and outside, he remains the symbol and arm of the financial clout that the late Pramod Mahajan.
If you run into the Merc-driving businessman who prefers to call himself a politician, he will tell you he is proud to be a tentwallah and pursues a business that is honest.
How did he become so influential in Assam that party chief Rajnath Singh made him an emissary to talk to the AGP?
Mittal had started as a BJP youth activist and later became head of Delhi University Students Union. In 1983, he met Mahajan and the two soon became friends.
During the NDA reign, Mahajan’s influence peaked, so did Mittal’s. And it did not take long for others like Arun Jaitley to see Mittal as a powerful aide of Mahajan in the game of upmanship among the second generation leaders.
When Mahajan was killed in 2006, Mittal stood by his family. So much so, that when Mahajan’s aide Vivek Moitra died and Rahul was admitted to hospital for drug overuse, Mittal was there. He was mentioned in the Delhi Police chargesheet for allegedly trying to hide the time the two were admitted.
With Mahajan gone, Mittal gravitated towards the Rajnath Singh camp and emerged his chief trouble-shooter. His burning desire was to become an MP, particularly Rajya Sabha.
Mittal tried to enter the Upper House through what many thought was the backdoor — first from Jharkhand and later from UP.
He persuaded Singh to transfer the BJP’s surplus votes in the UP assembly to him after securing the backing of Independent MLAs. But as the RSS frowned upon Mittal’s name, Singh stopped the transfer of surplus votes and he lost.
In September 2002, when the rift between the Ambani brothers came into open, Mittal’s name figured in a controversial corporate deal. Reliance Infocomm had offered 1 crore shares at Re 1 each to three shell companies controlled by Mumbai-based businessman Ashish Deora, who was known for his ties with Mahajan’s son Rahul and son-in-law Anand Rao.
One of the three beneficiaries, Prerna Auto, it emerged, was, on paper, owned by a Lalit Goyal, Mittal’s brother-in-law.
Mahajan had to issue clarification as the three firms later returned all shares to Reliance Infocomm.