It is probably a case of a shrewd political brain taken for a ride. Business tycoon-cum-politician, Venod Sharma who quit the Congress about two weeks ago, with dreams of gaining entry into the BJP and later Kuldeep Bishnoi's Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), has been left high and dry by his would-be political masters. His political future now looks uncertain.
Sharma (66), who snapped his 40-year-old ties with the anti-incumbency facing Congress to look for greener pastures in the BJP or its ally, HJC, to protect his business interests was caught in a cleft stick - first the refusal of the BJP and later opposition to his induction in the HJC by senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.
The business magnate was probably one of the biggest beneficiaries, both politically and financially - of the nine-year-old Congress rule in Haryana and his proximity to chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda was primarily the reason behind his rise.
From 2005 to 2009, Sharma registered a nine-time increase in his assets - from a mere Rs 9.3 crore in 2005 to about Rs 86 crore in 2009, as per a comparison of his poll affidavits done by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
His 2009 poll affidavit reads that Sharma held shares worth Rs 64 crore in Piccadily Hotels Pvt Ltd, shares worth Rs 3.67 crore in Soon-n-Sure Holdings Ltd, Mumbai, shares worth Rs 93 lakh in Piccadily Sugar and Allied Industries, shares worth Rs 58.44 lakh in Piccadily Agro Industries Ltd, Karnal, shares worth Rs 3.24 lakh in KN Land development and Leasing Ltd, Chandigarh.
Before 2005 when Bhupinder Singh Hooda first became chief minister, Venod Sharma's presence in Haryana politics was negligible. Born in Punjab with business interests primarily in Chandigarh, Sharma's political interests were largely confined to Chandigarh and Punjab. Sharma in fact twice contested from Banur assembly constituency in Punjab - winning in 1980 and losing in 1985. Sharma was also elected to Rajya Sabha from Punjab in 1992 and remained a minister of state in the PV Narasimha Rao government at the Centre in 1995.
He was the president of Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee when his son was arrested for allegedly killing Jessica Lal. Thereafter, Sharma's political career nosedived and he remained in oblivion for long.
He literally owed his re-entry into active politics to Hooda who facilitated his switchover to Haryana.
Not only he was made a cabinet minister in 2005, Sharma was also given important portfolios like excise and taxation, power, public works department (B&R). Sharma, known to be Hooda's chum, was also accorded the status of the senior most minister after the chief minister and deputy chief minister in the order of precedence. He was also made the chairman of High-Powered Purchase Committee (HPPC).
Sharma though was ejected from the cabinet in wake of allegations that he used his clout to influence witnesses in the Jessica Lal murder case. His son Manu Sharma, a prime accused in the murder case was later sentenced to life imprisonment.
But it is probably his proximity to Hooda, which also undid his prospects of switching sides. Sharma was largely banking on his money bag image to get a foothold in the rival parties and was angling to get Lok Sabha ticket from Karnal. However, his plans came crashing down on Tuesday when HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi announced the candidature of his elder brother, Chander Mohan, from the Karnal seat.
After submitting his resignation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Sharma had on March 9 announced at a public meeting at Kurukshetra that he would back anyone who supports BJP prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. In fact, in a bid to mollify the BJP and HJC leadership, Sharma sang paens for the Gujarat chief minister.
Sharma can still explore some options to save his sinking political ship. There are speculations that he may join hands with Sirsa MLA, Gopal Kanda and join Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP), an outfit floated by one of Kanda's aides.
Son is the face of corporate empire
As per the records of ministry of corporate affairs, though Sharma himself is a director in Piccadily Hotels
Private Ltd, it is his younger son, Kartikeya Sharma who seems to be the face of his corporate empire.
Kartikeya who is the managing director of Piccadily Hotels is on the Board of Directors (BoD) of over 20 companies. After March 2005 (when Congress came to power in Haryana), Kartikeya got on the BoD of several companies as director in including - Soon-N-Sure Holdings, Orient Craft Infrastructure, Tots and Tweens Stores Private Ltd, Zing Hotels Pvt Ltd, Greenfield Waste Management Pvt Ltd, Good Morning India Pvt Ltd, Information TV Pvt Ltd, Piccadily Flight Kitchen Foods and Beverages Pvt Ltd, KNS Research Organisation Pvt Ltd, Ganga TV Pvt Ltd, ITV News Pvt Ltd, India News Broadcasting Pvt Ltd, Chandigarh Flying School Pvt Ltd, Victor Contractors Pvt Ltd, Mumbai Media Network Pvt Ltd, Tathastu Information Technology Pvt Ltd, NBC Media Pvt Ltd, ITN News Pvt Ltd, India Newswire Services Pvt Ltd, Venkatesh Information Pvt Ltd.