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Another Birla wades into war

Calcutta, July 30: Gitanjali Sanghi is set to become the sixth member of the Birla family to contest Rajendra Singh Lodha in court.

Adding a twist to the inheritance controversy, the 54-year-old woman, the daughter of the late Gajanan Birla from his second wife Sumitra, flew into Calcutta from Indore earlier this week. Today, she announced her intention of moving court to challenge the will of Priyamvada Birla who has left all the properties she became heir to after her husband M.P. Birla’s death to Lodha.

“I am discussing my strategy with the lawyers. I have asked them to keep close tabs on the developments and will take a call on joining the legal battle after watching the court proceedings,” said Sanghi at the family’s residence at 8/7 Alipore Park Road. Gajanan Birla, the brother of M.P. Birla, used to live here with his family.

The other members of the family who have already gone to court are Krishna Kumar, Basant Kumar, Ganga Prasad, Yashovardhan and Laxmi Bai Newar, M.P. Birla’s sister and closest blood relation.

The five filed caveats in Calcutta High Court to ensure a hearing when Lodha’s probate petition to authenticate the will comes up.

“My client is one of the heirs of the husband of the deceased (Priyamvada Birla). There is no class I heir (direct descendant) as the couple didn’t have any issue and, according to the Hindu Succession Act, my client is a class II heir as she is the daughter of M.P. Birla’s brother Gajanan (Birla),” explained Pramod Khaitan, Sanghi’s lawyer.

Along with mother Sumitra, Sanghi — in a green salwar-kameez — described how the will had come as a “surprise” to them. Sitting in the drawing room, which extends up to a manicured lawn, Sanghi recounted her last meeting with her aunt at the opening of Bombay Hospital, run by an MP Birla trust, in Indore, where she lives.

Sumitra Birla, veiled in a beige sari, broke her silence only once to talk about her deceased sister-in-law, Priyamvada Birla. “She became a little reserved and secluded during her last days,” said the lady of the two-storeyed house that has seen better days from which the antique pieces still survive.

“My reaction to the entire episode was the same as that of the other members of the family,” said Sanghi, the mother of Ragini, Vishnupriya and Jyotsna.

She said she was on “cordial terms” with the other members of the Birla family and had paid “courtesy calls” on the seniors after arriving here. But Gajanan Birla’s second wife and the three children — son Madhukar (deceased) and daughters Gitanjai and Anjali — have never found a place in the Birla family tree.

Sanghi, married to a vintage car collector and businessman Sharad Sanghi, said she would fight the will alone.

“I don’t have any clash of interest with the family. But I am planning my steps independently. I will decide on joining the case at the right time,” she said, adding that she was keeping her sister Anjali posted.

While the little-known daughter and her lawyer divulged little about the role of Sanghi in the legal battle, sources close to the family confirm she is in Calcutta as part of a bigger Birla gameplan. “They will involve more and more people in the case to stall Lodha’s probate petition. She will be brought in at the right time,” said a source.

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