New Delhi, Nov. 17: Liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his estranged brother Hardeep were killed today when a peace meeting at a sprawling south Delhi farmhouse, to which both had brought guns and police escorts, erupted into a gangster-style shootout.
The gory tragedy provided the latest twist to the astonishing career of Gurpreet “Ponty” Singh Chadha, 55, whose talent for befriending bigwigs across the political spectrum had helped his meteoric rise from a disabled street-food vendor in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh.
The man who straddled the Mayawati-Mulayam divide —both were his patrons — was eventually undone by his failure to build a bridge with his youngest brother.
Ponty and Hardeep, who jointly ran a Rs 12,000-crore business empire with their third brother Rajinder, had been fighting over various properties — including the Chattarpur farmhouse — since the death of their father Kulwant last year.
Today, they had decided to settle matters behind the 13-acre compound’s high walls but two minutes into their discussions in the backyard, Hardeep began shooting at Ponty, police said. (See chart)
A childhood electrocution had left Ponty wholly paralysed in one arm and partially in another, but his three police escorts retaliated and Hardeep’s cop guards too may have fired back.
The 30 to 40-bullet exchange — according to the police’s spent-cartridge count — left Hardeep dead on the spot and one guard injured, officers said. Ponty, with six bullets in his chest, abdomen and limbs, died on the way to hospital.
Delhi police sources said all the six bodyguards accompanying the brothers were policemen from Punjab though they couldn’t explain why the state would provide the duo VIP security. While the injured cop is in hospital, the five others have been detained for questioning.
“There was a lot of ill-will between the brothers but it’s a shock for everybody. No one expected it to escalate to this level,” said Hardeep’s lawyer Gaurang Kanth.
Industry sources say it was Ponty who built the fortunes of the Chadha Group, now Wave Inc, which he headed as CMD and chairman. After the high school dropout got his break — a liquor shop licence — at the age of 38, he began cultivating political friendships.
He found his first big patron in Punjab’s then Congress chief minister Amarinder Singh in 2002 and monopolised the state’s liquor distribution for five years before the Akalis assumed power.
In 2009, Mayawati gave the Chadhas sole liquor distributorship in India’s largest state, allowing Ponty to dictate to every rival manufacturer the kind, volume and price of the product they would be allowed to supply to retail shops.
He became famous for the “Ponty tax” — an extra Rs 15 to Rs 25 he levied on every pouch or bottle sold in the state — even as he forayed into real estate and multiplexes in a big way.
Ponty leaves behind his wife, son and recently married daughter. On October 5, a shooting had taken place at his Moradabad home. Ponty had denied his son was involved and claimed that a nephew had been testing a new rifle when it went off accidentally.
The police have found two pistols at the Delhi farmhouse.