Calcutta, July 15: Anything is possible.
Rajendra S. Lodha made a dramatic appearance at the Birla residence today as the family ended the 13-day period of mourning for Priyamvada Birla’s death with an evening of bhajans.
A day after the two sides fired their first salvo in the battle over inheritance of the MP Birla group’s Rs 5,000-crore assets, Lodha’s presence at Birla Park was as stunning as the revelation of Priyamvada Birla’s will.
She left all her properties to Lodha, an outsider, to the consternation of the Birlas who are challenging the will.
The Birlas issued a statement today putting it on record that “the unanimous view of all Birla families is that none of the Birla families want (sic) a rupee of the assets of late Priyamvada Birla…. The purpose of this statement is to make it clear that the Birla families are united to secure the estate for charity.”
Lodha drove into the heavily guarded Birla Park in a Honda City, accompanied by son Harsh Vardhan and his wife. The Lodha family went around touching the feet of their seniors in the gathering.
“They were behaving as if nothing has happened. But the Babus (Birlas) completely ignored them and hardly anyone was talking to the Lodhas,” said a member of the family.
Once P.D. Jalota had finished singing bhajans — it lasted about an hour — on the lawn outside, the Lodhas entered the house and spent around 30 minutes.
The Lodha family’s presence at today’s programme, which was open only to family members and close friends, gave credence to reports today about an effort to arrive at a compromise getting under way under the tutelage of Sudarshan Kumar Birla.
S.K. Birla, however, denied any such exercise was being conducted.
It is clear, though, that Lodha would not have gone to Birla Park without the Birla family’s nod. Apparently, there was some debate in the family over whether to have him attend the programme or not.
After the two sides exchanged legal fire yesterday, with the Birlas asking for a copy of the will and requesting Calcutta High Court to hear their views when Lodha moves to authenticate the document and Lodha requesting the court to intimate him if the Birlas file any case, today’s coming together was unexpected.
Rumours swirled through the day that S.K. Birla and Lodha were negotiating for a deal. A battery of top lawyers is believed to be working to put together a compromise formula. One such session was said to be taking place late tonight. Birla watchers were drawing attention also to Lodha spending half-an-hour inside the residence.
Fox and Mandal is the solicitor firm representing the Lodhas while Khaitan & Co. is standing in for the Birlas.
In their statement, the Birlas said it was being issued to “make public the unanimous and agreed opinion within the Birla families” on the “purported” will of Priyamvada Birla.
It said: “There are media reports and comments suggesting that the Birla family are (sic) contesting the purported will to assert their right or the rights of some members of their families to the estate of late Priyamvada Birla. This is clearly baseless.”