Haryana minister Rao Narbir Singh, who is said to be close to Surinder Sharma, tells ThePrint he ‘helped the BJP’ in the 2014 state elections.
Gurugram: In the Rajput-dominated Haryana village of Rathiwas, 70 km from the national capital, Surinder Sharma needs no introduction. Every villager seems to know him as ‘an influential land dealer’ who is in regular touch with political bigwigs in the area.
Last week, Sharma’s name made its way to national headlines when, based on his complaint, an FIR was filed against Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for a 2008 land deal. Sharma alleges the land deal was fraught with irregularities.
But Sharma isn’t just another activist or whistleblower. His political connections are common talk in Rathiwas and the highlight is that he is “especially close” to Rao Narbir Singh, a cabinet minister in Haryana’s BJP government.
Sharma himself makes no bones about his political connections although he describes himself as a social activist who is in touch with politicians from across parties.
“As a social activist, you meet so many politicians,” he told ThePrint. “I am close to BJP as well as Congress leaders…as for Rao Narbir singh, he probably won’t have even recognised me before this.”
Sharma did not specify the social activism he is involved in, but said he is “a fear-proof man” who is never scared to take on the rich and powerful.
The minister, though, confirmed knowing Sharma.
“He has come asking for work in the party to me on three-four occasions,” Singh, the MLA from Badshahpur, told ThePrint. “Last Vidhan Sabha elections, he helped the BJP also…but after I couldn’t help him become the market committee chairman in the party, he stopped visiting.”
Singh also said Sharma had helped the Congress before the last Haryana elections, before adding that he “may still be with the BJP” but he wasn’t sure. “I have also started getting calls about him after the issue was highlighted,” he said.
According to Sharma’s complaint, Vadra’s company, Sky Light Hospitality, was registered with a capital of Rs 1 lakh in 2007.
However, in 2008, the company bought 3.5 acres of land in Shikohpur village (now Sector 83) from Onkareshwar Properties for Rs 7.5 crore — more than 700 times its capital at the time of registration — when Hooda was the chief minister. Sky Light Hospitality later sold the land to DLF for Rs 58 crore to make a Rs 50 crore profit, alleged Sharma.
Vadra has dismissed the complaint as an election season gimmick.
On Tuesday morning, days after Sharma filed the complaint against Vadra, his swanky new bungalow located in the interiors of Rathiwas was locked, with two dogs barking incessantly from inside.
“He is not here, he doesn’t live here most of the times,” a gardener who claimed to be the only person living in the two-storey bungalow said. “He seldom comes here. He and his family live in Helimandi,” added the gardener.
The son of a former sarpanch (village head) of the village and himself a father of three, Sharma’s family enjoys considerable influence in the area. One of his three brothers runs a big private school in the village, which is believed to be funded by the family.
According to villagers, another of Sharma’s brothers was murdered in 2005 over alleged local political rivalries.
“We are cousins, but we don’t know too much about him. When his father was the sarpanch, he began moving around with powerful people,” Sukh Chain Sharma, a second cousin of Surinder, said.
“He is very involved in politics, during elections for example he’s very busy,” said Sukh Chain.