Chandigarh: Former Haryana minister Gopal Goyal Kanda, a businessman and former powerbroker suspected of abetment in two cases of suicide, is all set to try his luck in politics again after his less-than-humbling 2014 run.
When Haryana goes to the polls on 21 October, Kanda will contest from his home constituency of Sirsa, which he won in 2009 as an independent.
According to close aide Rajender Singh, his brother Gobind will contest from Rania.
Kanda entered the 2014 assembly election with his own outfit — the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP). However, all the 75 candidates fielded by the party for the 90-seat assembly, including Kanda himself, were defeated, all but two losing their deposits as well.
‘Hawai chappal to hawai jahaz’
Kanda walked into the political arena as a “strongman” aide of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Ajay Chautala, but the relationship eventually soured.
When the INLD refused to field Kanda in the 2009 assembly elections, he contested as an Independent. He defeated INLD candidate Padam Jain by a margin of 6,521 votes, and extended support to the Hooda-led Congress government that had come to power for the second time in the state. He was rewarded with a cabinet berth.
By this time, Kanda’s rags-to-riches story — “hawai chappal se hawai jahaaz (slippers to aeroplanes)” — had made him a local hero in Sirsa.
Kanda, born in December 1965, dropped out of school before he could complete Class 10. His father Murli Dhar Kanda was a lawyer in Sirsa and said to be close to INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala.
Kanda did a host of odd jobs, including repairing radios and running a music shop, before he and his brother Gobind got into trading shoes.
They opened a shoe shop at the market where the family lived and eventually set up a small shoe factory too.
In 1997, Kanda shifted to Gurgaon and started “sorting out” disputed properties.
When Chautala became Haryana chief minister in 1999, Kanda’s fortunes changed.
He rode Gurgaon’s real estate boom and bought properties in Gurgaon and Sirsa. In 2005, he started ‘MDLR Airlines’, named after his father Murli Dhar and son Lakhpat Ram.
He went on to set up a company called Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd to run hotels and malls in Gurgaon, as well as an offshore casino in Goa.
Kanda has also credited a local religious leader, Tara Baba, for his success.
Next to his own Mughal-fort-like palatial house on the outskirts of Sirsa town, Kanda has built a temple for Tara Baba on a sprawling campus that also boasts of a school and hospital. He organised weddings of destitute girls, health camps, and distributed free medicines.
Kanda attempted to become a film producer in 2015 with the Bipasha Basu-starrer Bhai Must be Crazy, but the movie reportedly failed to take off.
From 2016, he began focusing on reviving his offshore casino business in Goa, where his company is among only six to have a licence to run casinos on floating vessels in the Mandovi river.
In May this year, he launched an offshore casino called ‘Big Daddy’. Last month, a five-day ‘Indian Poker Championship’ was organised at the casino that was attended by international poker star Dan Bilzerian, among others.
Criminal cases and controversies
Kanda has been in multiple controversies throughout his public life. The biggest of them is the allegation that he abetted the suicide of a young airhostess who previously worked with MDLR, by harassing her and, according to her suicide note, “misusing her”.
The woman committed suicide in August 2012.
Kanda denied all allegations and remained underground for 10 days after her suicide before he surrendered and was arrested on charges of rape, abetment to suicide, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation.
He subsequently resigned from the Hooda cabinet.
Six months later, the woman’s mother killed herself too. In her suicide note, she reportedly blamed Kanda and one of his aides since they were the ones her daughter had accused of forcing her to take her own life.
Kanda remained in jail for a year and a half and was granted bail in March 2014 after the charge of rape was dropped by the Delhi High Court.
He continues to face trial in the airhostess suicide case, which is now in the evidence stage in a trial court. In the mother’s suicide, the Delhi Police filed cancellation report in court this March. However, the court rejected the cancellation report and recommended action against the investigating officer.
Kanda’s advocate R.S. Malik told ThePrint that they moved a sessions court against the order in April this year. “The sessions court stayed Mr Kanda’s summoning by the lower court,” he said.
Kanda and his wife also face allegations of income tax evasion to the tune of Rs 40 crore.
During an income tax raid in 2008, Kanda’s supporters and employees allegedly attacked the sleuths conducting the search. The Kandas were let off in this case in 2012.
In 2009, MDLR shut down operations. “Kanda was staring at a major downfall and that prompted him to join politics,” a former aide of the Chautalas said.
Two years later, Kanda’s security men beat up cricketer Atul Wassan for overtaking their car. Kanda apologised and the matter was sorted out. “Power went into his head and that is when his biggest fall came,” the aforementioned Chautala aide said.
In September 2018, Kanda was booked by the economic offences wing of Delhi Police in a cheating case involving one of the many companies Kanda has been associated with. The case is still under investigation. He also faces five cases pertaining to bouncing of cheques.
Assets and debt
Kanda’s 2014 affidavit showed him and his wife Saraswati Devi owning assets worth over Rs 114 crore, which made him one of the 10 richest candidates in the fray.
According to Kanda’s 2009 affidavit, he owned assets of over Rs 60 crore and faced 10 cases of bounced cheques.
In his affidavit for the 2019 election, Kanda has declared movable and immovable assets worth Rs 65.5 crore. His wife Saraswati Devi’s assets, according to the affidavit, total just over Rs 30 crore.
At the same time, the couple has liabilities of Rs 78 crore.