From a teacher in an RSS-run primary school to a rich businessman, who is allegedly one of the top financiers of the ruling BJP, Sudhir Sharma’s meteoric rise has few parallels in Madhya Pradesh.
Now on the run for his alleged involvement in the MP examination and recruitment scam, 48-year-old Sharma owns mines, educational institutions and a fleet of luxury cars. And he has been at the centre of debates during no-confidence motions in the assembly without ever being part of the government — a distinction he shares only with real estate tycoon Dileep Suryavanshi.
The Income Tax department had raided Sharma and Suryavanshi two years ago but Sharma managed to wriggle out because the ruling BJP had thrown its weight behind him.
Years ago, Sharma’s family reportedly sold milk in Jhabua, a place that gave him his first mine after the BJP came to power. From Saraswati Shishu Mandir, the teacher became a lecturer in an engineering college in Vidisha, where he first came in contact with Laxmikant Sharma, the former minister now behind bars for his involvement in the same examination and recruitment scam..Then he came on deputation to the Rajiv Gandhi Proudyogiki Vishwavidyalaya in Bhopal.
Laxmikant Sharma, who held mining and technical and higher education among other portfolios from 2003 and 2013, made Sudhir Sharma his officer on special duty, a position that marked the beginning of the latter’s phenomenal rise in terms of money and clout. Today he has mining interests in several districts.
When Prabhat Jha became the state BJP president he appointed Sudhir Sharma as the chairman of the party’s education cell. He bought the VNS Group of Institutes in Bhopal, a giant stride for a man who earned a few thousand rupees as salary in the 1990s.
If party sources are to be believed, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan did not exactly like Sudhir Sharma but he never made any public attempt to cut him to size.
Both the Sharmas — Sudhir and Laxmikant — figured prominently during the no-confidence motion brought by the Congress in 2011. Then Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh alleged that Sudhir did not own a house when he came to Bhopal but went on to buy five houses in a colony where he stayed on rent. A palatial house is said to be taking shape on Shyamla Hills. Singh recalled how Sudhir boasted about becoming the highest I-T payer in Bhopal division.
However, for all the time it devoted to digging information about Sudhir, the Congress could do little to damage him politically or otherwise. The MP government rewarded him by appointing him on the Centre for Research and Industrial Staff Performance.
The no-confidence motion was followed by I-T raids in 2012, which the BJP alleged stemmed from the Congress’s failure to deal with it electorally. The I-T sleuths had seized diaries that reportedly had details of, among other things, the money companies owned by Sudhir and Suryvanshi spent on air travel by senior BJP and RSS leaders. Party Insiders say Sudhir even financed foreign trips of BJP leaders.
Then came the CBI action for Sudhir’s alleged involvement in bribing officers of the mining department.
While Sudhir survived all this, the tide turned against him and his mentor Laxmikant Sharma after the latter’s loss in the 2013 assembly elections. Names of both figured in the examination scam but the Special Task Force continued to treat them with kid gloves, claiming that it did not have enough evidence.
The two timed their surrender for questioning in December and the STF allowed them to go back unlike other accused who were promptly arrested when they showed up after notices. When the former minister was arrested on June 15, Sudhir managed to escape. He has been declared an absconder and given time till July 21 by a local court. If he fails to surrender by then, the process to attach his properties — and they are many — will begin.