Swaran Salaria is in a hyper-active mode. Interacting with BJP Yuva Morcha workers, the 63-year-old party candidate for Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll is a bundle of energy as he talks to them.
After a nearly 20 minute pep-talk in which he assures the youngsters that they all will “rajj ke nachangey” (dance to their heart’s content) after the victory in the polls, much to their delight, he gets mobbed by them for a selfie session. And he smilingly obliges them before settling down.
“God knows how excited I was when I finally got this ticket. Ye mere liye 14 saal ka banwaas tha (It has been a 14-year exile for me). Come what may, I will win this election. I have never tasted defeat and I never will,” he says emphatically.
So who is the real Swaran Salaria? The successful businessman worth several hundred crores from Mumbai or the one sweating it out in Gurdaspur Lok Sabha elections? He does not hold back his answer. “I have no ‘nasha’ of power. I have all the money I need and I have left all my comforts to come here and live this tough life. Do you know I have a sprawling bungalow of over one acre in Mumbai? My bedroom is in 2000 square feet area. My split air conditioner units are installed 100 feet away from the room so that there is no noise disturbance. My TV screen is as big as this wall out here. I have the best of cars, you name it and I have it. Out here I have brought a Toyota Innova. I had never even sat in an Innova before,” he says.
Salaria is disarmingly frank, and continues to speak with earnestness. “I gave up the designer clothes that I used to wear. Because the party has some discipline and I was told to tone down my dressing. I do not hide anything. I love to live up the life. I have my own jet, my own chopper, but I have come here to serve the people.I stay with my mother in my village in a 20X20 room,” he says.
Explaining his business interests, which he pegs at around Rs 1500 crore overall, he says his security agency is rated among top five in the world, his hotel in Katra is rated five-star, his aviation business has five helicopters and one fixed-wing jet. He nods in the affirmative when asked if he has built a helipad in his sprawling new house near Pathankot. “The house is in 4-5 acre. It is almost complete and is in Parmanand, near Pathankot,” he says.
Controversies have always dogged Salaria. Be it the allegation of rape by a woman a few years back, the truth behind his Army service record or his run-in with Vinod Khanna and Kavita Khanna. “Tell me what is my fault? I love everybody, respect everybody? The leadership promised me a ticket in 2014 and now it gave me. I do not want to say anything about Kavita Khanna. Vinod Khanna’s work will be completed,” he says.
Commenting on the rape allegations levelled against him by a woman some years back, Salaria says it was a conspiracy hatched to deny him a Rajya Sabha ticket at the time. “Some 36 years later, the woman woke up to the fact that I had raped her. No wonder her complaint was dismissed and I was declared innocent,” he adds.