It’s not surprising that a lot of people are suddenly asking questions about Nagpur-based Manoj Kumar Jayaswal, chairman of the Abhijeet Group which has interests in power, mining and roads. That’s because MKJ, as his friends call him (also the initials on his personal aircraft, bought for Rs 160 crore), is now famous. But not in the way he perhaps wanted. Firms owned by the Jayaswals got nine blocks in the controversial coal allocation. They also got raided by the CBI recently.
Photographs of Jayaswal with a host of luminaries—actor Jeetendra, cricketer-turned-MP Azharuddin, businessman Subroto Roy—are doing the rounds on the net. But given the circumstances, it’s the photo-ops with politicians that’s piqued everyone’s interest. And there’s plenty of that, with Jharkhand CM Arjun Munda, Union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda. There are even some morphed ones, of Jayaswal with the high and mighty. So who is he—and what are the unlisted Abhijeet Group’s funding sources? Abhijeet Power filed a draft offer document in June 2011 to raise Rs 1,375 crore in shares of Rs 10 face value, but the matter didn’t go much further. “There are many such groups in central India,” says a Delhi-based infrastructure consultant, rather mysteriously.
Here’s what we do know: MKJ started off as a scrap dealer at Bhilai around 1980. His father, according to all accounts, worked in Calcutta as an agent dealing in coal. After the nationalisation of the coal mines, the family moved to Nagpur and set up a steel melting plant. In 1987, the family found itself in a criminal case after five workers were killed during a labour unrest at the factory. Here the Jayaswals found a helping hand in the Darda family, who owned the Lokmat group of newspapers. Both joined hands and expanded their respective businesses, in some of which they also became partners. As the political clout of Vijay Darda grew, the Jayaswals also prospered.
When MKJ’s daughter recently got married, the doting dad hosted four glittering parties in four different locales, including one in Phuket, Thailand. And the invitation cards named Vijay Darda as one of the hosts. According to people in the know, Manoj Jayaswal was adept at playing both the Congress and BJP cards. He’s related to coal minister Jaiswal by marriage. And the allocation of the coal blocks in Jharkhand initially happened due to the BJP. According to political watchers, the reason the Darda and Abhijeet groups have been targeted first by the CBI (although only four of the 57 blocks are located in Maharashtra) is that the Congress is getting back at Darda for his open support to Narendra Modi recently.