Search:



The Web

Rediff









Home > Business > Columnists > Sucheta Dalal

Bhansali plans a comeback, via faith

December 05, 2002

Last week, in a column for The Indian Express, I wrote about how Dr C R Bhansali had latched on to religion as his next fund raising trick.

The man who built a Rs 10 billion financial conglomerate, which ran like a Ponzi scheme based on high cost borrowing, had almost made it to the big league when it collapsed into a heap in 1997.

The demise of the CRB empire saw million of investors across the country lose their investments and triggered off a run on other finance companies causing several of the biggest ones to fold up.

After 1997, and a small stint in police custody, Chain Roop Bhansali went into hibernation until recently. He now plans a comeback through a court-ordered revival of his companies, without being tried or punished for his shenanigans.

Bhansali has a two-pronged strategy.

First, to use Section 397 of the Companies Act to work on a 'scheme of arrangement' between CRB's various stakeholders to revive his main companies and have it ratified by the Delhi high court.

This is based on the brazen plea that only by reviving his company can he pay back creditors.

Such astonishing brazenness is one of Bhansali's chief characteristics; and it is what allowed him to get close to the late Acharya Tulsi and leverage his powerful network of devotees.

The second part of his plan was to use religion to get gullible believers to part with their money. In pursuit of this strategy, he has set up the Global Society for Saraswati Consciousness -- a 'spiritual institution to propagate Goddess Saraswati throughout the world.'

The foundation was to operate in the real and the virtual world. Its virtual avatar was an extensive web site (www.gsscon.org) that offered religion online -- online meditation, online aarti, online pravachan (discourse) and, just so that it is not restricted to Goddess Saraswati, it had a sprinkling of different temples and deities.

I must stress the world 'was' – because when I wrote my first piece for The Indian Express there was this extensive web site, with links to several other sister sites with some obvious names such as www.fundatemple.org that sought donations of Rs 50 per brick for building the 'temple of understanding.'

The idea was probably based on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's collection of shilayanas to build the Ram temple at Ayodhya, but one is not quite clear if CRB's temple of 'understanding' would be brick and mortar or in cyberspace.

Bhansali also registered a healthcare portal and a family portal that had linkages through the www.gsscon.org site.

A couple of days after I wrote the column, I tried accessing the site and was in for a surprise. It has been wiped clean and carries the message: 'This site is under re-construction.'

Although the web site made no mention of the people behind the foundation, it displayed a photograph of Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani receiving the GSSCON logo by a man identified as M D Kanther, director of the foundation. I noticed that Bhansali's revival plan pending before the Delhi high court has M D Kanther as his legal advisor.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to download chunks of information from the site including the accompanying photograph.

Moreover, my source had also sent me gaudy printed brochures about Bhansali's plans, with a covering letter signed by Bhansali soliciting donations from people.

They described 'Shree Saraswati Shakti Peeth' as a 15-acre religious resort near Jaipur, which would provide facilities for yoga, meditation, counselling, religious education, stress management, alternative healing therapies and books.

Being a Bhansali brainchild it also offered financial services such as investment advice, portfolio management, brand management, tax and legal advice.

Incidentally, Bhansali now calls himself Dr C F Bhansali (a permutation of his original name), while his sons Manish and Piyush -- who are marketing the foundation -- have changed their surname to Jain from Bhansali.

Documents available with me offer a life membership to GSSCON called the 'Chamatkar Membership' for every donation of Rs 7,100 or $300.

GSSCON has been granted a Section 80-G tax exemption by the income tax department despite its promoter's  background and the lack of any track record about its activities or use of funds.

The address on Bhansali's letter head is F-33, Mansarovar Garden, New Delhi - 110 015, from which he runs M & P Consultancy and Marketing to market the books he has authored on Lord Mahavira and Insights into Spiritual Living.

I have a copy of Bhansali's letter soliciting donations to the Saraswati Foundation. The letter also had a Mumbai address -- 34-B, Arti Building, 85 Tardeo Road, Mumbai 400 034 -- not that any of the investigative agencies who are allegedly pursuing Bhansali are interested in the details. It also had a mobile phone number for Mumbai.

On calling that number, I was told the Saraswati Foundation was set up by 'a Jain group' from Delhi; on persistent questioning was told that C R Bhansali was a director and advisor to the project.

One has to link this information to Bhansali's comeback plans. On the Delhi court's instructions, he has already held meetings with various stakeholders and obtained their consent to revive the CRB group.

Part of the plan was that Bhansali would bring in Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 billion).

The obvious question is, where would the money come from? And if Bhansali indeed has Rs 10 crore why isn't it being used to repay creditors?

Typically again, nobody wants to ask uncomfortable questions. Since the regulators are known to be ineffective, creditors and stakeholders are willing to grasp at any hope that their money would be returned -- even if it means consenting to a revival of Bhansali's companies.



Article Tools

Email this Article

Printer-Friendly Format

Letter to the Editor







Sucheta Dalal




Share your comments







Copyright © 2003 rediff.com India Limited. All Rights Reserved.