He is a former scrap dealer who claims his luck changed after finding gold in the Kolar fields. Now, Yusuf Sharif is the wealthiest candidate in the forthcoming Council elections in Karnataka — and in the state’s electoral history — declaring assets worth Rs 1,744 crore.
Sharif, also known as Scrap Babu and Gujuri Babu, is the Congress MLC candidate for Bengaluru Urban. The assets declared by the 54-year-old realtor far outstrip those of the other 121 candidates for the 25 seats heading to the polls.
The declaration also puts him ahead of the likes of Priya Krishna, a former Congress MLA from Bengaluru who declared assets worth Rs 1,020 crore ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls, former Congress MLA and current BJP MLC N Nagaraj who declared Rs 1,010 crore, and Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar who declared Rs 841.72 crore in 2018.
Hailing from the Kolar gold fields (KGF) region, Sharif studied till class five in a government school. Sharif, who has two wives and five children, declared movable assets worth Rs 97.98 crore movable and immovable assets worth Rs 1,643.59 crore, in his own name.
His first wife has Rs 98.96 lakh movable and Rs 1.30 crore immovable assets. The second spouse has Rs 32.22 lakh of movable assets. The rest is in the name of his children. He has liabilities of Rs 67.24 crore.
Sharif claims his fortunes turned in the early 2000s after he won a bid for 21 mill tanks in KGF. In a recent interview, Sharif said he participated in the in 2001 auction after pooling around Rs 7 lakh. The mill tanks were used to purify gold ore when the Kolar gold fields were active and dated back to the colonial period.
The rest of the story, at least in Sharif’s telling, is this: He found 13 kg of gold in the abandoned tanks he had bought, leading to a sudden spike in his wealth. Using the newfound wealth, he began buying property and factories through government and court auctions — which have since accrued value in Bengaluru’s real estate boom.
Critics, however, accuse him of purloining the gold through muscle power. Sharif has denied the allegations.
“I have seen poverty and have led a rich lifestyle. I had a successful life as a businessman and it is time to give back to society. I have retired from business and would be doing whatever I can for society,” Sharif said regarding his candidature in the legislative council polls.
“D K Shivakumar (state KPCC chief) and I have known each other for 20 years and he has been a guide for me. My grandfather and father were associated with the Congress but I was more involved in business. Now, I am following in their footsteps,”’ he told The Indian Express.
Sharif made national headlines in August when his Rs 2.01-crore (according to affidavit) Rolls Royce car — which he bought second hand from actor Amitabh Bachchan — was seized by RTO officials for road tax violation. The Income Tax department also searched his premises over alleged tax evasion of Rs 13.43 crores.
Sharif faces four pending criminal cases — three of which, he claims, were based on allegations made while developing property for his real estate business.
There are several “crorepatis” contesting the December 10 legislative council polls where 99,062 people will cast their vote.
Professor Sandeep Shastri, Vice Chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University and political commentator, said: “It is a restricted number of voters who will decide the fate of the candidates. Ideally, people who have worked at the local level (should) get an opportunity to enter state politics. But for wealthier people, it has become a stepping stone to enter politics. The reasons may vary: Politics give you a certain power, a capacity to get things done, and to protect or expand your wealth. We have seen this in Rajya Sabha, too.”