Editor's note: The article below had mentioned Mr Nalapad’s grandfather, Mr NA Mohammad, and had included allegations against him by political sources. However, since we cannot reveal the identity of our sources and since they would not like to come on record with their allegations, The News Minute would like to retract those portions of the article. We also apologise to Mr NA Mohammad for any inconvenience caused by the article.
It was in 1960, when present day Karnataka was still known as Mysore, that NA Mohammed, a man with not a penny to his name, came to the state from Kasargod.
A dreamer, who was eager for power, NA Mohammed went on to establish a successful business in Karnataka. Now, over half a century later, his son and MLA of Shantinagar, Nalapad Ahmed Haris is one of the big names in the Karnataka Congress – and also, one of the wealthiest leaders in the party.
The spotlight is on the family after the Congress legislator’s son, Mohammed Haris Nalapad, landed behind bars for assaulting a man at a café in Bengaluru.
TNM traces the Nalapad family’s rise to power.
Tracing the history
NA Haris’s father NA Mohammed moved from Kasargod in Kerala to Bhadravati in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district in 1960 to make a living.
Mohammed started off by setting up a scrap metal shop. Despite becoming economically stable, Mohammed was not satisfied and wanted to make something more of himself. A few years later, Mohammed moved to Bangalore and set up his residence in Vijayanagar. He set up a shop selling buttermilk near the Cantonment Railway Station in Vasanth Nagar, Congress leaders say.
Despite his business turning a steady profit, Mohammed always yearned for a better life. Soon, he won a tender for the construction of Phase 1 of Upper Krishna Project, a retired bureaucrat told TNM. This was an irrigation project, which saw the construction of the Almatti Dam and Narayanpur Dam, besides several canals along the Krishna River.
With the money he made through the Upper Krishna Project, Mohammed established Hotel Bangalore International, a three-star hotel at Shivananda Circle, located in the heart of the city. In 1967, Nalapad Ahmed Haris was born.
In 1978, Mohammed set up the Nalapad Group of Hotels, and by 1997, NA Haris, too, was actively involved in the family business. He was responsible for expanding the family’s fortunes by diversifying the business.
Now, the family owns Nalapad Pipes, Nalapad Suraksha, Nalapad Infotech and Nalapad Energy. Haris’s family also established the prestigious Nalapad International School.
But political opponents allege that this climb was not due to just hard work. “Mohammed and others in his family are known for their dealings with gangsters in the city. People in his constituency are scared of his henchmen. It is an open secret that Haris has muscle power equal to the amount of money he has,” alleges Vasudev Murthy who had lost after contesting against Haris in 2013.
Entry into politics
Although Mohammed never contested in elections in Karnataka, sources close to Haris say that entering politics was his ultimate ambition. NA Haris fulfilled his father’s dream and climbed the political ladder quickly. The Nalapad family’s business helped Haris rub shoulders with the who’s who of Karnataka, including another millionaire politician – the present Bengaluru Development Minister KJ George. The duo soon became close associates.
“George and Haris had three things in common. Both families started off with humble beginnings and made it big; both families had migrated from Kerala and became powerful in Bengaluru. And both wanted to climb the political ranks,” a senior Congress leader says.
By the early 2000s, NA Haris had become a trusted aide of KJ George and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who helped elevate his position in the party, insiders say.
When former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi decided to remove former Karnataka CM Veerendra Patil for insubordination, using his poor health as an excuse, it was KJ George who stepped in and ensured that Bangarappa became the CM. After this, Haris became extremely close to the Congress’ first family.
“With KJ George endorsing Haris, it was not very difficult for him to get a ticket for the 2008 polls. He became an MLA when he was just 41 years old. Almost all party-leaders seek to be in his good books, not only due to his extravagant spending but also because he became someone to be feared. The amount of influence he gained in a short time had left everyone shocked,” a senior Congress leader says.
Haris gained popularity not only due to his close connections with the high command, but also due to his charitable ventures. The family, which owns NA Haris Foundation, provides scholarships to underprivileged children and also organises job fairs.
While some constituents say that Haris' accessibility makes him a favourite, a few others seem disappointed with him after his son's arrest.
"One of our neighbours in Wilson Garden had lost her home due to a fire accident. MLA Haris constructed a new home for her. He also gives our children free school kits and scholarships to study in good schools," said Vanajamma, a resident of Wilson Garden.
"He has given jobs to so many people but it is shocking to hear that his son could have done something like that. That is because when incidents like this come out, it is a given that people will question how MLA Haris could have brought up a son who assaults people. It is also shocking because what we knew of him was the man who gave our children free school kits. That's why we are disappointed," Vanajamma says.
In 2017, Haris’s older son, 28-year-old Nalapad, was made the General Secretary of Bengaluru Youth Congress.
In February 2018, Mohammed Nalapad was arrested for assaulting a man and is still in jail, as his bail was rejected multiple times.
“Haris was responsible for expanding a relatively small business. Haris was driven to making his life better than that of his father. This is not true for his son Nalapad. He was born into the lap of luxury and was always aware of the power his family wielded. He was prone to throwing his weight around and has made several unintelligible mistakes due to the confidence that he would get away,” the Congress leader said.
Police sources also say that this is not the first time Nalapad has allegedly assaulted a person on a whim. In 2017, a few weeks before he was made the General Secretary, Nalapad had allegedly beaten up a man named Peter near Ashok Nagar area. No FIR was registered. Peter had to undergo treatment in Indiranagar’s Chinmaya Hospital, a senior police officer said.
Nalapad was also accused of assaulting a security guard outside Bowring Institute in 2016. However, no FIR was filed in this case either.
Congress leaders distance themselves from Haris
But there is growing dissent against Haris following his son’s brutal assault on prominent businessman J Loganathan’s son Vidvat.
“Haris’ dealings are an open secret. No one brings up the extent of his influence because they are afraid of him. His friends include the police, politicians, businessmen and movie stars. His declared assets are worth Rs 133 crore. However, this time around, his influence did not do wonders because Vidvat, too, is the son of a wealthy businessman. For the first time, Haris could not cover up his son’s crimes and an FIR was registered. The opposition did not stay quiet and neither did the media. With this, the party is wondering if he is an ideal MLA candidate for the upcoming polls,” a senior Congress leader said.
Party insiders say that Congress leaders are now concerned about the upcoming Assembly polls and are not standing by Haris like they did with Energy Minister DK Shivakumar, when the Income Tax Department had raided his properties.
"DK Shivakumar had a good back story. He took a major hit for the party when the MLAs from Gujarat were ushered to Bengaluru. With Haris, it is different. His son assaulted the son of another wealthy man. With this he has opened himself up for investigation, mostly by the media. The party cannot risk this. However, considering his ties to the high command, it remains uncertain how things will turn out. The party was considering fielding Rizwan Arshad but it has not been finalised," the Congress leader added.