The prominent Gupta family (of brothers Ajay and Atul) of South Africa, which has landed in a row with the authorities over a private aircraft landing at a military base in Pretoria, has strong ties with the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. The private aircraft carrying guests from India for their niece Vega Gupta’s wedding included two powerful U.P. Ministers, Mohammad Azam Khan and Shivpal Singh Yadav, Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey and Minister of State Rajendra Singh Rana.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Gupta family hails from Saharanpur, Sahara Computers (the company owned by the family) had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2005 with the Samajwadi Party government headed by Mulayam Singh to set up an electronics unit in Greater Noida.

With an investment of Rs.250 crore, the deal signalled the Gupta family’s desire to invest in their home State and marked the Government’s preference for public-private partnership. Sources privy to the signing of the MoU in 2005 told The Hindu that Mr. Yadav played a prominent role in enabling Sahara Computers to invest in U.P.

Though Mr. Yadav had constituted the UP Development Council (UPDC) headed by Amar Singh comprising almost all the leading industrialists, including Adi Godrej and Anil Ambani and film star Amitabh Bachchan, the Council apparently played the role of facilitator.

Sources said the electronics unit was initially to have been set up in six months, but as has been the case with several other projects, the issue lingered till it was shelved when Ms. Mayawati became the Chief Minister.

It is said the name of the Guptas’ company, Sahara Computers, includes the first six alphabets of their home town Saharanpur and when the deal was clinched in 2005 they had to deny the company’s links with the Lucknow-based Sahara India Pariwar.

Interestingly, the South African visit of Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan and Public Works Department Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav was kept a closely guarded secret till April 29 when they left by a chartered flight to Johannesburg.

Mr. Khan had cut short his U.S. visit reportedly on account of his alleged humiliation by American officials at Boston airport.

He returned to New Delhi on the night of April 28, went to his hometown, Rampur, addressed a Press conference on April 29 and returned to New Delhi to catch the flight to South Africa.

When reporters asked him about the purpose of his South African visit, Mr. Khan ducked the question. The two powerful U.P. Ministers, who are the number two and three in the Council of Ministers headed by Akhilesh Yadav are accompanied by Minister of State for Rural Engineering Services Rajendra Singh Rana. Mr. Rana is MLA from Deoband in Saharanpur district.