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Kolkata-based Dairy Keventer, which bought electoral bonds worth Rs 617 cr

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At least four firms, which purchased electoral bonds between 2019 and 2024, are part of the Keventer conglomerate and have their registered offices in Kolkata.

Keventer Foodpark Infra Pvt Ltd, Madanlal Ltd, MKJ Enterprises Ltd and Sasmal Infrastructure Pvt Ltd figure in the list of donors by contributing over Rs 600 crore in electoral bonds, according to the Election Commission (EC) list released Thursday.

Overall, the Keventer group has emerged as the third highest corporate to purchase electoral bonds in the country.

Industrialist Mahendra Kumar Jalan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Keventer Group. An alumni of Kolkata’s St Xavier’s Collegiate School and Harvard Business School, Jalan has presence in dairy, food processing, real estate, port, steel, and other industrial sectors.

Jalan has served as the French Honorary Consul General and is currently the Honorary Consul of Ireland in Kolkata, according to the group’s website. His son Mayank is the chairman and managing director of Keventer Agro.

Of the four firms, Keventer Foodpark Infra Pvt Ltd donated the highest amount of Rs 195 crore between 16 April 2019 and 8 May 2019.

The Kolkata-headquartered conglomerate was in the news after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) began its preliminary enquiry after Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury filed a PIL before the Calcutta High Court alleging the shares of Metro Dairy were sold at an undervalued price to Keventer Agro Pvt Ltd., leading to a loss of Rs 500 crore to the exchequer.

In 2017, the West Bengal government had sold its 47 percent stake in Metro Dairy, a public-private venture, to Keventer Agro Ltd — the sole bidder which already owned 43 percent stake — for Rs 85.5 crore. Subsequently, the firm sold nearly 15 percent of its shares to a Singapore-based equity firm at a higher price.

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The ED raided the Keventer group in February 2021, and also issued summons to former West Bengal chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi who was the finance secretary when the disinvestment.

A few other senior bureaucrats and political leaders were also examined during the enquiry. But in September 2022, the Supreme Court upheld the West Bengal government’s disinvestment of Metro Dairy and dismissed Adhir’s plea.

Keventers Agro Ltd produces dairy products, fresh and packaged food, and beverages. It is the leader in private dairy in Eastern and North Eastern India, and owns the popular ice-cream brand Keventer Metro. Former India cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly is its brand ambassador.

“The company is responsible for sourcing, manufacturing, distribution and selling of Parle Agro’s products across West Bengal, Jharkhand, North-East, Bhutan and Sikkim,” says the official website of Keventer Agro Ltd.

Established in 1986, Keventer Agro Ltd acquired the operation rights of Edward Keventer who was recruited by the British in 1890 to modernise the dairy industry in India, reads the website.

Another subsidiary Sasmal Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, whose directors are Mahendra Kumar Jalan and Bablu Hazra, was the latest entity to purchase electoral bonds in November last year. The value of electoral bonds purchased until January were Rs 44 crore, according to the EC data.

While MKJ Enterprises Ltd bought electoral bonds worth Rs 192 crore between 4 October 2019 and 18 November 2023, Madanlal Ltd’s share stood at Rs 186 crore. The latter had purchased the bonds between 8 May 2019 and 10 May 2019.

All the four entities have their address in Kolkata’s Clive Ghat Street and have Radhe Shyam Khetan as one of its directors.

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