The Karnataka Congress announced its candidates for the legislative council elections on Monday evening. Some big names are missing from the 20-member list, such as floor leader SR Patil. But a new entrant is a man with many names: Yusuf Shariff, aka Scrap Babu, aka Gujari Babu, aka KGF Babu.
Yusuf, a scrap trader and a realtor, was aiming to get nominated from the Kolar local body constituency. However, the Kolar ticket was given to Anil Kumar, the local unit chief of the Congress. Yusuf has been picked for the Bangalore Urban seat. Now many observers are speculating about this ‘mystery man’ who has made a parachute entry into the poll picture and snapped up a ticket.
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Who is Yusuf Shariff, aka Scrap Babu?
Yusuf hails from a poor family in the Kolar Gold Fields. His parents had 14 children and he was the oldest among them. With no financial strength, Yusuf received no education. He had to start earning to feed his younger brothers and sisters.
He started a small Gujari (scrap) shop in Kolar by taking loans from relatives. In 2001, his luck turned around. The Kolar Gold Fields decided to auction 21 mill tanks that were used to purify raw gold. Yusuf gathered all his resources and won the auction for Rs 7 lakh.
Found 13 kg gold in scrap
The mill tanks were very old and were from the British era. But Yusuf knew that he would make a profit because each tank was 50 m x 50 m in size. But to his astonishment, he found 13 kg of pure gold in one of the tanks. Speaking to a local news channel, he said that one of the tanks had almost two feet of concrete in it and there was a hole. “While KGF workers were purifying the gold through chemical treatment and mercury, the gold was stored inside the concrete. Nobody knew and even I had no idea until I found it. The same day I found the gold, my wife gave birth to my daughter. I gave half a day off to all the workers in my scrap factory and sent them home,” he said.
Yusuf said that then he along with one of his trusted workers extracted the gold and shifted it to his home. At the time in 2001, gold price was about Rs 4,300 per 10 grams (24 carats), which means Babu got Rs 5.59 crore in one shot. If profit from the scrap of iron mill tanks was added, he got almost Rs 6 crore as profit from an investment of Rs 7 lakh.
In 2002, Yusuf won the auction of an old Jawa motorcycle factory for Rs 1 crore and earned three times the profit from it. After that, he never looked back. He went on to buy properties and factories through government and court auctions. Yusuf has now declared Rs 4,000 crore in assets and says he worked 20 hours a day to achieve what he has now.
“You need to work so hard to earn Rs 10,000, you need to work harder to earn a lakh, and it takes all your strength to earn a crore. Once you earn a crore, you can double it, triple it in minutes. You need to work hard only till you make it to a crore,” he said in a news channel interview.
However, his detractors allege that he didn’t always follow the legal route. Some claim he stole gold from KGF, others say he looted money using muscle power. But Yusuf says it is all his hard-earned fortune, he has no black money, and he runs his business only through legal means.
“I never take cash or give cash in business. All of my business transactions are through bank transfers. I have to pay taxes of Rs 131 crore and I am paying it in instalments,” he said.
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Babu and Bollywood
In August, Bengaluru regional transport officials seized a dozen luxury cars for violating rules in the city. They found that one of them once belonged to Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. RTO officials learnt that Yusuf Shariff had later purchased the vehicle but did not change the documents to his name. Speaking to the media, he had said that insurance money for three months was pending on the car and that is why it was seized. When asked why he did not change the documents to his name, he said, “My time is going good now. But I don’t know what will happen in the future. If I need to sell my car in the future, it has to be second-hand and not third-hand. If I change it to my name, I become the second owner, and if I sell it then, the price of the car will go down. That’s the only reason why I did not change the documents.”
According to sources from the Congress party, Yusuf got the MLC poll ticket through party MLA Zamir Ahmed Khan. Zamir is a close associate of former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah. Yusuf is a high-potential funder for the party, said the sources.
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