With the Samajwadi Party on the verge of a break-up, regional satraps will be waiting keenly for the showdown before deciding their own political paths. After all, the 2017 elections are around the corner and they could have done without all this hullabaloo.
One of the satraps is history-sheeter and minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiya, a Rajput by caste, he is an independent MLA and has the allegiance of several Rajput legislators from eastern Uttar Pradesh. Not only that, he commands a sizeable section of the Rajput vote in his region. He was among those to meet Akhilesh in Lucknow on Sunday.
Who is Raja Bhaiya?
1. Raja Bhaiya's real name is Raghuraj Pratap Singh. He is also called 'Toofan' Singh and Raghubir Singh in Kunda, Uttar Pradesh. He is 47 years old and holds a law degree from Lucknow University.
2. Raja Bhaiya is a local strongman. His word is said to be law in Kunda, which is also his assembly constituency. He belongs to an influential family, and reportedly lives a feudal life in a massive fortressed estate.
3. He is a five-time legislator from Kunda. He first contested and won elections to the UP Assembly in 1993; he would have been underage then at 24.
4. In 1997, Singh served as minister of programme implementation in BJP's Kalyan Singh government and again was minister in Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh's cabinet in 1999 & 2000.
5. He is an independent MLA who supports the Samajwadi Party government in the state, and has been a minister twice. In 2013, his appointment as prisons minister in akhilesh yadav's government shocked many.
6. The politician has many criminal cases against him - including charges of attempt to murder, abduction, corruption and dacoity - and has even been in jail on criminal charges.
7. He was jailed in 2002 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) when Mayawati was chief minister. He was arrested on November 2, 2002 along with his father, Uday Pratap Singh, and cousin, Akshay Pratap Singh, on charges of kidnapping and issuing threats. He was later declared a terrorist by the state government. The charges were dropped after SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav took over as chief minister in 2003.
8. Raja Bhaiya was last arrested in 2010 for allegedly threatening a panchayat poll candidate in Uttar Pradesh. He was released on bail in early 2011 following an Allahabad court order.
9. He was removed as prisons minister in a Cabinet reshuffle in 2013, but continued as food and civil supplies minister, which was also his first-ever portfolio in 2005, when he became minister in the Mulayam Singh government of the time.
10. Raja Bhaiya's political allegiances have shifted over the years. Previously, he backed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was said to be close to former chief minister Kalyan Singh. He later changed camps and threw his lot behind the Samajwadi Party.
11. His grandfather, Raja Bajrang Bahadur Singh, was the founder vice-chancellor of the pant nagar agriculture university. He was also the governor of Himachal Pradesh. He had adopted Raghubir's father, Uday Pratap Singh.
Criminal cases against Raja Bhaiya:
* In 2002, Puran Singh Bundela, a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, had accused Raja Bhaiya of threatening and kidnapping him. Subsequently the latter was arrested. In 2003, the BSP government had charged him with terrorist activities and got him arrested under POTA after the police recovered weapons, including AK-47s, from his house in Kunda. It was during this period that the government of the day, headed by Mayawati claimed to have found hundreds of skeletons from the a pond in his sprawling residence.
* However, in 2003, within half an hour of Mulayam singh Yadav taking over as the chief minister, all charges against him were dropped. However, the Supreme Court had told the government not to withdraw the POTA charges. Raja Bhaiya was the food and civil supplies minister in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government when the biggest food scam took place. Even today, the case is on against ministers and government officials.
* Back in power in 2007, Mayawati once again targeted Raja Bhaiya and he was branded the head of inter zone gang (number 323) with over 100 members working for him. In 2009, the leader along with his trainer and a few friends took off in his private aircraft which eventually crashed near a river in Pratapgarh district. A case was started against him to find out if the MLA had the permission required to fly an aircraft but it was buried soon.
The goonda in the making:
An incident in 1995 in the Dilerganj village in Pratapgarh district explains how Raghuraj Pratap Singh became the dreaded Raja Bhaiya.
Over 20 houses were set ablaze in the village, three Muslim girls raped and brutally murdered and a muslim boy was tied to a vehicle and dragged around the village. The fire tender returned without doing their job and reported that there was no water available to douse the fire - the nearest water body was only 100 metres away from the burning houses.
The present case:
* Spate of violence was over a property dispute between two groups, led by Nanhe Lal Yadav, the pradhan of village Ballipur and Babloo Pandey, both close to Raja Bhaiya.
* Nanhe had bought land from Babloo, to which another man named Kamta claimed ownership. Kamta got the backing of Guddu Singh, a henchman of Raja Bhaiya. Guddu was the same man, who had openly opposed Nanhe during the panchayat elections and he wanted revenge.
* The property dispute gave Guddu an opportunity to settle scores with Nanhe and he shot him dead. Later, the body of Nanhe’s younger brother was also found in the village.
* The murder agitated Nanhe’s family which was not satisfied with the role of the police. Nanhe’s family along with a group of villagers, indulged in vandalism and violence. To control the situation the police resorted to firing. In the crossfire that ensued, a police official, Zia-Ul-Haq was killed. Haq received three gun shots and was severely beaten as well.
* A police case was registered by Parveen Azad, wife of Haq, the deputy superintendent of police, who succumbed.
Why Bhaiya is important?
* In the fractured polity of Uttar Pradesh every seat counts and Raja Bhaiya wields considerable influence over five assembly and parliamentary constituencies in the Pratapgarh area. The Thakur vote is largely with him.
* In 2012, when Akhilesh Yadav took over as the chief minister, Raja Bhaiya became the food and later, civil supplies ministry as well as prison department. During his political career, Raja Bhaiya was close to the Bharatiya Janata Party and its mascot Kalyan Singh. Early this year, there were rumours that he was trying to get close to the BJP as he was not happy with the prisons department. Mulayam and Akhilesh decided to bury the rumours right away. In June, 2016 both of them went to Raja Bhaiya’s house. The occasion was the birthday of latter’s son.