For Sahara chief Subrata Roy, the government never really changed in Lucknow. All parties, irrespective of their ideologies, always maintained a good rapport with him.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, like his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, had paid a visit to the palatial Sahara Shaher along with his ministers soon after assuming office in 2012. Roy’s aura has been such that filmstars, cricketers and politicians were at his beck and call.
But lately, the case against Roy over non-refund of investors’ money had put him in a tight spot. Also, the fact that Sahara was no longer the official sponsor of the Indian cricket team and that he had lost his Pune Warrior franchisee appeared to have taken away some of the glamour associated with him.
Akhilesh, perhaps sensing that the law is closing in on Roy, had begun distancing himself from him, avoiding frequent trips to Sahara Shaher except on a few social occasions. This, however, did not mean that the ties between the ruling SP and Roy had snapped.
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In fact, it was during the SP regime under Mulayam, when Amar Singh was calling the shots in the party, that Roy flourished. During Mulayam’s regime, Sahara Shaher became synonymous with celebrations. People in Lucknow still remember the wedding ceremony of Roy’s son, which extended over several days with top politicians from across the country and Bollywood celebrities in attendance.
While most SP leaders were not ready to speak on the Sahara chief’s relations with Mulayam, cabinet minister and SP spokesperson Rajendra Choudhary said, “Having a relation with him is one thing and this incident (Roy’s arrest) is different.”
Fateh Bahadur Singh, MLA and son of former chief minister Veer Bahadur Singh, said: “Subrata would have never reached this position if my father had not helped him during his early days. We know him from his struggling days in Gorakhpur, when he was a small businessman, we are still with him.”
He, however, added sarcastically: “Only Netaji (Mulayam) can tell what is the reason about affinity with Sahara?”
Roy is also known to oblige politicians. “He never turned down recommendations. We know several people who got job on recommendations from politicians,” a SP leader said.
Except for two instances during Kalyan Singh and Mayawati’s regimes, Roy’s rise had largely been unhindered. Kalyan Singh, former chief minister and BJP leader, had raised objections to the land where Sahara Shaher is situated. “Yes, I did not give him the land,” he said.
“There must be some quality in that person, which is why everyone went there (Sahara Shaher) to have tea, but I never went,” said Kalyan. Sahara, however, remained unfazed as a section of the BJP was said to be in his support.
In 2007, Mayawati had ordered razing of a portion of Sahara Shaher. The task was done, but further damage was controlled.