At his home in Nangal Jhamarwada in Bandikui, from where set out two days ago, Gajendra Singh Kalyanvat always hoped to be a ‘kisan neta’. He had missed a Samajwadi Party ticket for the assembly elections in 2008 by a whisker. The lost opportunity had disheartened him then and, for a few years, he dropped out of party activities. Until Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party caught his fancy.
Over the past two years, Gajendra would speak animatedly about Kejriwal and his party during village meetings but wouldn’t align himself with any party. He concentrated on his safa-tying skills — a safa is a Rajasthani turban — that did brisk business in Jaipur hotels. Locals say he charged Rs 500 for tying a safa and, in peak tourist season, tied scores of safas a day. He was active on Facebook and got several contracts through networking on the site.
Anil Shekhawat, vice-president of the Rajasthan unit of Samajwadi Party, said: “His involvement with the party was erratic. Around the 2008 assembly elections, he was very active and was seeking a ticket from the party for Dausa or Bandikui but both the constituencies do not have a sizeable Rajput votes, so we decided against it.”
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“Gajendra was a good orator and his diction was excellent. He had sharp political acumen and could hold crowds during rallies. He used to tie the safa very well. During one such rally, Amar Singh had come and he too was very impressed with Gajendra and his safa-tying and oratory skills.”
Pictures of him tying a safa for Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other leaders circulated in his village as news of his suicide spread like wildfire.
Gajendra’s uncle, Gopal Singh, the sitting sarpanch of the village, whose daughter got married on Wednesday evening, rushed to Delhi to receive Gajendra’s body while his father Bane Singh, wife and three school-going children, didn’t stir out of their six-room concrete house.
“We haven’t told them yet that Gajendra is no more. We have just said that he has fallen off a tree and is in a critical condition. His father has lost consciousness several times so far,” said Dharampal Singh, a distant relative.
While safa-tying was Gajendra’s primary source of income, being the eldest of three sons and without a permanent job, he also spent a lot of time on his father’s fields. Between his father and uncle, Gopal Singh, a sprawling 50 bighas of land was shared. His father owned 25 bighas and during sowing and harvest seasons, Gajendra worked round-the-clock on the fields. His younger brothers — one works in the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary and is posted in New Delhi and the other works with a private firm in Jaipur — remained busy with their jobs.
Gajendra’s house, a spacious concrete building amidst vast stretches of farm land with tall teak and amla trees, all planted by him, speak of a reasonably affluent background. Neighbours said Gajendra’s family had been politically active and financially sound and “rumours” of his suffering severe losses and, therefore, ending his life were false. They insisted it was possible that he might have wanted to draw attention to the problems of farmers and, therefore, made the suicide attempt.
The farmers in the village claimed that 50 per cent of their crops were destroyed but the local administration maintained that crop-damage assessment reports submitted by the patwaris in the area had reported only 20-25 per cent crop loss — below the compensation criterion. This was said to have “affected” Gajendra who would often promise villagers that he would fight their battle.
With the issue taking a political turn, the local administration rushed teams to Gajendra’s house for a detailed fact-finding report.
Superintendent of Police Anshuman Bhomia said: “We had sent our team to his house. He does not appear to be a poor farmer and had a reasonably large tract of land. We are in touch with the family and are trying to find out the reason that prompted such an extreme step.”
His body was released from the mortuary in New Delhi late Wednesday evening but relatives said it would be kept somewhere on the way for the night and brought to his house early morning for the last rites.