About 20 km north of Fatehpur, barely 2 km from the Ganga, lies the village Jamrawan. On the farthest end of Jamrawan is located a small basti of Dalits. Among the kuchcha dwellings there with tin-covered roofs is a three-room pucca house with plastered walls painted sky blue. This is the house of Manoj Kumar, the new 26-year-old national general secretary of the BSP.
His name was revealed by BSP chief Mayawati in a list sent to the Election Commission. Political as well as party circles were not the only ones taken by surprise, though few claim to know Mayawati’s mind. Equally astonished are Kumar’s family members, and the handful among Jamrawan’s over 2,000 households who say they know him.
“I am not aware of his new position,” says Kumar’s father Ram Raj. “He never tells me these things because I will not understand. All I know is that he is with Behenji.” No BSP leader has ever come to their house, he adds.
Kumar was working at Mayawati’s home as an odds-job man, says one BSP leader. Another says Kumar was perhaps part of her security. Yet another says he was a typist at the party office. Few hazard a guess as to how Kumar went from there to the national general secretary post.
In a list of office-bearers sent to the Election Commission after her re-election as BSP president in August last year, Mayawati had listed Kumar as general secretary along with party heavyweights Satish Chandra Misra, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Swami Prasad Maurya and Rajya Sabha MP Veer Singh.
Kumar’s mother Savitri says her son has not been back home since he got married in May last year, and couldn’t say when he would visit next. “Sometimes he comes within six months, sometimes he doesn’t come for a year.”
Ram Raj, his wife and children — seven daughters, apart from Kumar — subsist on one-and-a-half bighas (2.5 bighas make up one acre) of land. Apart from Kumar, who is the eldest, two other daughters are married. Kumar’s wife stays in the village.
Ram Raj says Kumar studied till Class XII at a government school in the village before going to Fatehpur for graduation, where he gave tuitions to cover his expenses. “I had got my house built a long time back with the help of a government scheme. I gave him whatever was required and whatever I could provide,” says the father, adding that he grows enough paddy and wheat to sustain his family.
Kumar “helps me out” now, Ram Raj adds, though he refuses to give the details.
The family is also reluctant to talk anything more about Kumar. Soon after a call comes on his mobile phone, Ram Raj says he would have to end the meeting, and also declines to let his house be photographed.
Raj Bahadur, a neighbour, says they knew of Kumar’s association with the BSP but had not heard of his new post or what he did for the party. “But he is very hardworking,” says Bahadur.
What is known is that Kumar joined the BSP after coming in touch with Mayawati’s personal aide Mewalal Gautam, who also hails from Fatehpur district and belongs to the same Raidas sub-caste of Dalits. It was on Gautam’s recommendation that Kumar got work at the BSP state headquarters in Lucknow in 2011.
BSP leaders in Fatehpur believe Kumar works at Mayawati’s bungalow in Delhi now. Party MLA Mohammed Asif, whose Hussainganj constituency includes Jamrawan, says he is not aware of Kumar’s “political activities”. “I really don’t know much about him. I think he is in her (Mayawati’s) security,” says Asif.
A former MP who didn’t want to be identified says Kumar is deployed at Mayawati’s 3 Thyagaraja Marg, New Delhi, bungalow, and that he attends phone calls.
Ram Avatar Mittal, in-charge of the BSP Uttar Pradesh headquarters in Lucknow, who had hired Kumar in 2011 to work at the office, says he moved to Mayawati’s Delhi bungalow in 2013.
“He was good in typing so he was hired to work at the party office here. He is related to the family of Mewalal Gautam so I came to know of him. He is not educated much,” Mittal told The Indian Express over phone.
Mittal adds that it could not be possible that the 26-year-old was the new general secretary as he had “no political experience” and had been just a paid party office employee.
But estranged BSP Rajya Sabha MP Jugul Kishore isn’t astonished. Calling Kumar “a young boy” who attends telephone calls at Mayawati’s residence in Delhi, he says she appoints unknowns like the 26-year-old to important positions so as to retain control of the party.
“He is not even a party worker. He did jobs like cleaning the state BSP office. He is like Amarnath Bhaskar (another Mayawati personal aide) and Mewalal Gautam,” says Kishore.
But Mayawati’s residence in Delhi too is a dead end. The guard promises to call Manoj Kumar, but after a message from inside, says the general secretary had stepped out. The staff refuse to share his contact details. Kumar, it is said, will call back. He doesn’t.