Among the 19 Cabinet ministers who took oath with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav today was Raghuraj Pratap Singh,alias Raja Bhaiyya,Independent MLA from Kunda in Pratapgarh,a known history-sheeter facing charges of abduction,attempt to murder and dacoity.
Although Yadavs refrain has been that the party will not tolerate criminals he blocked the entry of western UPs don D P Yadav he rolled out the red carpet for Raja Bhaiyya. He has reason to.
A fifth-term MLA he won by a record 80,000 votes this time Raja Bhaiyya admitted his affiliation to Mulayam Singh Yadav but contested the election as an Independent.
The SP does not field a candidate against him. This time,it gave him a helicopter for campaigning. It is said in the SP camp that Mulayam can never say no to Raja Bhaiyya. For example,during the Legislative Council elections in 2010,the SP could send only two members and stalwarts like Balram Yadav and Ram Naresh Yadav were named candidates. But Raja Bhaiyya put in a word for Yashwant Singh,who was retiring. Mulayam cancelled the name of Ram Naresh Yadav,an old associate from Etawah,and nominated Yaswant Singh.
Some raised questions that Yashwant also belonged to Azamgarh like Balram Yadav,but Mulayam did not budge,Yashwant became MLC.
Earlier,Raja Bhaiyya was Food and Supplies Minister in Mulayam government before the SP lost in 2007. The CBI is probing a massive,statewide scandal in alleged diversion of foodgrain meant for PDS and anti-poverty programmes to the open market by a nexus of politicians,officials and traders.
Why cant Akhilesh ignore Raja Bhaiyya even when he has an absolute majority? Over time,Raja Bhaiyya has acquired immense clout that has made him a rallying point for Independent MLAs whenever a party needs to lure numbers from rival camps. Like in 2000 when Rajnath Singh took over and in 2003 when Mulayam Singh took over. Both times,Raja Bhaiyya was instrumental in the BSPs split.
This along with his tough-guy image has helped him get access to UPs top leaders. In return,he extracts a ministerial position and other fringe benefits which give him political respectability.
Though Raja Bhaiyya tried to emerge as a Kshatriya leader,he has little following beyond his close circle of friends like Arvind Singh Gop and Akshay Pratap Singh. Gop is now SP MLA while Akshay Pratap Singh is SP MLC.
A senior SP functionary said that Raja Bhaiyya may not get many votes but if he is targeted,it grabs headlines. It happened when POTA was slapped on him by Mayawati. BJP leaders including Vinay Katiyar openly campaigned for his release, he said.
Raja Bhaiyya has served as minister under four chief ministers. He was Minister for Programme Implementation under Kalyan Singh in 1998 and later when Ram Prakash Gupta succeeded him,Raja Bhaiyya became Sports and Youth Welfare Minister. The portfolio did not change when Rajnath Singh took over as CM in 2000. He again became Minister for Food and Civil Supplies under Mulayam.
During the BSPs rule in 2002,he was sent to jail under Prevention of Terrorism Act,along with his father Udai Pratap Singh and cousin Akshay Pratap Singh. Fortune turned again for Raja Bhaiyya when Mulayam Singh took over in 2003 and within 25 minutes,the POTA charges were dropped. He was even provided Z category security.
His famed Baiti Pond was converted into Bhimrao Ambedkar Sanctuary by the BSP government,but later restored by Mulayam Singh. A few years ago,he escaped unhurt when a light plane he was flying crash-landed.
At one point,Raja Bhaiyya had 45 criminal cases against him. Of these,eight are pending. These include attempt to murder,dacoity and abduction. Akhilesh Yadav defended his induction saying,Just look at the dates of cases lodged against him,it will be clear who (read BSP) is behind this. The maximum cases were slapped during this period only.