What a difference a year makes. This time last year,Kripashankar Singh was sashaying down the ramp with fashion model Sayali Bhagat for designer Archana Kochhar. Still togged out in his all-white shirt-pant ensemble,Singh gushed to TV cameras that he had always watched models and wondered what it would be like to walk down the ramp.
As crores of his supposedly illegally amassed property is seized under court orders,his detractors point out with glee that he will,at least,have had his moment as a show-stopper.
Till he got caught in a slew of scams and a poll debacle,Singh had done a pretty decent impression of an outsider made good in maximum city. He was a humble potato vendor from Jaunpur who had climbed the political ladder,with gumption and a generous supply of fresh vegetables to the right kitchens in the city.
As one of the teeming millions who migrated to Mumbai from the north (in 1973),Singh found comfort in what is called the bhaiya network social connections reaching back to the home state. Before long,he had befriended S L Yadav,assistant private secretary to Congress leader Sheila Kaul.
Yadav provided Singh an entry into the circuit of Mumbai Congress. A man of little education (he claimed to have done a BSc but the certificate predated his school leaving certificate) Singh turned his one advantage into a networking weapon. He was obliging,and there was no service for which he could not be called upon by the high and mighty in the Congress,from arranging trips to Shirdi to getting passes for New Years bashes. His network extended right up to trusted staffers of the Congress high command,some said.
Amid the growing,politically conscious north Indian population,he emerged a leader. Hindi majhi maa,Marathi majhi mausi (Hindi is my mother,Marathi my aunt),he said,but made sure every housing society in his area had some of his supporters as members.
Singhs rise appeared uninterrupted till 2004 when he was made minister for home in Maharashtra. He plugged a gap in the Mumbai Congress,filled with stalwarts like Murli Deora,and Gurudas Kamat of the north Indian face. Before Sanjay Nirupam entered the Congress,Singh was the only claimant to that crown. While there was resentment against Singh as an upstart,those who stood against him soon found themselves out of favour with the high command. A search for a likely spy at 10 Janpath who fed information to Singh was duly undertaken by several Mumbai leaders,such was the paranoia. Several AICC peons were at the receiving end of this suspicion.
He was appointed AICC observer in Jharkhand for the 2005 Assembly polls. While the BJP came to power with a fractured mandate,the rug was pulled from under chief minister Arjun Mundas feet and independent MLA Madhu Koda formed the government in 2006 with Congress support.
Singh was so enamoured of his Jharkhand stint that he married off his son Narendra Mohan,aka Sanjay Singh,to Ankita,daughter of former minister Kamlesh Singh,now in jail with Koda. Narendra Mohan,who prefers the name Sanjay Singh for his film production business (he produced the award winning Udaan) has also had property seized after court orders.
Singhs denouement is not just because of the scams but also the dismal performance in the recent local polls in Mumbai. North Mumbai,the catchment area of north Indian votes,remained with the Shiv Sena; ticket distribution and factional warfare caused a low turnout,rebel candidates and predictable results.
His troubles finally eroding his extraordinary luck,Singh has quit,claiming responsibility for the poll debacle. But as one senior leader in Mumbai says,The miracle was that he lasted this long. This just goes to prove that the road to Mumbai runs through Delhi and the road to Delhi through Uttar Pradesh.