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Raja Bhaiyya: Independent MLA who brings govts down to knees

The way he has been powerfully using his position is noteworthy. In exchange of his freedom, he has constantly allowed different governments to use him as a weapon to cuddle Thakurs and Rajputs in the state.

In the cabinet reshuffle of Akhilesh Yadav led Uttar Pradesh government, independent legislator Raghuraj Pratap Singh, better known as ‘Raja Bhaiyya’, was again sworn-in as minister. In the presence of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, senior ministers Azam Khan, Shivpal Singh Yadav, Ahmad Hasan and Ambika Chowdhary, he took the oath administered by UP Governor B.L. Joshi on Friday.

The legislator from Kunda was given a clean chit in a murder case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a few months back, it was anticipated that he would be inducted in the cabinet in the July reshuffle only. But at that time, Akhilesh cold shouldered him.

Although Raja Bhaiyya denied his reported closeness to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of late, it is considered to be one of the decisive factors in his indunction to the state government. The move to reinduct Raja Bhaiyya is also seen as a move by the Samajwadi Party leadership to quell the growing dissatisfaction among the Thakurs.

Talking to reporters after being sworn in, Raja Bhaiyya said he was pleased that he is back in the ministry and thanked chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for their “sneh aur vishwas (love and trust)”.

Raja Bhaiyya was named in the FIR regarding the death of deputy supritendent of police Zia-ul-Haq who was working against the illegal sand mining in the state. He had resigned from his post after the controversy picked up.

It is said that the slain police officer had been on his hit list as he had put an end to illegal sand mining allegedly carried out by his men near the Ganga river. Zia-ul-Haq had dared to raid the mining site and seized trucks full of the illegal consignment that are still parked at the local police station. Haq was shortly to submit his report to the government that would have reportedly pointed a finger at Raja Bhaiya.

However, Raja Bhaiyya always maintained that he had nothing to do with the murder of the police official and had in fact volunteered to undergo a polygraph test. He came out clean in the lie detector test.

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Reacting to the re-induction of Raja Bhaiyya into the Akhilesh cabinet, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Laxmikant Bajyai said it was an internal matter of SP. He, however, added that the SP had not done any favour to Raja Bhaiya.

“He was named in a murder case and was found to be innocent in the case by the investigative agencies and hence it is a natural process that is being followed,” he added.

Akhilesh Pratap Singh, spokesman of the state Congress, said, “It would be better that the state government focussed on governance rather than reshuffles of its ministry.”

“This criminal-friendly government should focus on governance and development…,” he added.

Raghuraj has earned his nickname “Raja Bhaiyya” due to his upper-caste Rajput lineage who were landlords in Kunda and who still control vast tracts of agricultural land in the region. He is also know as Raja (king) of Kunda for the power that he has over the land. He is also called “noor-e-nazar” (the light of the eyes) and feared as “Kunda ka gunda” (the don of Kunda).

Crime is not an unknown realm for this Kunda legislator. He was barely 19 years old when he was involved in illegal activities and serious crimes. He had 45 criminal cases against him with the UP Police by the time he became a minister in the state government in March 2012 for the fifth time in 15 years. The CBI was probing two cases related to him.

He got elected as independent legislator at the age of 26 in 1993 with BJP’s support.
Raja Bhiayya never joined a political party. In 1997, he joined Kalyan Singh’s BJP government in the state as cabinet minister. Interestingly, Kalyan had campaigned against him in the 1996 assembly elections. Two successive BJP chief ministers, including the current party president Rajnath Singh, had retained Raja Bhaiyya as their minister.

He was opposed by Mulayam Singh Yadav after his election in 1993 because of his alleged role in masterminding anti-Muslim violence in a village of Kunda during 1991-92. Mulayam had even disrupted proceedings in the UP Assembly for a week demanding police action against the newly elected legislator.

When police attacked Rajput youths protesting the arrests, Mulayam launched a political campaign vowing to free them if he came to power. The same Mulayam promptly released Raja Bhaiya from jail and made him food minister in his government which was there in UP from August 2003 to May 2007.

That tenure resulted in the CBI filing a case over alleged embezzlement of hundreds of crores of rupees in a scheme to supply subsidised food to the poor. Filed in December 2007 after Mulayam’s bitter rival, Mayawati, became the chief minister. That case is still continuing.

Mayawati has been Raja Bhaiyya’s arch enemy since day one. Due to her Dalit orientation she had always had a dislike for him and his activities. She did not make him minister in her 2002 BJP coalition government despite the pressure. As a result, Raja Bhaiya mobilised Rajput MLAs of the BJP who opposed the coalition with Mayawati and spearheaded a dissident movement against her government.

Mayawati launched a war against him. Within two months, Raja Bhaiya’s palatial ancestral home in Kunda was raided by police and his kin along with his father, Udai Pratap Singh, were arrested and booked under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) for allegedly conspiring to kill Mayawati.

Over the next weeks, the police carried out more arrests in a bid to destroy what it said was Raja Bhaiya’s network of terror that, among others, ensured he lorded over public works and irrigation contracts running into crores of rupees.

Interestingly, Mayawati also acquired a huge private lake on Raja Bhaiya’s estate that was home to crocodiles and named it Ambedkar Bird Sanctuary.

The way he has been powerfully using his position is noteworthy. In exchange of his freedom, he has constantly allowed different governments to use him as a weapon to cuddle Thakurs and Rajputs in the state.

Last time when he was prison minister in Akhilesh’s government, his tenure was marked by violence by jail inmates. It will be interesting to see what happens this time.

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