Kunda (Uttar Pradesh), Nov. 26: From the king of Kunda to a criminal languishing in jail, Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya has come a long way.
Five decades after the abolition of zamindari, the former rulers of Kunda, Raja Rudrapratap Singh and his 35-year-old politician son, Raja Bhaiyya, still lived like kings. The royal flag fluttered atop Bhadri Palace, where the father ruled, or Raj Mahal, where the son held court.
But things changed overnight when Raja Bhaiyya — who has been representing the Kunda seat in the Assembly since 1993 — revolted against the Mayavati government after he was denied a berth in her ministry.
Today, Raja Bhaiyya is in prison, facing several criminal charges. Mayavati has also slapped the Gangster Act against him. His father, against whom an arrest warrant was issued, is on the run.
Kunda is virtually under siege. Raja Bhaiyya’s supporters, including two legislators and 50 village pradhans, have been put behind bars.
The tide turned against Raja Bhaiyya when the government suddenly woke up to the fact that the ruling family had been violating law and exercising fishing rights over a lake spanning 100 acres in the Pratapgarh region.
“He is a criminal caught in the due process of law,” claims Mayavati, brandishing a thick file containing Raja Bhaiyya’s criminal history like a weapon.
Raja Bhaiyya defends himself, saying he is “a victim of political vendetta” — a common refrain in Uttar Pradesh where more than 206 of the 402 MLAs have a criminal past.
Raja Bhaiyya’s rise in state politics also tells the story of political opportunism and nexus between lawmakers and outlaws.
His entry into politics during the 1993 Assembly polls — his first election at the age of 24 — was explosive. Raja Bhaiyya won as an Independent candidate, bagging 70 per cent of the votes polled and pushing candidates from the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress to the margin.
Since then, he has never lost an election. In 1996, his men tore down election posters of every other candidate, brazenly pushing policemen around. When a group of Muslim boys in Dilerganj dared to protest, their houses were torched.
Raja Bhaiyya’s goons chopped off the heads of three women attempting to run away from the blaze.
At an election meeting in Kunda the same year, BJP leader Kalyan Singh had promised the people the “end of the goonda of Kunda” if the BJP was voted to power. But he sang a different tune in October 1997 when Mayavati withdrew support and Raja Bhaiyya along with eight other Independents switched sides to save his government.
Raja Bhaiyya was sworn in as a Cabinet minister even though Pratapgarh police had obtained a non-bailable warrant for his arrest in a kidnapping case.
Since then, Raja Bhaiyya could do no wrong. Nothing was heard of the police inquiries into the Dilerganj incident. Another case in which he had allegedly brandished a revolver at policemen and threatened mayhem met the same fate.
The campaign for the 1988 Lok Sabha elections saw Raja Bhaiyya turn his guns against Ratna Singh of the Congress — a scion of the Kalakankar royal family and a relative of the Kunda rulers.
Ratna Singh won, but the setback made Raja Bhaiyya more determined to consolidate his hold on the region. In a throwback to olden days, he held daily durbars in which he played the roles of the government, judge and jury, all rolled in one. “Youth brigades” set up in all villages ensured that the people could defy him only in death.