The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UP bhaiyyas sound bugle

Chambal (Madhya Pradesh), Nov. 27: There is a bit of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, with at least a dozen bhaiyyas and rajas in the fray with accompanying legends of muscle power as well as of valour.

The Samajwadi Party has given tickets to many bhaiyyas and rajas in the Bundelkhand region. Topping the list is “Bhaiyya Raja” Ashokveer Vikram Singh, the nominee from Pawai in Panna district. The affidavit of the former Congress member acknowledges charges under several sections of the IPC, but the record is more feared than held against him.

In the last elections, Bhaiyya Raja, disillusioned with the Congress, had contested as an Independent. On winning the polls, he rode to the Assembly on an elephant — his poll symbol.

Bhaiyya Raja’s critics recalled the slogan: “Mohar lagao hathi par, nahin to goli khao chhati par. Laash milegi ghati par (Put the stamp on the elephant or get a bullet in the chest. The body will be found in the valley).” His supporters, however, denied that strong-arm tactics had been used.

The loyalists of the sitting MLA are ever willing to regale you with tales of his gallantry. “A girl was being troubled by an eve-teaser. Bhaiyya Raja solved the problem,” said Rameshwar Singh of Tamoli village in Panna. Asked how this was done, Singh feigned ignorance and said the “rogue” was never seen in the village again.

Most of the bhaiyyas and rajas are in the fray in the Bundelkhand and Chambal regions — famous for dacoits — where poverty, bitter caste feuds as well as lack of infrastructure and industry serve as excuses for people to take the law into their hands.

Malkhan Singh, who is contesting from Karera in Shivpuri district, 120 km from Gwalior, had headed a gang of dacoits that gave policemen on either side of the Chambal river sleepless nights 20 years ago. He is now the leader of the Samanta Dal. Malkhan said he has always been a politician, having been the sarpanch of Bilao, his village in Bhind. He claimed that, like Phoolan Devi, revenge had driven him to the wrong side of the law.

In Tikamgarh, Yadvendra Singh, “Jaggu Raja”, is fighting the elections as a Samajwadi candidate. In nearby Jatara, “Baby Raja” Surendra Pratap Singh of the Samajwadi is taking on Saroj Yadav of the Congress and Sunil Nayak of the BJP.

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