'Queens' & knight in Amethi battle

The Amethi chessboard boasts one king, one knight and two queens.

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 12.02.17
Amita (left) and Garima

Lucknow, Feb. 11: The Amethi chessboard boasts one king, one knight and two queens.

The Assembly seat in Rahul Gandhi's Lok Sabha constituency had been earmarked for the Samajwadi Party but a Congress candidate is also in the fray.

Amita Singh, the wife of Rajya Sabha MP and "Maharaj" Sanjay Singh, is the Congress candidate in Amethi, one of the five Assembly seats in the eponymous parliamentary constituency and 140km southeast of Lucknow.

The BJP nominee is Garima Singh, who says she is still married to Sanjay and has contested his claim that they had divorced.

Making the contest all the more keen is the presence of Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, transport minister in the Akhilesh Yadav regime, in the fray.

Sanjay, a Congress leader, is the 30th "incumbent prince" of the Kachwaha dynasty. Rananjay Singh, the last king of Amethi, had adopted him.

Although all the princely states were integrated with India through Privy Purse in 1947 and the privileges to the royal families ceased to exist in 1971, many still address Sanjay as "Maharaj".

Dislodged from the palace by Sanjay in 1989, Garima had entered Bhupati Bhavan, another palace in Amethi, along with her son Anant Vikram Singh, daughter-in-law Shambhavi and two daughters Mahima and Shaivya, in July 2014.

The "Maharaj", now 65, tried his best but could not remove them from there. A large number of people had gathered there then and declared Garima was the "real queen".

Swami Dineshanandji, the respected head of the Parmahans Ashram in Amethi, also stood by Garima. Sources said that was the day the BJP realised that it might be a good idea to field either Garima or her son in the Assembly elections.

Amita's first husband, badminton player Syed Modi, was killed in Lucknow in 1988. The CBI chargesheeted Sanjay and Amita in the murder case but their names were dropped later for want of evidence. Sanjay married the widow of the badminton star in 1995.

Sanjay claims he had divorced Garima before marrying Amita. But Garima has been alleging that the divorce-documents were forged.

The affidavits submitted with the Election Commission by both Garima and Amita mention Sanjay as their husband.

Garima is now telling voters that the she is here "for the restoration of my and my children's pride".

But Sanjay tells the people of Amethi: "Amita is the real queen."

Amita is also flagging her experience. "I have worked here for the people and want to do more for them," says Amita who was elected from there in 2002 on a BJP ticket and in 2007 as a Congress candidate. She lost to Prajapati in 2012.

"It is a traditional seat of the Congress and I am here as the representative of Nehru-Gandhi family," says Amita.

Campaigning door to door, Prajapati projects himself as the "real candidate of the SP-Congress alliance".

Sources in both the parties said although the seat had gone to the Samajwadi Party and the Congress had decided to support Prajapati, Sanjay insisted on fielding Amita from there.

Amethi votes on February 27