Raja Bhaiya has submitted his resignation and booked for the murder of the deputy superintendent of police Zia ul Haq, adding another chapter to his chequered political career. He had 48 cases registered against him when he was assigned the food and civil supplies portfolio of the UP government last year. His meteoric rise and the fear he inspires in the Pratapgarh region of UP is the stuff of
a Bollywood potboiler.
But who is this man whose political career runs parallel to tales of sordid crimes he is accused of? How has a man who seems to have a brazen disregard for the law and its enforcers - another DSP who was investigating the POTA charges against Raja Bhaiya mysteriously died in a road accident in 2007 a day before he was to appear before the Allahabad High Court - managed to be part of various governments? The answer may lie in the deep Thakur-Dalit divide that is the cornerstone of UP politics.
Raja Bhaiya, or Raghuraj Pratap Singh, has been a dominant force in the politics of Uttar Pradesh's Kunda and has been winning the assembly seat from the constituency since 1993. He belongs to the royal family of Bhadri of Oudh. He is the grandson of Raja Bajrang Bahadur Singh who was the founder vice chancellor of Pant Nagar Agriculture University and also served as the second lieutenant governor of Himachal Pradesh.
Raja Bhaiya is the first in his family to enter politics, while his father - Uday Pratap Singh, the current titular head of the royal family - is rumoured to be more of a recluse. Uday is the adopted son of Raja Bajrang Bahadur Singh.
Raja Bhaiya received his schooling in Allahabad. He went on to graduate in law from Lucknow University in 1987 and entered politics. He went on to win the Kunda assembly seat for the first time in 1993 as an independent candidate.
His birth date is a matter of controversy. Though he stated his age as 26 in 1993, in his mandatory nomination affidavit filed in January 2012, he said he is 38 years old. This would mean he was about 20 years old when he contested elections for the first time (with the minimum age being 25).
Raja Bhaiya not only maintains a stranglehold over Kunda but is reportedly very influential in five other constituencies in the Pratapgarh region, where the rule of law is second to the mafia. Such is his grip over the region that he has reportedly fielded candidates whose names are often not even mentioned in the speeches he makes while campaigning in those constituencies. They are just shadows and no one is in any doubt about who the real contestant is.
In the 1999 general elections, this became amply clear when he fielded his cousin Akshay Pratap Singh against incumbent Ratna Singh, a Congress candidate. Widespread strong-arm tactics are alleged to have been used to ensure Akshay's victory.
Raja Bhaiya's criminal intimidation tactics were reportedly well-known even before an FIR was filed in 2002 against him by BJP MLA Puran Singh Bundela, accusing him of kidnapping.
The Mayawati government was in power. The FIR resulted in his arrest on November 2, 2002. The case became murkier when he was declared a terrorist and sent to jail along with his father and cousin Akshay Pratap under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). Although Akshay managed to get bail, Raja Bhaiya's bail pleas were rejected many times.
When Samajwadi Party came back to power in 2003 it dropped all POTA charges against him. However, the Supreme Court halted his release. Raids at his residence in 2003 allegedly revealed a large cache of weapons and explosives. A year later, POTA was itself repealed but the courts again refused to release Raja Bhaiya. By and by though, the legal stranglehold was reportedly loosened by the Mulayam Singh Yadav-government and by 2005, Raja Bhaiya was sworn in as the food and civil supplies minister. He was given Z-class security, the highest level of protection in the country, even though the threat to his life was unspecified.
It was during this time (2003-2007) that large-scale embezzlement was allegedly carried out in the public distribution system (PDS) with records of siphoned-off food grains and kerosene being reportedly countersigned by Raja Bhaiya's wife. This came to the fore in 2011 when a copy of the diary of records was revealed to the CBI by Raja Bhaiya's aide Rajiv Yadav.
The stories surrounding Raja Bhaiya that inspire fear include bizarre tales of a pond where he keeps crocodiles. Anyone who questions his feudal regime becomes food for the beasts. The stories may have some grounding - in the 2003 raid at his residence, a human skeleton was allegedly recovered from a pond.
The story is far from over and the man is sure to rise again - soon after the memory of his current exploit fades from collective memory.