A few years ago, a senior Congress leader had confided: “Once I casually told him about having to visit London for medical treatment. By evening, he had the air tickets delivered at our home. I am indebted forever.”
The allusion was to Thakur Amar Singh, whose relationship with the Congress wasn’t always the best, but whose list of friends stretched across the political spectrum.
It was this capacity to cultivate friendships that propelled Singh through the national stage.
Not many friends were around as Singh walked into Tihar jail today. The reason, perhaps, was that Singh was privy to too much sensitive personal information. “Many skeletons would tumble out now,” was the refrain in political circles.Born in 1956 in Aligarh, Singh began his political career in Kolkata as a secretary of Burrabazar district Congress committee. What brought him to Uttar Pradesh was his association with the late chief minister Vir Bahadur Singh in the mid-1980s.
But his fortunes rose only after he joined Mulayam Singh Yadav’s fledgling Samajwadi Party in 1996 – the year after, he became a Rajya Sabha member.
As Mulayam’s interest grew in national politics, so did his dependence on Singh, who alone could break bread with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, call on Pranab Mukherjee and publicly hug Digvijay Singh.
But Singh was still seen more as a ‘wheeler-dealer’, which he resented. “Media will continue to project me as a power broker though I am the national general secretary of SP,” he once said.
Miffed by Singh’s growing stature, Mulayam’s old friends Beni Prasad Verma, Azam Khan and Raj Babbar deserted him. But Singh remained Mulayam’s Man Friday, king-maker and master strategist, till differences grew between them in the run up to the 2009
Lok Sabha polls. Things boiled over after the defeat of Mulayam’s daughter-in-law Dimple in the Firozabad bypoll.
In January 2010, Singh resigned from the SP. His resignation was not accepted, but the very next month, he was unceremoniously expelled. By then, he was involved in too many controversies – the CD and the land scam among others.
Singh himself had once said, “ I had decided to quit politics while in Singapore for treatment. If something happens to me, the most the party would do is to hold a condolence meeting. But it is my family who will suffer.”
But he couldn’t quit. Soon he was back on the road, declaring: “I am preparing for 2012 polls.”