Fatehpur Sikri, one of the major tourist attractions near Agra, is in the news, though for reasons strictly political. With former Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh deciding to contest the Lok Sabha polls for the first time from here, the show is certain to be high on glamour quotient. Singh, a former Samajwadi Party general secretary, who is contesting the polls on a Rashtriya Lok Dal ticket, speaks to HT about his political journey and the relationship he shared with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Excerpts:
You were with the SP all these years but never contested the Lok Sabha elections. Why now?
I've always been called a 'backroom boy', and this perception was not completely wrong. Everyone treated me the way they liked and deserted me after that. But I am not contesting the elections to prove a point. Winning and losing does not matter to me.
I'm already 58, and if I had a government job, I would have retired in two years. In fact, considering my health, contesting is not even advisable.
Somehow, I've always been tagged as person who is not concerned about local welfare. I have been termed as a 'leader of leaders'. But these elections will change that stereotype.
Your friendship, and then the fallout, with Mulayam Singh Yadav is public knowledge. What went wrong? Is there any possibility of reconciliation?
The election symbol of the SP is a bicycle. The two wheels symbolised Mulayam Singh Yadav and I. What he lacked, I provided – I had the urban connect, while he had a tremendous rural connect.
But when you stay in a relationship for too long, people start taking you for granted. People don't realise your value when you are with them, it is only when you leave that they understand your importance. It was time for evaluation for both of us, and he evaluated things first. Recently, he acknowledged the role I had played but as far as I'm concerned, we have drifted too far apart to reconcile now.
Why did you choose to contest from Fatehpur Sikri?
There were rumours earlier that I was contesting from Gautam Buddha Nagar but I have never demanded any seat. Now that I'm contesting from Fatehpur Sikri, I am giving it my best shot.
Other candidates here have been preparing for the past two years, but I began preparations only after I got the ticket. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, especially contaminated water being supplied to residents. Roads are another major problem.
Uttar Pradesh has a highly charged battle going on with BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, and even Bollywood stars Hema Malini and Jaya Prada contesting from here. What do you think will be the outcome?
After the Muzaffarnagar riots, there is bound to be polarisation of votes, and political parties have cleverly fielded Jat candidates for the division of votes. I think the BJP will get at least 25 to 30 seats.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is contesting the Lok Sabha elections for the first time. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal is also contesting against BJP's Narendra Modi. What do you think of their contest?
Arvind Kejriwal should set up a centre for street theatre, as his party will be very successful there. There is a major difference between Delhi and national politics.
Will you campaign against the SP candidate?
I have already campaigned against Hema Malini, the BJP candidate from Mathura, who is also a dear friend. For me, politics and friendship are two different things. Similarly, the SP has fielded Rani Pakshalika Singh, who is a distant relative of mine from my wife's side. Ironically, I was the one who was responsible for her entry into the SP.
People have accused you of relying heavily on Bollywood stars for campaigning. What's your take on that?
It is not physically possible for me to campaign as my health is not in a good condition. Those who are campaigning for me – including Bollywood stars like Sridevi, Dimple Kapadia, Jaya Prada and Sunil Shetty – are my friends. They are coming here on their own. I also feel stars help dismantle the caste barriers, which are deeply entrenched in UP.