From a small- time white-wash contractor to a cabinet minister in Akhilesh Yadav’s government in Uttar Pradesh to his arrest in Lucknow on Wednesday on charges of gang rape, it has been roller coaster ride for Gayatri Prasad Prajapati.
Prajapati, who was cabinet minister for transport in the outgoing SP government, is the prime accused in the gang rape case lodged with Lucknow’s Gautampalli police station on February 18. The case was registered after the Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into the complainant’ s allegations and asked for an action taken report to be submitted within eight weeks. A woman from Chitrakoot had accused Prajapati and six of his aides of gang-raping her and attempting to rape her minor daughter
Considered close to Samajwadi Party (SP) patriarch, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Prajapati, 49, shot to limelight for the first time in 2012 when he defeated Congress’ Amita Singh, wife of senior Congress leader Sanjay Singh from Amethi, the Gandhi family stronghold. He lost the just-concluded assembly election to BJP’s Garima Singh.
Before 2012, Gayatri was just an office bearer of one of the SP’s frontal organisations. He contested election for the first time in 1996 on Bahujan Kranti Dal ticket and lost. He also lost twice more in 2002 and 2007 from Amethi on SP ticket.
Despite his losses, his clout within the party continued to grow. And it became public when after becoming an MLA for the first time in 2012, he hired a PR firm to send personal invitations for a presser at a swanky hotel in Lucknow. This was unheard of in political circles of Lucknow as even ministers would meet the media at the party office at Vikramaditya Marg.
In the years that followed, Prajapati’s influence kept growing, so did the controversies. In December 2016, when Prajapati was re-inducted into the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet for the second time, he set a record of sorts by taking oath for the fourth time in the single term of any government. And all this, despite being a constant source of embarrassment to Akhilesh’s government.
His first oath was as a minister of state for irrigation in February 2013. Five months later he was elevated to cabinet rank and given the mining portfolio. The third oath was in September 2016 when he was re-inducted, this time as a Cabinet minister for Transport after being sacked. The fourth oath was when Akhilesh took him back in his cabinet last December.
“Many factors were in his favour. He is close to netaji (Mulayam), he has money and because of his utility as a most backward classes face. Over the years he also developed closeness to Mulayam’s step-son Prateek Yadav,” said an SP leader.
For the SP, Prajapati was a face of extremely backward communities. Mulayam who was then the party president, entrusted him the task to mobilize members of most backward community (MBC) particularly of the 17 communities that were striving for inclusion among the schedule caste community.
No stranger to controversies, Prajapati was accused of anomalies in mining contracts in July 2015 by Nutan Thakur, a Lucknow-based activist and wife of senior IPS officer Amitabh Thakur. The CBI is now investigating the charges. It was after this controversy, that Mulayam Singh purportedly threatened Amitabh Thakur over phone on July 11, 2015.
“It was the patronage of Mulayam Singh Yadav that helped him survive in the state cabinet. He has obliged many SP leaders and MLAs with mining ‘patta’ (contract),” a leader said.
Among his many brushes with the law, was a notice issued by Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on August 9, 2013 for allegedly grabbing gram sabha land in Lucknow. Almost a year later, a woman Shivdevi Gupta accused Prajapati of grabbing her land in Amethi.
Prajapati graduated from a BPL card holder in 2002 to owning immovable assets worth Rs 10 crore in 2017.
An arts graduate from Ram Manohar Lohia Awadh University, Faizabad, Prajapati declared his profession as a property dealer in his last election affidavit.