Banshidhar Bauddh, Uttar Pradesh’s minister of state for social welfare, first came into limelight as the least wealthy among the state’s 403 elected MLAs and 80 MPs.
Now, the leader of the ruling Samajwadi Party is in the news again after his mud-and-thatch house in Bahraich village collapsed due to rain on Tuesday.
Bahraich is nearly 130km northeast of Lucknow and his village is over 100km from the district headquarters.
“Fortunately, we were not in the house when it caved in. One of my sons lived in it with his family but they too were out in the morning. We have another mud house in the vicinity. Now, all of us – my wife, five sons, three daughters-in-law and their children are living in it,” said Bauddh.
For now, rebuilding his hut is out of the question. “The monsoon is on now. I will wait till the rains are over to rebuild it,” he told HT. Unlike most politicians in the state, he owns no real estate.
A resident of Tedia village in Katarniya Ghat forest area of Bahraich, 58-year-old Bauddh has been a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) since 2014 when he won the by-election from Balah assembly constituency (reserved) for the first time.
UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav inducted Bauddh into his cabinet in October 2015 but Bauddh’s assets did not change much -- except that he now gets about Rs 75,000 per month as salary.
Despite a higher income now, he remains humble and down to earth. He scoffs at the suggestion that he could have bought a car. “Why? I now have an official car which is better than my motorcycle.”
At a time when even corporators and local politicians usually have fat bank balances and flaunt SUVs as status symbols, Bauddh continues to be different. He continues to live in a thatched hut in his obscure village. Before he became an MLA, he was not even eligible to pay income tax.
When he contested the by-poll, his election affidavit stated that he did not own any jewellery and his cash and bank savings amounted to Rs 58,000. He did not even have a PAN card. His wife had just Rs 4,750 cash and silver jewellery worth Rs 63,000. To top it all, he had an agriculture loan of Rs 1.25 lakh to pay off.
“The loan has been paid off,” he told HT on Sunday.
Bauddh is literate but he has never attended a school or college. “My area is extremely backward. More than 45 kilometre of the area is a forest and there is not a single college in a 50-km radius. In my constituency, I have prepared a list of 70 houses that have collapsed in this rainy season. I will return to Lucknow after Independence Day and hand over the list to the chief minister and ask him to do something about it,” he said.
When the assembly is not in session and he is not engaged in departmental work in Lucknow, Bauddh stays in the village with his family. He married off his two daughters in June last year in a simple ceremony in the village that was also attended by the chief minister.
Prior to becoming an MLA, he had worked as a guard and also ran a roadside kiosk to mend bicycle punctures. Now, he cultivates his six-acre land with his sons.
In the 2014 by-polls, Bauddh had secured 52% votes against 39% of his nearest rival Akshibar Lal of the BJP. He joined the Samajwadi Party shortly before the by-polls in what was his first assembly election. Earlier, he contested panchayat elections twice supported by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The SP is likely to give him the ticket to contest the seat in 2017 UP assembly election.