A milkman-turned-hooch king-turned-politician-turned-murder convict, Dharam Pal Yadav has always managed to keep his constituency — party bosses looking for easy electoral gains, petty criminals looking for a big break, the rich vulnerable to extortion and the media looking for blood and gore — in a state of constant shock and awe.
His story is all about the importance of being DP Yadav in the badlands of north India — western UP.
Yadav, who almost went underground after his son, Vikas, was convicted for murdering Nitish Katara on February 17, 2002, has again attracted popular attention. But this time, it’s bad news for him. Both father and son are in jail.
Yadav was convicted by a special CBI court on March 10 for shooting down Samajwadi Party MLA Mahendra Singh Bhati, 23 years ago at a railway crossing in Ghaziabad in broad daylight.
His wife Umlesh refused to comment on Yadav’s conviction and the state of his political outfit, the Rashtriya Parivartan Dal. Party leader Shiv Sharan Yadav said a party meeting would be held soon to decide on its course of action.
But the world of crime never allows a vacuum to be left unattended for long, neither does the world of politics. And in Yadav’s case the two worlds met in a classical fusion.
Murder, attempt to murder, extortion, running strong-arm operations, land sharking and all that come with such high-voltage activities are not, however, foreign to Yadav. Neither have they ever embarrassed him or his family. In fact, the image always proved to be good for business.What’s more, his image helped him realise his political aspirations for more than two decades as he kept hopping from one party to another and managed to secure his space among and around the powerful. He was worshipped by his victims — the voters — and political parties for his muscle and money.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, national president of the Bhartiya Samaj Party, who had joined hands with Yadav to bring all small parties of western UP under one umbrella, the Ekta Manch, before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, told HT: “To conceal the Mafiosi image Yadav preferred to wear khadi. Political parties also didn’t hesitate to utilise his services.”
The first jolt for Yadav came in 2012, when a young Samajwadi Party chief and son of Yadav’s one-time mentor Mulayam Singh, publicly snubbed his overtures. But he was desperate for a political identity, especially after the murder of Katara.
In October 2014, in less than two years, he was seen sharing public space with BJP president Amit Shah during the recent Haryana assembly elections.
Yadav’s presence on the dais with senior BJP leaders created quite a flutter in political circles, as he had been thrown out of the BJP once in 2004. But Yadav, as haughty as ever, said: “I have never approached any political party... ever. Instead, leaders of the BJP, SP and BSP have been inviting me to join their parties.”
Yadav’s journey to the centre of power began when he joined the Lok Dal in 1988 and soon became a close confidant of Mulayam Singh Yadav. In the 1989 assembly elections, he won from Bulandshahar and became panchayati raj minister in the Mulayam Singh government.
A police officer posted in western UP during Yadav’s rise to power told HT on condition of anonymity that he topped the list of western UP mafia dons and was noticed by almost all the political parties with 25 criminal cases against him in Ghaziabad, Bulandshahar, Badaun, Moradabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar districts.
But after rising to virtually the number two position in the Mulayam government, Yadav lost the plot. He killed Mahendra Singh Bhati, an MLA from Dadri, whom Mulayam had been reportedly grooming for a national role. Such was Yadav’s confidence that he himself took part in the killing.
Incidentally, Bhati was one of the first political mentors of Yadav.
Mulayam promptly dropped him. But Yadav had no dearth of admirers. Political parties were still dazzled by his prowess. BSP leader Mayawati gave him political shelter in 1995 and allowed him to contest the 1996 Lok Sabha elections from Sambhal. He won again. In 2001, Yadav proved to be a real pro in power play when the Mayawati government fell. He started hobnobbing with the BJP and managed a Rajya Sabha seat in 2004. Later however, then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee got him expelled from the party. By then, he realised that he needed his own outfit to scare away the authorities and floated the RPD in 2007. He contested the assembly elections from Sahaswan in Badaun, while his wife contested from Bisauli. Both won and later merged the RPD with the BSP.
His political life somehow ended with the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when he, as a BSP candidate, lost Badaun to Dharmendra Yadav, nephew of his former mentor, Mulayam Singh.
With a murder revisiting him 23 years later, Yadav didn’t have the last laugh, for sure. But the snigger on his face in the photograph immediately after his conviction says that the story may not have ended at the court premises.