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How a political turncoat became firebrand leader

india Updated: Jul 10, 2011 23:39 IST
Darpan Singh

Having launched a farmer agitation in Bhatta-Parsaul in January this year, Manveer Singh Tevatia emerged, perhaps, the biggest headache for the government in Uttar Pradesh, where assembly elections are due next year, by "substantially" mobilising farming community against the ruling party - BSP.

The UP police proclaimed him the "most wanted man" after the May 7 violence and announced a reward of Rs 50,000 for his arrest. Tevatia has been held responsible for bringing an element of militancy in the way farmer agitations have been organised in western UP in the past.

By the time Congress leader Rahul Gandhi began his padyatra and held a mahapanchayat in Aligarh, Tevatia had almost been forgotten (but for some attention he attracted because of his arrest), but it was the self proclaimed farmer leader "who began the fire by mobilising farmers" and provided the opposition an issue to corner the state government.

Leaders such as Ajit Singh and late Mahendra Singh Tikait never went beyond demonstrations and rallies. "But the 45-year-old from Bulandshahar looked in a hurry," said a senior police officer, who has been transferred from here for failing to control the agitation. Tevatia encouraged farmers - or rather his gang of hoodlums - to kidnap officials, hold them hostage, attack police parties and government vehicles.

Officials termed him a criminal, who led a gang of fellow criminals, at the behest of "political forces" to run a campaign against the state government.

They also said Tevatia wanted to fight an election himself. "Tevatia aspired to lead farmers but he is not like them. He is a graduate. His wife a postgraduate. He owns a factory in Greater Noida. And does not even belong to Gautam Buddh Nagar and Aligrah - two places where he has tried to spearhead farmer agitations.

Tevatia joined the SP in 2004, switched to BSP two years later. He joined Rashtriya Lok Dal in 2009. He shot to limelight during the farmers' protests at Tappal last year. Tevatia emerged as a replacement of farmer leader Ram Babu Kathelia. He was also part of a delegation, which met the PM last year for amendment in the land policy.