Former labour minister Badshah Singh, 51, is a rather unusual three-time MLA who doesn't shave and soap. He is also an 'earth-rubber' (he actually uses earth to clean himself) who first went to jail when he was just out of school.
Sacked by UP chief minister Mayawati after being accused of land-grabbing in his native Kharela village of Mahoba (he was subsequently indicted by the lokayukta), Badshah lives away from his family (wife and two sons).
He calls a Muslim orphan his “most beloved child” who lives with twin identities -- Nawaz Sharif (his real name) and Chandan Singh (what Badshah usually calls him).
Paradoxically enough, Badshah too has two names — Ramendra (his real name) and Badshah (his political name) for which another complaint was lodged against him with the lokayukta.
THE EARLY YEARS
Known as the 'Badshah of Bundelkhand' by his followers, he says his life changed after his father's murder when he was just 15.
“Losing a loving father early in life is shattering. I lost track for a while, picked up bad habits and wandered aimlessly in crematoriums. I survived and that made me believe I was destined to win,” he says. From those vagabond days to this day when there is a colony named after him, change has come rapidly in his life. But the only constant is his fetish for the unthinkable. “I give up one thing every year,” he says in his palatial abode in Kharela village which contrasts with the rather pitiable condition of the locality.
Talk to him about the contrasting lifestyles and he says, “yes, that is why politicians are losing credibility. I do whatever I can. Probably, it's because of my urge to get justice for the people that I am often in the news for the wrong reasons. But, I know whatever means I adopt are to ensure justice for the poor.”
Merely a Class 12 pass-out, he has written a disarmingly candid memoir of his life and times. He freely talks of threatening cops and also exposes the games politicians play. That’s probably why he says he doesn't enjoy visiting Delhi or Lucknow. “I fall sick when I visit Delhi as the city is full of artificial politicians.” He doesn't relish talking to the media and doesn't know how to operate a TV or drive. But he can fire a shot without batting an eyelid.
“I used to fire without taking shelter. A bullet that has your name written on it would get you anyway,” he says, adding, “the world bows to the powerful.”
From the moment the long, winding road that leads from Rath to Kharela opens into Badshah's terrain, change becomes evident. Wide reflector-studded roads with street lights aglow are the first visible indicators of 'development' in the area.
Within five kilometres of his residence, there is a degree college and an inter college, a mini-stadium and an upcoming 100-bed hospital, a gym and a samadhi of his parents, all built by him. “That's nothing. I would take you to the adjoining Madhya Pradesh where I grow rare herbs and where there are artificial waterfalls in my lush green farm,” he says.
NOT TAKING THINGS LIGHTLY
He fought four elections on the BJP ticket (winning two) before shifting to the BSP in 2007 and triumphing by 25,000 votes. The wheel came a full circle as he returned to his “parent party” earlier this month. He is now awaiting a BJP ticket from Mahoba (after his traditional Maudaha seat was scrapped post-delimitation).
“I don't take anyone lightly. Don't worry,” he tells someone on the phone.
Is he confident of a win again? His supporters laugh at the query even as Badshah says, “I hope so.” His aides add for effect: “He is the master here and each one of us is ready to die for him.”
Among those challenging his political supremacy in the region is his nephew Raju Singh contesting the election on Amar Singh's Lok Manch ticket.
Jai Karan, 69, a former RSS pracharak who initiated Badshah into politics after getting him inducted into the BJP in 1989, says he had noticed the spark in him very early.
“I knew he would do well and he hasn't disappointed. Today, his writ runs large in the entire bawani (a cluster of 52 villages),” he says.
Brij Gopal Singh, a games teacher at Babu Rameshwar Singh Degree College, says, “Badshah never cares for his security. He believes in destiny. There have been strange incidents when he has survived the jaws of death.”
Despite his riches, Badshah keeps it simple at least in front of the camera. He takes lunch on the ground after paying obeisance to his parents. Soon, he is lost among his 'subjects' who look up to him with awe and fear.