Six chief ministers from three major political parties ruled Uttar Pradesh since 1995 but scam-tainted Noida chief engineer Yadav Singh displayed a rare ability to survive and thrive, being the chosen man of whoever was at the helm.
Sources say Singh suited every regime as he was a handy conduit granting favours to the political blue-eyed boys, real estate giants and liquor barons, one of whom was shot dead in South Delhi some years ago.
Incidentally, this was also the time when Noida, one of the richest civic bodies in the country today, started turning into a goldmine as business tycoons with strong political connections vied for its fertile land.
The stakes could be gauged from the fact that the three prime authorities — Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway — approved a development budget of Rs 20,000 crore for financial year 2014-15.
Singh took control of all the three authorities in November 2014, nine months after his appointment as engineer-in-chief of Noida in February 2014, as the Akhilesh Yadav government cleared his name in corruption cases to the tune of Rs 954 crore.
Ironically, in a state where a change of chief minister triggers a large-scale administrative reshuffle, both Singh and the blue-eyed boys stayed put.
The Gautam Budh Nagar district administration started a separate probe this week to find out whether Singh played any role in sanctioning building layout maps for group housing built on village land from 2007 to 2011.
There are allegations Singh got maps of a few residential projects and a hotel approved by the Gautam Budh Nagar district panchayat, causing a loss of Rs 3.5 crore to the state exchequer. It was in 1995 that Singh’s fortunes turned for the better. There was a caste angle too.
Right after the Bahujan Samaj Party assumed power, dumping the coalition partner (the Samajwadi Party), Singh was appointed project engineer the same year.
A majority of senior engineers and officials, who worked in Noida in the 1980s, belonged to the upper castes. Many of his bosses used to yell at Singh, calling him by his caste name. They would insult him publicly every now and then because his name was Yadav and he was a Dalit.
“But he returned the insult with a smile,” says a former colleague. Besides, he never gave his bosses a chance to get angry over work assigned to him. “Being a workaholic and having the ability to stay cool kept him ahead of his rivals,” recalls the former colleague.
Singh’s meteoric growth started from 2002 and he ruled the roost in every dispensation thereafter. “Yadav Singh was extremely close to Mayawati’s family, particularly her brother Anand. Even IAS officers, who were appointed Noida chairman and chief executive officer would take directions from him. Such was his clout that he would get an IAS officer transferred if the officer did not listen to him,” says a UP government official.
The BJP says Singh’s is a fit case to show how successive governments patronise powerful interests. “It’s no less than the over Rs 5,000 crore National Rural Health Mission scam during the Mayawati government. Once the CBI cracks the case, the political and bureaucratic nexus will be out in the open,” says Laxmikant Bajpai, state president of the BJP.
Interestingly, three BJP chief ministers — Ram Prakash Gupta, Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh — were also at the helm of affairs when the Yadav saga was on a roll. They, too, either turned a blind eye or allowed him to flourish for reasons best known to them.
Singh was appointed junior engineer in the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority on a basic salary of Rs 350 per month in 1980. He did not even have an engineering degree when promoted to an engineer’s post in April 1995 on the condition that he must obtain it within three years. He obtained the degree in 1997 from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, if one goes by a provisional ‘BE-Electrical IV’ certificate that Singh submitted.
Soon after Akhilesh came to power in 2012, RP Singh, a Noida engineer colleague of Yadav Singh, filed an FIR against him under various IPC sections and the Prevention of Corruption Act. As the case went to court, the government quickly suspended Yadav Singh and instituted an investigation against him. The state’s investigation body was prompt in exonerating Singh saying “no financial loss to the exchequer was found”.