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Decoding Raja Bhaiya’s dizzying political journey

Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, the 47-year-old controversial minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, is in the news again over reported attempts to join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the assembly polls in the state next year.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2016 16:00 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal
Raja Bhaiya’s romance with the Samajwadi Party now seems headed for the rocks.
Raja Bhaiya’s romance with the Samajwadi Party now seems headed for the rocks.(File Photo)

Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, the 47-year-old controversial minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, is in the news again over reported attempts to join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the assembly polls in the state next year.

The politician, who is serving his fifth term as an MLA from Kunda in Pratapgarh, is no stranger to controversy. Convicted under the provisions of the stringent Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) over a kidnapping complaint, he went to jail in 1997. But just when people were beginning to write him off, Raja Bhaiya – who won his first MLA election at the age of 25 – became a minister again, within the short span of a year.

He has always been an independent MLA, winning the Kundla elections in 1993, 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2012.

The minister hails from the royal Bhadri estate, and his father – Uday Pratap Singh ‘Bhadri’ – is an alumnus of Doon School. His first brush with governance came about when rebels from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) helped form a BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh under Kalyan Singh in 1997. Even as chief ministers kept changing over the years – Singh left to make way for Ramprakash Gupta (1999-2000), who was then followed by Rajnath Singh (2000-2002) – he held on to his ministerial post.

However, Mayawati’s ascent to the helm of the Uttar Pradesh government in 2002 changed Raja Bhaiya’s fortunes for the worse. He was sent to jail, following which the government imposed POTA charges against him. The same year, Mayawati acquired the Benti pond at Kundla – in which Raja Bhaiya allegedly reared crocodiles – to be developed into a bird sanctuary.

Luckily, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav took over as chief minister a year later, dropping all charges against Raja Bhaiya and making him a minister again.

He was made a part of the Uttar Pradesh government again in 2012, when the Akhilesh Yadav government came to power. He resigned a year later, when his name figured in the murder of deputy superintendent of police Zia Ul Haq, only to make a comeback when the CBI eventually gave him a clean chit in the case.

However, Raja Bhaiya’s romance with the Samajwadi Party now seems headed for the rocks. With Akhilesh Yadav clipping his wings in a reshuffle last November, shifting the Kunda MLA from the meaty food and civil supplies ministry to the low-profile stamp and registration, court fee and civil defence department, he is now looking out for greener (or, more accurately, more saffron) pastures.

A controversial career

A politician with allegedly criminal antecedents, Raja Bhaiya was elected as an independent candidate from Kunda assembly segment, Pratapgarh district, in the 1993 assembly elections. He went on to win the seat on many occasions after this. He defeated the BSP candidate in Kunda in the 2007 assembly elections, even as the elephant stomped its way to victory in the final tally.

In 2002, the then chief minister Mayawati slapped POTA charges on Raja Bhaiya, his father Udai Pratap Singh and cousin Akshay Pratap Singh on an FIR alleging kidnapping and death threats. The trio was put in jail. When Mulayam Singh Yadav came to power in 2003, he released Raja Bhaiya and made him his food and civil supply minister two years later.

On December 19, 2010, Raja Bhaiya was arrested on charges of kidnapping and rioting by the Pratapgarh district police. The court later released him on bail. He was appointed cabinet minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government in 2012.

In March 2013, following the murder of deputy superintendent of police Zia-ul Haq in Pratapgarh, an FIR was filed against him under Section 120-B of the IPC (criminal conspiracy). He was given a clean chit by the CBI.

According to a senior police officer, around 35 cases were registered against Raja Bhaiya during his long political career under various sections of the IPC in police stations across Pratapgarh district. However, police investigations have given him a clean chit in a majority of the cases.

In an affidavit submitted to the Election Commission in the 2012 assembly elections, Raja Bhaiya stated that he was facing eight criminal cases, including dacoity, kidnapping, criminal intimidation, attempted murder, rioting, cheating, rash driving and tampering with evidence. Judicial proceedings in these cases were still being taken up by courts.

(With inputs from Rajesh Kumar Singh)