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Shehla Masood case: Meet Dhruv Singh, Sugar daddy of Bhopal

Nothing is simple in life, or in Indian politics. There's the usual electoral intrigue, powermongering, and demagoguery et al, but also sensational crimes that make masala flicks look tame. We're barely three months into the new year and we already have Bhanwari Devi's killing and now the Shehla Masood investigation.

The headlines have been rife with speculation about a romantic triangle gone awry. What seemed like a politically motivated killing of an RTI activist is turning out to be an age-old case of sexual jealousy — with a sitting BJP MLA caught in its midst. According to the latest reports, Dhruv Narayan Singh was having an affair with the accused interior designer, Zahida Parvez, even as he was getting "close" to Masood:

The agency had recovered a personal diary of Parvez in which the investigators claimed to have found several entries showing her [Parvez's] obsession with the legislator. The sources said Parvez, who was an architect-cum-interior designer, allegedly came into contact with the MLA in 2007 and developed an intimate relationship with him. CBI sources said that Parvez and Masood knew each other and it was the former who had introduced the activist with the MLA.

Parvez kept a close eye on the 'friendship' between Masood and the politician and allegedly went to the extent of trailing him along with her friend Saba Farooqui, who has also been arrested. During the questioning of accused — Farooqui, Saquib and Parvez — sleuths found that Parvez was so obsessed with the MLA that she had kept one office staff just for monitoring his movements and analysing call details through his bills, the sources said.

Dhruv Narayan Singh

Image courtesy Dhruv Narayan Singh's website.

It all sounds like a bad Bollywood remake of Fatal Attraction minus the dead rabbit and the wronged wife. Our political spouses are docile, mute and expediently invisible. It's the mistresses who get uppity.

So who is this ladies man who so enthralled Parvez?

Singh's website describes him as "a twinkling, young & energetic rising star," never mind the badly dyed hair or the birth date: January 1, 1959. In keeping with tradition, Dhruvji is also a political scion hoping to inherit his father's gaddi. According to The Indian Express, "Coming from a politically powerful and landed family, a former Ranji cricketer and the son of former state chief minister Govind Narayan Singh, Dhruv Narayan represents Bhopal (Central) constituency that has a sizeable population of Muslims and is in-charge of the BJP’s Minority Cell."

Singh clearly had a unique interpretation of his 'minority outreach' responsibilities.

In his home state of Madhya Pradesh, he was best known for his swagger and swag — which Singh liberally distributed among his female acquaintances. “Given his money and clout, women like Shehla and Zahida got easily attracted to him because he also gave them contracts,” a party insider tells the Express.

As chief of the MP tourism board, he brought on Parvez as an empaneled architect despite her lack of qualifications. His position as chairman of the Bhopal Development Authority also yielded a lucrative bounty for Parvez. Singh was no less generous with Masood. According to the Express, her event management company, Miracle, threw a lavish party at a tourism department hotel in Bhopal without paying the Rs 60,000 tab.

Interior designer Zahida Pervez, arrested in connection with the murder of RTI activist Shehla Masood. PTI

For all his modern predilections — he has both a Facebook and Twitter account — Singh has been undone by a time-honoured vice: mixing pleasure with business. The local BJP party workers are already pulling down his posters in a symbolic act that spells ill for his political future. A senior party leader says, "Since the CBI is investigating the case, we cannot take action immediately as that would reflect poorly on us. Any action now would seem like the party is acting on the impulse. But Singh will find it tough to get a ticket for the 2013 elections."

When Masood was killed last year, many hoped her death would evoke national outrage at the continuing attacks on RTI activists across the nation. That it's been reduced to a sordid sexual drama is a double tragedy. All we're left with is the voyeurism of scandal.

On Singh's Facebook photo album, Parvez comments: "sir, photgrphs r as gud as u r." More eerie is Parvez's own FB update, posted in early Feb: "Jaante Hain sab Phir Bhi Anjaan Bante Hain...... Issi tarah Wo Humme Pareshan Karte Hain.... Puchte Hain Hamse Ki Aap Ko Kya Pasand Hai... Khud Jawab Hoker... Sawal Karte Hain..."

Innocuous words that acquire unexpected meaning in retrospect, hinting at the web of sexual intrigue, conspiracy and lawlessness that lurks underneath. Anything is possible, and nothing is what it seems — in life and in politics.