Once you cross Rae Bareli and move towards Allahabad, one can’t help but notice the huge posters of Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias “Raja Bhaiya”. He braves the dust and heat of the summer as he addresses small gatherings in villages across the Kunda and Babaganj assembly segments of the Kaushambi Lok Sabha seat. In an election where BJP seems to be on the upswing, Raja Bhaiya’s presence in the region could well mean an advantage for the Samajwadi Party.
He is often called “Robin Hood” thanks to his love for guns, horses and gaining notoriety after being sent to jail under POTA. Yet he remains a popular figure, creating a record by winning five consecutive times (1993, 1996, 2002, 2007, 2012) from the Kunda assembly seat in the Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh. He has always won as an independent candidate and is now Food and Civil Supplies Minister in the current Samajwadi Party government.
Excerpts of an interview with him
Q: What is the main issue in these elections in Kaushambi?
A: It’s about who can deliver. People know what’s good for them. They’re voting for Raja Bhaiya here. BSP has senior leaders like Indrajeet Saroj and Swami Prasad Maurya from the region, yet they did nothing for the people. So Samajwadi Party is the only option.Q: What are the issues that will affect these general elections at the national level?
A: Price rise is a big issue. Food inflation has gone up so much that people are fed up of UPA. We need better leadership at the Centre, Manmohan Singh has not been able to deliver. I fail to understand why an economist PM and an economist FM have not been able to pull our economy from the red. Most decisions of UPA are pro-corporate and anti-farmer.
Q: What do you see the general elections results in UP being, especially the resurgence of BJP?
A: I cannot make any forecast, but I think Samajwadi Party will do well. BJP may have created hype that they are winning, but the ground report could well be different, especially after Netaji (Mulayam) decided to contest from Azamgarh. I have been given the task of Kaushambi by Netaji and I can assure him that we will win here.
Q: We are seeing the emergence of a new political outfit, Aam Admi Party. What do you make of them?
A: That’s the beauty of Indian democracy. Personally, I think Arvind Kejriwal is contesting the Varanasi election only to gain publicity. They have to be more serious in their approach towards serving the people.
Q: You are a minister in the SP government, what are the achievements of in the past two years?
A: Our government led by Akhilesh Yadav has delivered on many fronts. Water for irrigation and availability of fertilizers for our farmers, while electricity for the area are the few highlights of the SP government. As soon as the clock strikes 6pm, all bulbs, fans and TV’s come on in the area. It is much needed during the peak summer season.
Q: There is a perception that law and order deteriorates whenever the SP comes to power?
A: It’s a misconception, there is nothing like it. Law and order is as good as it can be under any able government. Any journalist can come and visit this region and find out for himself.
Q: Where all have you campaigned during these general elections?
A: I have been to Fatehpur Sikri, Bulandshahar and Rampur. I campaigned more during the 2012 assembly elections, but this time Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) has entrusted the responsibility of the Kaushambi seat to me.
Q: You campaigned in Rampur, Azam Khan’s stronghold. Wasn’t he the one gunning for you in the DSP murder case?
A: Yes, I campaigned for Azam Khan. Not just this time, but also during the assembly elections as he invited me. I share a good rapport with him, unlike what the media thinks. As far as the case is concerned, the DSP’s family, Nanhe Yadav’s family and I, all asked for a CBI probe. The incident happened in front of 250-300 people so there was nothing to hide. It’s good the CBI took on the case and I was given a clean chit. If it was an inquiry done by the state government, people would blame me for managing the report. The truth has prevailed.
Q: What was it like during this period? You were asked to resign from the state cabinet when your name came up in the DSP murder case?
A: Let me put the record straight, I was not asked to resign. I resigned on my own as I didn’t want to create an embarrassing situation for Netaji, Akhileshji and the government. It was in everyone’s best interest that I step down till my name was cleared. I met the CM and tendered my resignation much before the media started saying I was being asked to resign.
Q: You were also Jail Minister for a few months. People would often poke fun at that as you spent a lot of time in jail under POTA charges in 2002?
A: Everyone knows that these charges were politically motivated against me. I have been acquitted by the courts, who came to the conclusion that these charges were “baseless”. But I had to spend 28 months in jail, 11 of which were spent in solitary confinement in Kanpur. I had a tin roof through the whole summer and wasn’t even allowed to read the newspapers. I saw my twin sons after 11 months when Netaji came to power.
Q: You were sent to jail again during BSP rule of 2007-12. What’s with you and jails?
A: Do you know under what charges we were sent to jail? One MP (Shailendra Kumar), 2 MLA’s (Raja Bhaiya, Vindo Saroj), 1 MLC (Akshay Pratap Singh), 4 block pramukhs and 20 BDC members were accused of stealing 250 bricks and Rs 2000 and sent to jail. Courts are just, and I have been given a clean chit on most cases. Only two remain pending, they too will go with time. Jail has helped me become a stronger person, it prepares you for any eventuality. I read the Bhagvad Gita and Ram Charit Manas during those trying times.
Q: What about your family. How did they deal with the situation?
A: I come from a family of freedom fighters. My grandfather was the Founder VC of Pant Agricultural University and also the first Governor of Himachal Pradesh. He founded the Hind Flying Club (now Amausi) and also formed the Dog Squad for Indian Police. I have an extended family, the whole of Kunda, Pratapgarh region is my family. They have stood by me during my worst days and have been my inner strength.
Q: The SP government has been under fire in the recent past over many issues. What do you think are the reasons for the government not being able to deliver on its promises?
A: That is your perception and I don’t share it. The government under Akhilesh Yadav is doing a great job. Akhileshji is concerned about all sections of society unlike the previous one which only focused on a particular section. Laptops for students, an allowance for unemployed youth and providing facilities to farmers are some achievements. One of our biggest accomplishments has been the doing away with reservation in promotion. But we are not able to convey the message to the people in the way it should be done.
Q: Finally, why does Mayawati have a problem with you? Like other politicians who jump ship, will you ever join the BSP?
A: You will have to ask her not me. I have never made any personal attack on her, yet the BSP government sent me and my aging father to jail under false charges. My differences with BSP are ideological, so you can safely say that there can never be any possibility of me on the same side as BSP.
Updated Date: May 03, 2014 17:28:45 IST