In nine hours, forty thousand people, three MLA constituencies and one man, Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiya. And this was a typical campaign day for Raja Bhaiya. How does he do it? A man of few words and more determined action, Raja Bhaiya, has a secret, which I set out to discover on 12 February on the campaign trail with him. Travelling across three constituencies as a part of his caravan, meeting thousands of people, interviewing them, seeing their admiration for Raja Bhaiya.
I was buzzing with questions. How could a man win with the highest margin of votes straight for 25 years? Each year in a constituency, with about 65% OBC/SC/Muslim voters, for the past 25 years, the people have voted for him with record breaking margins. How could he be so loved by not just people of his constituency, but those around it too? Was it fear or did his people actually respect and love him? What was his secret? Maybe I was soon to find out.
It was a warm 12th of February, and the bikers had already began to gather outside the Beeti house gates of Raghuraj P Singh. As our car pulled into black iron gates one could glimpse past, young men wearing Raja Bhaiya T-shirt, patching up their bikes with his election symbol for this year, “the saw”.
Far from any fear or tension, there was a calmness and discipline in the air. I was greeted by a courteous Raja Bhaiya in his portico; where a group of advisers were planning his day. Unexpectedly, the mood was jovial and relaxed.
But temperatures were rising, not just on the thermometer. Sitting with him in the portico, we heard the war cry, from outside the gates, “Raja Bhaiya! Raja Bhaiya!” and I knew it was time for us to begin the campaigning.
As the caravan of cars proceeded at different junctions, hundreds of people awaited him. Hordes of bikers and even horsemen waited to lead the processions into their villages. The white Land Cruiser was delayed at almost all places not because of bad roads, but people wanting to greet him, touch him and take his blessings. By the way, in each place we went to, even in the interiors, all roads were metalled if not cemented, there was electricity in every village.
In each village, you saw his election symbol, hanging between trees, and youngsters along with children carrying cut away saws, cheering his caravan on. Every meeting he addressed was filled up by as many women if not more at places. From the stage, you did see a vibrant wave of colour.
Having reported on national and state elections, I had yet never seen such a huge turnout of women. He did six public meetings and as I sniffed my way inside these meetings, not once did I get a whiff of alcohol or drugs. This is very queer for UP.
In the midst of loud sloganeering, charged volunteers and political speeches, I managed to find a quiet corner with Anil Srivastav, a resident of Beeti. He was to reveal a few reasons why Raja Bhaiya is so loved. “Raja Bhaiya has got about 900 daughters of this area married and, along with that help, over 17,000 people with surgery and other medical aid since 1993,” Srivastav said. “But that is not all, he personally does Kanyadan of the brides, and for Muslims girls, we follow Islamic rites. While he does all this, other members of the erstwhile royal family, and village elders as a community, gift over 90 items to the bride and groom,” he added.
There are endless stories to write about, they start from helping someone’s daughter with the hospital, to solving various property disputes, family disputes and even helping daughters in law of the area, settle domestic problems with the help of panchayats. His has craved out a niche identity for Kunda and her people.
“We get the same hours of electricity as Safai, Etwah,” said Ram K Misra, a resident of the Kunda. “Raja Bhaiya has ensured that his people are cared for, we vote for him, because he is our family. If there is any problem we have, political, social or economic, he stands with us,” he added.
“25 years is a long time to known the truth about any person, if he was involved in the any nefarious activities, they would have been far exposed,” says Malti Devi, resident of Mahua near Beeti. In the present day, as per sources, Raja Bhaiya has over 40 MLAs on his side. They, along with hundreds of BDC, Pradhans, local body representatives form a robust family with one aim: Effective and quick governance. Their systems are rooted in tradition, but have shed the vestigial and adopted modern ways and rules of the Indian state.
“At each panchayat, there are all the representatives of the area from the Pradhan to the MLAs along with five village elders. There is thorough cross checking of facts and then the people themselves know which is the correct path. Raja Bhaiya presides over this and ensures the people’s decision is implemented,” Vinod Misra, a resident of Kunda said. Vinod has been part of many of these panchayats and further says, “The beauty of this style of governance is that there is no running to the courts, lawyers, police etc separately. All of them come together at one place and the dispute is resolved. This is cheap and just governance.”
But I wanted to know the secret from the man himself. “I am directly connected with my people, because apart from development of road, school, water, electricity, people in India want their representative to be available and approachable when they need them,” Raja Bhaiya said.
I realised that contrary to rumours, his politics is not of fear or money, it is actually one rooted in efficient real-time governance. His secret is his availability and he offers to his people an alternative system and includes them in the power he commands. This is why they will make him MLA for the sixth consecutive time.
Why does he do it? “People who have been given everything by God have a duty to give back to society and to the area. I feel it is my responsibility to the people, and I try and do the maximum I can. I have to develop the area and also be available for the people. If God has endowed me with this responsibility, I am to do it with the best of my ability,” Raja Bhaiya said.
The great leap forward
As rumour has it, Raja Bhaiya is already a key player in UP politics. With his political family increasing in strength, people of his area want to see him as the chief minister soon. But when asked about it, Raja Bhaiya is modest. “There is no such thing. I want to work for my people and make sure they benefit from my elections. Mulayam Singh has been one of my political teachers, and I firmly support our CM Akhilesh Yadavji for the next term too,” Raja Bhaiya said.
Not only did he praise the good work of the Akhilesh government but also strongly believes that he will steer UP towards better days. He even welcomed the SP-Congress alliance and termed the feud as “unfortunate”.
Before it was time to leave, I asked him whether he will be able to defeat the BJP. Raja Bhaiya paused for a minute and spoke, “I am a firm believer in Karma and action. I have confidence in the people of UP and in our work of these five years. We will win.”
Updated Date: Feb 16, 2017 11:14 AM