LUCKNOW: “Kukur jive 12 baras, 12 baras jive siyar; Baras attharah Thakur jive, baaki jeevan ko dhikkar” (A dog lives for 12 years, so does a jackal; a Rajput should achieve martyrdom after 18 years). So says former SP leader Amar Singh, now ploughing a lonely furrow in UP’s landscape. Singh is a determined man—a compliment even his rivals are willing to pay him. It’s been two years since he left the SP. He has suffered ill health, and is also an accused in the 2008 cash for votes case. But Singh doesn’t think small. He sees himself as kingmaker once the polls are over—the wily Thakur has revenge to exact from both SP and BSP. Singh’s lone crusade may not get votes, but there’s no denying he’s been the voice and face of UP’s Rajputs. Six months after his expulsion from SP, he formed the Akhil Bharatiya Lok Manch (ABLM). Launched as a social organisation, it later assumed the rightful avatar of political outfit, and is contesting 392 Assembly seats across UP.
Despite all his troubles, Singh won’t give up. He’s extensively touring the state with former filmstar and fellow Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Prada, and former MP Obaidullah Azmi. Filmstar Sanjay Dutt was also with him, but has now defected to the Congress.
What does Amar Singh foretell? “I see BSP reduced by half and SP wiped out,” says the Thakur. Relations with SP have been inimical; now they are getting personal. Singh has been spilling inside stories of the Yadav clan in public, even commenting on the educational status of the SP state president Akhilesh Yadav, a man who calls Singh “uncle” and refuses to be drawn into a tit-for-tat. On Delhi’s Batla House encounter of 2008 too, Amar Singh has tried to corner Mulayam Singh Yadav, saying: “I was not allowed to visit Batla House by Mulayam, who also did not visit the spot at the behest of the Congress.” The attempt is to dent Mulayam’s standing among UP’s Muslims. Singh says the SP is a “private limited party, not a political party”.
Amar Singh’s strategy is to weaken SP by taking 3,000-5,000 of its votes in every constituency the two parties face each other. ABLM has fielded candidates mainly in eastern UP, Amar Singh’s “karambhoomi”. The previous SP government ensured major development in and around his home district of Azamgarh. For SP, the danger of losing its votebank is magnified by the Peace Party and the Ulema Council.
Amar Singh takes his role as the voice of UP’s Rajputs seriously. In the previous Mayawati regime in 2002, she had thrown Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya, MLA from Kunda into jail under the draconian POTA. Amar Singh raised Raja Bhaiyya’s case from every platform and generated sympathy for him all over. It was Singh again who stood against mafia don-turned Independent MLA Mukhtar Ansari, and took agitated Rajput MLAs of SP before Mulayam, who was sympathising with Ansari. “Amar Singh is out of SP, but a lot of our leaders have sympathy for him,” says a Rajput MLA of SP. Calling Amar Singh’s ouster unfair, he adds: “If Mulayam could embrace arch enemy Kalyan Singh, and woo back Mohammad Azam Khan, what crime has Amar committed which has become unpardonable?”
Singh’s flag is flying, nonetheless. Commenting on the ABLM tricolour of white, red and green, he says, “ABLM is for revolution, peace and prosperity.” That’s another Amar Singh priority: mobilising support for a separate ‘Poorvanchal Pradesh’, on which he supports Mayawati. “This region has 27 districts, 147 MLAs and 28 MPs, but is still backward,” says Singh, adding: “There’s an airport in Mulayam’s village of Saifai, but none in Azamgarh. How can we tolerate this?”
Amar Singh may end up helping the Congress again. Perhaps there is much to be read into his not fielding candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituencies. Where does Singh go from here? The answer is less than a month away.