How Amar Singh damaged Samajwadi Party and Yadav Parivar

Having been familiar with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s frailties, it was not difficult for the outsider to not only win him over, but also sideline the other Yadavs.

 |  7-minute read |   14-01-2017
  • ---
    Total Shares

Old habits die hard. No wonder therefore it appears to be extremely difficult for someone like Amar Singh to rise above the wheeling–dealing that is so deeply ingrained in him.

Having taken that very dubious route to make his way up from a corporate liaison officer to the centrestage of politics in India’s most populous and politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, it may not be easy for him to change at 60.

Anyone who has observed his machinations through the years would not be surprised at the allegation that he was the man at the root of the prevailing crisis in UP’s ruling Yadav clan. And significantly, this was not the first time that Amar Singh was being seen as a culprit for forging a divide in a family – after all there's past history of similar encounters with the Ambanis and the Bachchans.

akhilesh-shivpal-mul_011417055818.jpg And Akhilesh, in an unusually assertive mode, made it clear to Amar that enough was enough. Photo: PTI

His entry into the world of politics began with his chance meeting with UP chief minister Veer Bahadur Singh in his capacity as a liaison man for a leading corporate house. Using his "thakur" origin, Singh, who hails from the Azamgarh belt of Eastern UP, managed to develop his access with Veer Bahadur Singh who belonged to Eastern UP's vibrant town of Gorakhpur.

The relationship, however, did not go beyond that of a middleman between a corporate house and the head of a state government. What transformed his profile was his contact with Mulayam Singh Yadav, during the latter's second stint as chief minister in the early '90s. Mulayam gave him what he had perhaps not even dreamt of - political status as a Rajya Sabha member as well as making him Samajwadi Party national general secretary by the mid-90s.

Evidently, that was Mulayam’s way of reciprocating for all the goodies he had received through a fixer in his bunch.

Basically a party of rustics, this was Samajwadi Party’s first exposure to the dazzle of Bollywood and the glitter of the corporate world, which utterly overwhelmed the diminutive wrestler-turned-skillful politician from the badlands of Etawah.

And Mulayam never made bones about it. I remember how he had once expressed his fascination for Amar Singh openly – “Kya baat hai Amar Singh mein ; unke ek phone pe bare-bare log yaha aa jate hain – jaise dekhiye - Amitabh Bachchan; bara-bara udyogpati Bambai se Lucknow chala aata hai (what a man this Amar Singh is! One call from him brings megastar Amitabh Bachchan here; top industrialists from Bombay drop in here)”.

He went on to rattle out names of such industry giants whom Amar Singh had involved with UP development council, which was created by him in the name of UP’s promotion in the country’s financial capital - Mumbai. This position came in handy for Amar Singh; he could flaunt his newly acquired political status among leading industrialists, as also to impress Mulayam with the clout he enjoyed with corporate honchos.

No one knows whether the development council could serve its ostensible objective of promoting industrial development in UP or to push UP in Bombay. But, sure enough it did help Amar Singh to enhance his own profile, leading Mulayam to eat out of his palm.

Impressed by Amar Singh’s gift of the gab, the SP supremo made him the party spokesman, sidelining veterans like Beni Prasad Verma and Azam Khan. Even Raj Babbar, who had become a prominent face of the SP got reduced to a pygmy before Amar, who eventually compelled the latter to make an exit from the party.

What gave him further prominence in national politics was his push to the Samajwadi Party to support the UPA at a time of acute crisis in 2008, when the Left wing decided to walk away from UPA over the nuclear deal. SP’s support saved the UPA from crumbling and a flamboyant Amar Singh promptly snatched credit for it.

The importance given to him by Mulayam went to his head. Already used to meddling in matters of governance, it was his deeper penetration into specific issues related to allotment of prime commercial and industrial plots in the all important NOIDA an Greater NOIDA that brought him into direct conflict with Mulayam’s close cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, who believed in having his own defacto control over what were considered UP’s biggest “milking cows”.

By continuing to throw his weight around in an obvious bid to send the message to all and sundry that he was the number two in the party, he naturally invited the wrath of many, including Ram Gopal Yadav, Azam Khan and even Akhilesh Yadav.

Finding that Amar Singh had become too big for his boots, they started raising objections against his increasing interference. The common feeling was that Amar Singh had taken Samajwadi Party miles away from the Samajwad of Ram Manohar Lohia in whose name Mulayam would never tire of swearing.

Meanwhile, Amar Singh was accused (and later even sent to jail) of bribing three Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha MPs to vote for the UPA government that was facing a floor test in the Parliament in 2008; that was followed by a phone tapping controversy in which his conversations revealed Singh allegedly fixing deals with politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats and Bollywood celebrities; and yet again another CD showing him and Mulayam Singh Yadav in conversation with India’s leading lawyer and former law minister Shanti Bhushan discussing how many crores would it cost to “buy” a court verdict.

What brought him into further disrepute were his sleazy telephonic conversations with a popular Bollywood actress, as also with some top UP bureaucrats and politicians with whom he was heard negotiating lucrative deals.

Known for having a finger in every pie, he was even accused by American author Peter Schweizer, in his book Clinton Cash (published in 2015), of donating a couple of million US dollars to the Clinton Foundation in 2008 when the US Congress was debating the much-talked about the India-US nuclear deal, which India eventually signed.

It was Akhilesh Yadav who finally succeeded in prevailing over his father to get such a “shady” man out of the SP fold. And Amar’s inglorious expulsion from the party for a period of six years spelt his political doom. After moving heaven and earth to seek entry into every other political outfit, he finally ventured into floating his own political party under the banner of Rashtriya Lok Manch, which turned out to be a record disaster.

Each of the candidates he fielded on 360 of UP’s 403 Assembly seats in 2012 lost their very deposits. This was followed by another misadventure in 2014, when he joined Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal along with his only protégé and former Bollywood star Jaya Prada. That too ended in a miserable defeat from the Fatehpur Sikri Lok Sabha seat where he lost his deposit.

That left him with no option but to knock on Samajwadi Party's doors yet again. With his Rajya Sabha term coming to an end, his desperation led him to use a vulnerable Shivpal Yadav this time. And that worked. According to an insider, Shivpal was assured of getting nephew Akhilesh’s chair if he (Shivpal) were to succeed in ensuring Amar’s re-entry.

No sooner was the wheeler-dealer back that trouble began erupting in the family and sparked off a war between father and son. Having been familiar with Mulayam’s frailties, it was not difficult for Amar Singh to not only win him over but also insure his re-nomination to the Rajya Sabha despite opposition from Akhilesh, Ram Gopal and Azam Khan.

Like any fixer, Amar Singh always believed in following the old dictum – "You give them an inch, they take a yard." However, no sooner had he sought to extend his tentacles by getting a highly ill-reputed corrupt IAS officer appointed as chief secretary and tried to push his way into Noida land allotments, Akhilesh put his foot down.

And once, an easily provoked Akhilesh, in an unusually assertive mode, made it clear to Amar that enough was enough. The family feud became worse. The cat was out of the bag and everyone knew who was responsible for putting the Yadav clan cauldron on the boil.

Amar found it convenient to mobilise support for his mission from all those who were already averse to Akhilesh-Mulayam's second wife Sadhana, her son Pratik, daughter-in-law Aparna as well as Anita Singh, the state's most powerful bureaucrat, planted by Mulayam as principal secretary to CM - with whom Akhilesh has very little interaction.

Notwithstanding what shape the Yadav family feud finally takes, it was, clearly evident that at the end of the day, the incorrigible wheeler-dealer has had his way yet again.

Also read: 10 ways demonetisation will affect Uttar Pradesh polls

Writer

Sharat Pradhan Sharat Pradhan @sharatpradhan21

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst based in Lucknow.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.