too much opulence and corporate networking coming in the way of the original
mandate of Mulayam Singh Yadav, self-proclaimed mascot of Lohiaite socialism?
Mihir Srivastava reports
Imagine a person surrounded
by such names as Janeshwar Mishra, Beni Prasad Verma, Ramji Lal Suman,
Ram Saran Das…
Singh Yadav of today is no less than a conjuror’s trick,
transformed almost in a trice from a cycle-riding dhartiputra
to a high-flying Mumbaiputra
Then imagine a person surrounded by Tina Munim, Parmeshwar Godrej, Subroto
Roy, Anil Ambani, Amitabh Bachchan…
Can they be the same person?
Imagine a person who swears by Ram Manohar Lohia’s socialism and
was nurtured into public life by Chaudhary Charan Singh.
Then imagine a person who is in a high-voltage policy partnership with
Reliance and who spends in excess of Rs 35 crore on refurbishing his official
residence, buying an aircraft and constructing an airstrip in his home
Can they be the same person?
In a conjuror’s world, they can be. And for those who have known
him long enough, the Mulayam Singh Yadav of today is no less than a conjuror’s
trick, transformed almost in a trice from a cycle-riding dhartiputra to
a high-flying Mumbaiputra, from a socialism-spouting barnstormer to a
corporate politico who cannot seem to do without flings with celebrities.
So much so that they’ve begun to say that the story about the new
Mulayam Singh is not the story of the company he keeps but the story of
the company that keeps him.
If it must have a name, Amar Singh Unlimited would be a fair name. As
one of Mulayam Singh’s old, and fairly disregarded, Lohiamates says,
“Amar Singh has altered everything about Mulayam Singh, his politics,
his lifestyle, his habits, his entire approach to things, Amar Singh’s
Mulayam is not Lohia’s Mulayam.”
Which is perhaps why the high-powered Uttar Pradesh Development Council,
of which Amar Singh is chairman (with Cabinet rank), is packed with industrialists
and devoid of any presence from the Samajwadi Party (SP). Sahara boss
Subroto Roy, Anil Ambani, Adi Godrej, Pratap Reddy, Kumaramangalam Birla…
“Which of these,” asks the SP leader who would not be named,
“Will ever do anything close to what Lohia wanted? Yet, they are
the karta-dhartas of our government today.”
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government has been in power for two years
now — an event being celebrated with, among other things, a slew
of full-page advertisements. UP has been in the headlines during this
period for its rising crime graph, its dipping development index, scams
in land, foodgrain and industry, such dereliction as has been in evidence
with the encephalitis outbreak in the eastern districts…
But there is, in all this gloom, an island of light and prosperity. The
chief minister’s home district Etawah and his native village Saifai,
20 kilometres from the district headquarters. This is one place in Uttar
Pradesh where the bounties have fallen in excess.
Etawah is a typical
heartland city, loosely scattered. Power, a rarity elsewhere, is available
round the clock. The roads are in excellent condition. Local SP bosses
whiz about town in their suvs, the party flag fluttering on their bonnets;
they seem to mind neither the traffic nor the law. “This is our
time. Our government is in power. It is not arrogance but confidence in
our strength that you see here,” says a party worker. They have
collected in large numbers to receive Shivpal Singh Yadav, powerful pwd
minister and Mulayam’s younger brother, who is arriving to inaugurate
a bridge. There’s nothing to stop them being overbearing.
Company: Mulayam with Bachchan, Godrej, Roy, Amar Singh
and Kumaramangalam Birla
Mulayam’s village, is a
shock of mushrooming state-of-the-art architecture — a post-graduate
institute, a spanking degree college, a fully air-conditioned
Saifai, Mulayam’s village, is a shock of mushrooming state-of-the-art
architecture — an ambitious post-graduate institute, a spanking
degree college, a fully-air-conditioned hospital to list a few. The village
also boasts the mansions of the ruling clan. Mulayam’s brothers,
cousins, nephews all have had their houses recently built. There is, apparently,
an excess of resources and a new taste for luxury and the good life.
“To me it seems that they are in great hurry, they feel they will
not be in power again, and this is the last opportunity, time is running
out, and they want to make the most of it. You see most of these structures
have come up in the last one year,” says Murari Yadav (name changed),
a Saifai villager and old mate of Mulayam Singh who used to accompany
him grazing cattle as a boy.
The first structure that holds you on the Etawah-Saifai road is the huge,
newly constructed campus of the Chaudhary Charan Singh Degree College.
It is run by Mulayam’s younger brother Shivpal Singh Yadav. The
day-to-day affairs are managed by his cousin Ramgopal Yadav, also a member
of parliament from Sambhal.
Nearly the entire education budget of the state has been diverted to this
project. A senior officer in the education department says that with that
kind of money, the state could have created a whole university. The hostels
for teachers and students, there are three, are all centrally air-conditioned.
There are plans for plush computer and science labs.
Ramgopal Yadav, MP and the man in charge, loftily told Tehelka, “We
want the poor to get quality education. This institute will do just that.
We will charge fees that government colleges do but will provide facilities
that is comparable with the best… This will herald a revolution
The managing director of UP State Construction Corporation, who is supervising
the construction, has a camp office in the college premises.
Not far, a centrally air-conditioned, 500-bed hospital is being constructed.
“Now no one will have to go to Lucknow or Delhi, they will all get
cheap and the best treatment here in their own village,” says Ramgopal
Yadav. But why only in Saifai, what wrong did other parts of the state
do? “The benefit will not be restricted to Saifai. People from neighbouring
villages, districts can come here for treatment. We also plan to convert
this into a medical college soon. It will be on the model of the pgi,
The old stadium too is being renovated. Astroturf will soon be laid out.
Another stadium of “international standards” is coming up
Then comes the slightly more controversial one — an airstrip so
that the Chief Minister can fly into his native place. There already exists
an airstrip of sorts. It is being upgraded and plans are for a full-fledged
airport “good enough for Boeings to land”. But who is there
to fly in and out of Saifai? “What if there is no clientele for
a particular project now? This should not prevent the creation of an airport
or infrastructure. Once it is there, clients will come on their own,”
says MP Agarwal, district magistrate of Etawah.
Law and order is in
a shambles. There is a clear polarisation of the district administration
and police on caste lines. Yadavs call the shots
The primary schools
in the adjoining block of Chakar Nagar and elsewhere in the district
have not been functioning for months. The primary health infrastructure
is in equally bad shape. So is the district civil hospital. In the women’s
ward, beds are lined in the corridor, stray dogs have made home in the
wards. There was only one doctor on duty when the Tehelka team visited
the hospital. A patient, Ranbeer, who had to go through an ordeal to
get a mere plaster done, scoffed: “They cannot provide basic health
facilities and they talk of a super specialty hospital.”
District Chief Agarwal feels that there is no case for contradictions
in what happens in Saifai and its immediate neighbourhood. “This
comparison is wrong. You cannot compare Saifai with Chakar Nagar Block.
It is like comparing Lucknow with Ballia. Where it is written that you
cannot have a super-specialty hospital just because primary healthcare
is bad. Or where is it written that a university cannot be set up in
a place that has no good primary schools?”
The district has no industry. “You just cannot create urban infrastructure
without creating alternative sources of employment,” says Bheem
Rao Ambedkar, Etawah district chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Agrawal retorts: “I have been the district magistrate of both
Amethi and now here. In Amethi lot of industries were created and as
a result people became used to spoon-feeding.”
Law and order is in a shambles. There is a clear polarisation of the
district administration and police on caste lines. Yadavs call the shots.
The additional district magistrate here, Ram Vikas Yadav, is the son-in-law
of Ram Naresh Yadav, former district chief of the SP. Similarly, Ram
Rupe Yadav, who was the gunner of Shivpal Yadav, is now in-charge of
a police station here. Ram Nath Yadav, a policeman under suspension,
is now being elevated to the post of chief of the anti-dacoit force
of the district. “The situation here is difficult to handle administratively.
The station-house-officers have direct access to the chief minister
or his family. They give a damn to senior officers,” says a senior
district police official.
That’s a slice of Mulayam Singh’s Uttar Pradesh for you.
Perhaps the best slice. So you should be able to reach your conclusions
about what happens elsewhere in what his government calls ‘Uttam’
With inputs from Suman Gupta, Lucknow
OF SAIFAI: TOO MUCH PLENTY AMIDST TOO MUCH POVERTY
College: The main block of the Chaudhary Charan
Singh College Photos by Sharad Saxena
Guests: The new guesthouse in the village
Property: This is not another block of apartments,
it is the administration’s idea of a students’
High: This narrow road interspersed with cattle
leads to Saifai’s airport
Hard, Work Hard: This hockey stadium is expected
to get astroturf soon
10 , 2005