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Socialite Socialism

Is 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

 
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
Imagine a person surrounded by such names as Janeshwar Mishra, Beni Prasad Verma, Ramji Lal Suman, Ram Saran Das…

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 village.

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.

Blue Company: Mulayam with Bachchan, Godrej, Roy, Amar Singh and Kumaramangalam Birla
Saifai, 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 hospital
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.

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 of sorts.”

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, Lucknow.”

The old stadium too is being renovated. Astroturf will soon be laid out. Another stadium of “international standards” is coming up in
the vicinity.

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’ Pradesh.

With inputs from Suman Gupta, Lucknow

FACE OF SAIFAI: TOO MUCH PLENTY AMIDST TOO MUCH POVERTY
 
Palatial College: The main block of the Chaudhary Charan Singh College Photos by Sharad Saxena
 
Awaiting Guests: The new guesthouse in the village
     
 
Prime Property: This is not another block of apartments, it is the administration’s idea of a students’ hostel
 
Sky High: This narrow road interspersed with cattle leads to Saifai’s airport
     
Play Hard, Work Hard: This hockey stadium is expected to get astroturf soon
     

 

Sep 10 , 2005
 
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