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  India   Politics  22 Feb 2017  UP polls 2017: Symbol changes, but he still rules Kunda

UP polls 2017: Symbol changes, but he still rules Kunda

THE ASIAN AGE. | AMITA VERMA
Published : Feb 22, 2017, 2:35 am IST
Updated : Feb 22, 2017, 7:06 am IST

Raja Bhaiyya is known more for the fantasy woven around him, including his famous pond of crocodiles.

Raghuraj Pratap Singh
 Raghuraj Pratap Singh

Kunda, Pratapgarh: It is 9 am and the sprawling lawns of the Bainti palace are filled with crowds. In the driveway, a convoy of SUVs is waiting to roll out. Half an hour later, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, better known as Raja Bhaiyya, comes out wearing a sparkling white dhoti and kurta and cries of ‘Raja Bhaiyya zindabad’ rent the air.

As he moves towards the crowd, hundreds step forward to touch his feet. He spots an old woman and asks her if her problem has been solved. She gratefully nods and he smiles.

Raja Bhaiyya, an Independent legislator from Kunda seat, has been winning elections without a break since 1993 and has been minister in the governments of Kalyan Singh, Mulayam Singh and now Akhilesh Yadav.

A jail stint during the Mayawati regime and murder charges during the Akhilesh regime have not dented his reputation — in fact, it has added to his popularity and his victory margin has been increasing over the years.

“The media says that the fear factor is responsible for my victory, but do you think that people will continue to vote for me if I terrorise them?” he asks.

Raja Bhaiyya is known more for the fantasy woven around him, including his famous pond of crocodiles where he reportedly throws his enemies. “I invite anyone to dive into the pond and find the crocodiles,” he says with a smile.

As he moves out of the palace, rows of people line up the roads. He stops at every few metres, greets voters with folded hands and asks, “Chunav nishan kya hai?” The crowd shouts back: “Aari hai.”

Since he contests as an Independent, his symbol changes in every election. This time it is the ‘aari’.

Large cardboard cut-outs of a saw can be seen all over the constituency and children scamper about shouting “Sab par bhari,  Raja ki aari”. Raja Bhaiyya never holds meetings, nor asks for votes.

Haridas, a cloth merchant in Kunda Bazaar says, “He does not have to campaign. He only needs to make sure that the people know his election symbol”.

Akhilesh, a by-stander, explains, “He is a Raja and the kings never ask for any favors. It is the duty of the people to vote for him. All his opponents have forfeited their deposits in every election. This time, his margin is bound to be bigger because Congress and SP have not put up candidates in Kunda.”

People in Kunda are not even aware of other candidates. Asked to name the BJP and BSP nominees, Premvati, a school teacher, says innocently, “Pata nahin. Vote to sirf Raja Bhaiyya ko dena hai.”

Unlike other candidates, Raja Bhaiyya’s family does not campaign for him, though his father Raja Uday Pratap Singh, 83, does keep tabs on the ‘hawa’ in the constituency from his Bhadri palace, located a few kilometers away from Bainti palace.

“Raja Bhaiyya is a king and a kingmaker, and any government that comes to power will have him in a key role,” says Raghuvir Singh, an amla seller.

Tags: raghuraj pratap singh, raja bhaiyya, kunda