As evening sets, shopkeepers have started unpacking near a busy traffic intersection in Uttar Pradesh’s Kunda town. The road has started to wear a deserted look.
A little distance away, however, this is the time when all the activities start. After a day’s campaigning, Raja Bhaiya alias Raghuraj Paratap Singh – representing fifth term as an MLA — has arrived at his office.
He is sitting inside along with a local leader discussing the formalities of nominations. Outside there are over 200 people which includes pradhans of several villages with heads bowed down. Such is the fear of Singh in this region. Is it out of fear or philanthropy he commands so much respect? The answer is both.
Mohammad Ibaas, a cloth merchant, said, “Before 1990s, there was total lawlessness in Kunda. Several small time thugs were trying to become bahubali. Every day, there were reports of eve teasing. It was after Raja Bhaiya came to power these things were controlled.”
“Ek sau gunde se acha, kunda ka gunda ek hi hon (It is better to have one criminal than hundreds of them. And he does not engage himself in petty crimes. Whatever it is, it is at higher level,” he said.
Raja Bhaiya, who hails from royal Bhadri (estate) of Oudh and is a cabinet minister in Akhilesh Yadav government, is fighting as an independent candidate this election too, but has an indirect support of SP as it has not fielded a candidate on this seat.
He has several FIRs registered against him including murder, kidnapping, theft. He, however, hogged national limelight in 2007 in the murder case of deputy superintendent of police Zia-ul-Haq . The CBI, however, gave him a clean chit in the case.
A villager who did not wished to be named said, “Raja Bhaiya runs a parallel government in Kunda. A case goes to the police or court later. First, it is he who tries to get disputes resolved.”
“He holds durbar at his ancestral home where people go to seek justice. The justice meted out is sometimes brutal,” he added. When asked about it, Bhaiya said, “As an MLA of the constituency, my people try to get issues resolved but everything is done as per the law.”
Kunda also has several stories where Raja Bhaiya has got poor people treated and helped them financially in getting their daughter married.
A man, who is part of Raja Bhaiya’s political team, said, “He wants fear among people to stay but is now conscious of his image as he has higher politicalambitions.” PeopleinKunda say this election may be the toughest battle for him as his opponent from BSP — Parvez Akhtar Ansari — enjoys the support of Muslims and Dalits who comprise around 30% of Kunda’s population.