Kingmaker, In His Dreams

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Rajvir may be the party chief, but it is still father Kalyan Singh at the helm, finds Shobhita Naithani

Future tense Since his entry into politics, Rajvir Singh has been living under his father’s shadow
Future tense Since his entry into politics, Rajvir Singh has been living under his father’s shadow
Photo: Tarun Sehrawat

IN THE chaos of Uttar Pradesh politics, Rajvir Singh is the newly anointed chief of the Jan Kranti Party (JKP), the party his father, estranged BJP leader Kalyan Singh, floated earlier this month. Unsurprisingly, Raju bhaiyya, as Rajvir is known, was made chief. But while the JKP already looks like a non-starter, with its organisation, agenda, members and structure still unclear, Raju bhaiyya is already plotting the downfall of the BJP, the SP and the BSP in the 2012 Assembly elections.

The closest Rajvir gets to filling his 77-year-old father’s formidable shoes is when one brings up the Babri Masjid. The vigour with which he makes a point is the same as his father’s, the argument in favour of demolition identical, the sense of pride the same. “It wasn’t a masjid but a disputed structure. It had to be torn down anyway,” says Rajvir, echoing the words of his father, who was UP chief minister when Hindu zealots demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992.

That resonance apart, Rajvir, one-time BJP legislator from Dibai – a seat traditionally held by his father – in UP’s Bulandshahar district, is still merely a struggling politician, unable to make his presence felt on the national political stage. Ask him why and he pauses before acknowledging, “I can never reach where Babuji reached,” he says, referring to his father. “He gave up his youth for politics. I am more of a family man.”

Therein lies a poignant story. In 1977, when Rajvir passed his Class 10 exams, his friend told Babuji about the results. Kalyan was stunned for he thought Rajvir was in Class 8. “Son, you’ve got a double promotion,” Kalyan congratulated Rajvir that night. “He didn’t even know which class I was in,” smiles Rajvir. This father of three therefore never wanted his children “to experience the neglect” he did as a child. “So I spent more time with them. I became their friend,” he says. Till the age his father’s constituency and the familyowned farmland. When he was 42, he contested his first elections, winning Dibai, which is dominated by his own Lodh caste. In 2007, however, he lost Dibai to a BSP candidate by 1.5 lakh votes. “What probably worked against Rajvir was Kalyan Singh’s declining credibility,” says Sudhanshu Trivedi, former BJP President Rajnath Singh’s political adviser. “The community felt that [Kalyan] was more focused on his family because he obtained tickets for his protégé, son and daughterin- law during the BJP rule” adds Trivedi.

While Rajvir is learning to swim, Kalyan is trying to woo alienated BJP leaders to help his son stay afloat

Since his entry into politics, Rajvir, now 50, has lived under his father’s shadow. Kalyan Singh left the BJP in 1999 and floated the Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP). He returned to the BJP in 2004, but quit again in 2009. All this while Rajvir trailed Kalyan dutifully because his political future was dependent on the clout his father wielded. In January 2009, the SP agreed to launch Rajvir in return for Lodh support. While Kalyan fought on an independent ticket, Rajvir “campaigned for the party and his father”. The alliance, expectedly, failed and Rajvir quit the SP 11 months later.

With the launch of the JKP, Rajvir has been thrown into the deep end for the first time. While he is learning to swim, Kalyan is trying to woo alienated BJP leaders like Uma Bharati and Babulal Marandi to help his son stay afloat. “In six months, we will get to the roots of UP. I will be kingmaker,” Rajvir asserts. If he follows his father’s track record of jumping from, starting and then packing up parties, that seems unlikely. But there’s good news for Rajvir. The BJP, which made his father, could take him in, in the long run. All he has to do is “watch his step,” says a party insider.

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