The BJP Lok Sabha member from Kaiserganj and Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is facing serious allegations of harassment levelled by Olympian wrestlers, has been a controversial figure in Uttar Pradesh politics for more than three decades.
Like many other bahubalis or strongmen, who appeared on UP’s electoral horizon during the 1990s thanks to the State’s unstable political circumstances, Mr. Singh, 66, also made himself a prominent player in the Gonda-Balrampur-Bahraich belt. The MP faces four criminal cases including serious charges of robbery and attempt to murder according to his 2019 election affidavit. He was once also charged under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).
However, he has developed a wide network of supporters not only in his own Rajput community but also in other caste groups since 1991, when he was first elected to the Sabha member on a BJP ticket from Gonda. Mr. Singh’s supporters consider him a guardian.
‘Pride of UP’
Even now, when the parliamentarian is facing serious allegations, support is coming from his home turf. “Anybody comes and levelled allegations on our guardian and we listen silently. Never, we will teach them lessons,” says Akash Shukla, an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Singh in Bahraich.
Since the WFI controversy erupted, many supporters of the Kaiserganj MP are making it an issue of Uttar Pradesh pride, with some even calling it a false charge levelled by players “of a particular region”, hinting at the Haryana’s roots of many wrestlers. “Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is the pride of Uttar Pradesh,” adds Mr. Shukla. The Kaiserganj MP himself called the protesting players a toy in the hands of the Congress Rajya Sabha member from Haryana, Deependra Singh Hooda.
Mr. Singh is not new to controversies. He was named as an accused in the Babri demolition case and charged under TADA for allegedly sheltering shooters of a notorious UP criminal group, although he was later acquitted. In 1993, the Rajput leader was accused of attacking a former UP minister and another strongman Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh with whom he had a turf war for over three decades. He was later acquitted by the court in the matter.
A graduate in law from Avadh University, Mr. Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha from Balrampur in 2004, but then left the BJP in 2008 to join the Samajwadi Party (SP). Many in UP believed that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not happy with Mr. Singh. In 2009, he was elected on the SP symbol from Kaiserganj but then switched back to the BJP fold in the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary polls and emerged victorious again from the same seat.
“In Uttar Pradesh, previously politicians used strongmen for booth capturing, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many bahubalis entered politics. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh faces criminal charges of a serious nature. But he is useful for the party in its electoral arithmetic which is true for many other strongmen in eastern UP who are used by political parties to reap political dividends,” said Shashikant Pandey, a political scientist teaching at Central University, Lucknow.
Mr. Singh has established a chain of educational institutions in Gonda and the adjoining districts and claims to be involved in agriculture and allied activities. Recently, he made headlines for threatening Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray if the latter visits Ayodhya.
In the WFI episode, protesting wrestlers are demanding harsh action against the Rajput leader for allegedly being involved in sexual harassment. The accusation has been categorically denied by the MP. In Lucknow people believe that taking action against Mr. Singh will not be easy for the BJP due to the influence he enjoys in at least three districts of UP. “Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is a powerful leader who has deep influence in the Gonda-Balrampur belt. The party will think about all those calculations before taking action against him,” adds Mr. Pandey.