Influential UP Minister Gayatri Prajapati faces a non-bailable arrest warrant in a gang rape case, and the Supreme Court has refused to grant him any relief. This latest episode is only the latest chapter in the dramatic tale that has been Prajapati's life.
His journey, from being a BPL (below poverty line) card holder in 2012 to a powerful minister in less than five years, is nothing short of miraculous.
And it isn’t just his political career that has taken off. He and his family have come to own a string of industries and businesses in that brief period, propelling him into the league of the state’s billionaires almost overnight.
Now though, his fortunes seem to have turned again, with the influential politician facing imminent arrest. Here’s a look at Prajapati’s brief but spectacular political career.
The first ‘miracle’ in Gayatri Prajapati’s life took place in 2012, when, after having lost four elections, he was given the SP ticket from the key seat of Amethi.
He was fielded against senior Congress leader Sanjay Sinh’s wife Amita Sinh. But Prajapati managed to defeat Amita by 8,760 votes, make his debuting in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.
Initially, the first-time MLA was inducted into Akhilesh Yadav’s cabinet as Minister of State for Irrigation, a department headed by SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s powerful brother Shivpal Yadav. Prajapati soon emerged as an effective back-room operator, endearing him to Shivpal.
Rise in Stature
His induction as minister fuelled Prajapati’s ambitions. In addition to Shivpal, he soon impressed Mulayam enough to become his blue-eyed boy.
Observers say Uttar Pradesh CM and Mulayam’s son Akhilesh could never stand Prajapati. But probably under pressure from his father and his uncle, he made Prajapati a cabinet minister in January 2014. Prajapati was entrusted with the Department of Mines, considered a ‘lucrative’ portfolio.
Building a Business Empire
Prajapati never looked back after that. Although complaints of corruption against him were lodged with the state Lokayukta, the complainants either turned hostile in some of the cases or just went missing. RTI activist Nutan Thakur also approached the Lokayukta with a complaint against him. But using his political clout, Prajapati managed to get a clean chit from the Lokayukta.
Thakur then moved the Allahabad High Court. Along with her PIL, she submitted a long list of properties allegedly belonging to Prajapati. In addition to that, the list also contained details of properties reportedly owned by his wife Maharaji, his daughters Sudha and Ankita, and his sons Anil and Anurag. A list of benami properties purchased in the name of his driver and servants was also submitted.
After Prajapati became a minister, his sons have come to own a dozen companies; one of his drivers and a servant own a total of 25 companies.
It was alleged that all this wealth was amassed only after Prajapati became minister in charge of the Mines Department. Allahabad High Court ordered a CBI inquiry against Prajapati and Akhilesh expelled him from his cabinet.
When the battle for supremacy in the Samajwadi Party broke out between Mulayam and Akhilesh, Gayatri Prajapati made his move. He endeared himself to Mulayam to such an extent that the SP patriarch pressurised Akhilesh to reinstate Prajapati as minister.
This time he was given the transport portfolio. At the swearing-in ceremony, he literally fell at Mulayam and Akhilesh’s feet, but that Akhilesh despised him was quite apparent.
But surprisingly, he seems to have later won Akhilesh over too, and was soon seen sharing the dais with him. The CM’s displeasure towards Prajapati had magically vanished.
Prajapati became arguably the most talked about name during the ongoing UP elections. With his reinstatement as minister, he emerged as the ‘moneybags’ of the SP. When it came to any big programme or rally, meeting the expenditure was his responsibility.
In a very short period, the party became so dependent on him that all his follies were ignored. When a CBI inquiry was ordered against him, Akhilesh removed him from the cabinet. As a result, Akhilesh had to face Mulayam and Shivpal’s wrath. As a result, the CM was forced to reinstate him as minister.
Political observers say that Prajapati has the proverbial magical touch. So, in no time, he became close to Akhilesh. Proving yet again that money, indeed, makes the world go round.
But when election campaigning was at its peak in UP, Prajapati was accused of gang raping a woman and sexually exploiting her daughter. Taking cognisance of the allegations, the Supreme Court ordered the UP Police to lodge an FIR against him and six others.
A court later issued a non-bailable warrant against him. The UP Police declared a look-out at airports for his arrest. UP Governor Ram Naik also raised questions over his continuation as minister. In the meantime, he has claimed before the Supreme Court that he is innocent. The top court has rejected his plea seeking a stay on the warrant and has refused to grant any concession to him.
Now, his arrest seems to be a mere formality. And it also appears that his fall from the giddy heights he achieved in a brief period is now imminent.
(This story was originally published on Quint Hindi.)