As the fifth phase of Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls concluded, all eyes were focused on Amethi which is known as a bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Residents of Amethi have bizarre choice to make between sitting MLA Gayatri Prasad Prajapati of the Samajwadi Party, the one who is accused of a gangrape case and two queens who have claimed to have married Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. The case against Prajapati was lodged on charges including gangrape, attempt to rape, criminal intimidation, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace under the IPC, as well as under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). The apex court’s direction came on a PIL filed by a woman who alleged repeatedly gangraped by Prajapati and others and sought the court’s direction for lodging of an FIR. The incident had first taken place in October 2014 and continued till July 2016 and when the accused tried to molest the minor daughter of the petitioner. The woman lodged a complaint after her written request to the DGP in October 2016 allegedly went unheeded.
Garima Singh, Sanjay’s first wife, returned to Amethi in 2014 after over 20 years, claiming that the high court and Supreme Court had declared their divorce as null and void (on account of an imposter being presented instead of her) and that she and her children still rightfully belonged in Bhupati Bhawan (the ‘500-room’ ancestral home of Sanjay’s talukdar family). Garima has been living there since and is now contesting against Ameeta. This is her first-ever election. Her campaign has focused on “justice” for her family, which she says can only be given to her by the voters.
Sanjay Singh (also known as Sinh) is a politician from the state of Uttar Pradesh. He was twice elected to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh during the 1980s and held state ministerial posts. In 1990, he became Rajya Sabha MP and in 1998, he was elected to the Lok Sabha. His term in the 12th Lok Sabha session lasted until the following year. Subsequently, in 2009, he was successful in obtaining a second term in that house as a member of the 15th Lok Sabha representing the Sultanpur constituency of Uttar Pradesh. He currently represents the state of Assam in the Rajya Sabha.
Singh has held various ministerial portfolios and committee positions over the years, including as Union Minister for Communications in 1991. He had lent support to Sanjay Gandhi when that member of the Nehru-Gandhi family had chosen to contest the Amethi constituency in the elections of 1980. The Amethi area has strong links to the Nehru-Gandhi family and at that time the neighbouring constituency of Rae Bareli was held by Sanjay’s mother, Indira Gandhi. He subsequently became a friend of Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded Sanjay as the representative for Amethi.
However, Singh left the Gandhi-led Indian National Congress (INC) party in 1988 and joined Janata Dal, which was led by a relative of his first wife. Despite a general mood favouring Janata Dal, Singh’s attempt to oust Rajiv Gandhi in the Indian general election, 1989 did not reflect it and he was heavily defeated by the incumbent. He later changed his allegiance to that of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, he won the Amethi constituency seat. After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, a colleague of Gandhi in the INC, Capt. Satish Sharma, had become the Amethi representative but he neglected his constituents and caused them to flock to Singh. Although, Singh contested again as the BJP candidate in the 1999 elections, he had to face challenge from Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia who highlighted about her family’s contributions towards the constituency’s development. He rejoined the INC in 2003, choosing to announce his move on the birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi.
Syed Modi, a badminton player who had won numerous national and international titles, was shot dead on 28 July 1988 in Lucknow. The murder attracted worldwide attention. There were suggestions that Modi’s wife, Ameeta, was involved in a relationship with Singh, who was a close friend of the couple and at whose house they had married. Later on, CBI launched search of Singh’s house. The investigation was urged upon the CBI by the government of Uttar Pradesh and in November 1988, Ameeta Modi, Singh and another politician, Akhilesh Singh, were charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Singh claims to be married to Modi’s widow, Ameeta, but his first wife, Garima, has contested the legitimacy of the marriage. Garima claims that both the High Court and Supreme Court have declared the alleged mutual divorce between herself and Singh in 1995 to be null and void. Singh has accepted the court rulings but denies her claim that they were made because he arranged for an imposter to portray her in the divorce case. Despite the rulings, he maintains that Ameeta is his legally wedded wife.
Ameeta, a three-time MLA from Amethi, has chosen not to speak about Garima during the campaign, focusing any attacks on the BJP. Ameeta said that she prefers to talk about the work the Congress “has done and will continue to do” in the area. Meanwhile, Sanjay is not actively campaigning for Ameeta. While ‘the personal is political’ takes on a new meaning for this so-called royal family in Amethi, it remains to be seen how residents of the constituency respond to this unusual mix of candidates.
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