Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias ‘Raja Bhaiya’ may have serious criminal cases against him. But he enjoys the keenly cultivated image of a ‘Robin Hood’ in Kunda and adjoining areas of Pratapgarh district which are virtually his fiefdom. He is known as a passionate horse-rider and often takes off on his micro lite aircraft for joy rides with friends.
Raja has seen a lot of ups and downs in life, being behind bars at times (mainly during the Mayawati regime) and becoming Jail Minister, thanks to UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. There are several fables around him, one of them being about a pond in his Bhadri estate where the Raja’s enemies are allegedly fed to crocodiles, though he has denied it vehemently calling it a figment of his detractors’ imagination.
At present, Raja faces eight criminal cases (five of them heinous) including those for abduction, murder, attempt to murder, violence and land grabbing. Several criminal cases against him were withdrawn by the Mulayam Singh regime (2003-2007).
The 43-year-old scion of the royal Bhadri family has won five times in a row from his native Assembly seat Kunda since 1993 when he was the youngest MLA at 26. His elections have always been one-sided ensuring him victories by huge margins; in 1996, 2002 and 2012, he won by margins of over 80,000 votes. He has always contested as an independent, though in recent elections he has been supported by the Samajwadi Party (SP).
Mayawati slapped the draconian POTA on him in November 2002 and sent him, his father Uday Pratap Singh, and brother Akshay Pratap Singh to jail. However, within half an hour of becoming Chief Minister in 2003, Mulayam Singh Yadav dropped all charges against him. He also made him a cabinet minister in 2005 and gave him ‘Z’ category (top level) security despite his pending criminal cases. A police officer RS Pandey who had led the raid and recovered an AK-47 rifle from his house died in a mysterious road accident which the CBI is still probing.
Raja has never been bound by any permanent political affiliations. Apart from Mulayam, Raja has served as minister under Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh, too. He faced charges of kidnapping and extortion even when he was minister in the Rajnath Singh regime. Ironically, when Kalyan Singh became Chief Minister with BSP support in 1997, he had said “Kunda ka gunda” would have to flee from UP. But later he led a group of independent MLAs to support Kalyan Singh's government after Mayawati withdrew support.
After the 2007 elections, when Mayawati swept to power with a majority, Raghuraj came under the police radar again. But things changed again in 2012 when the SP swept the polls. CM Akhilesh Yadav appointed him minister for jails and food and civil supplies justifying his action saying that the cases against Raja were politically-motivated.
However, the wheel seems to have come a full circle for Raja Bhaiya, and once again he seems to be heading for his place behind bars.