The rise in the political and personal fortunes of Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, the newly re-inducted minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh, is a curious case study. A first time MLA, who has been sworn in four times since 2013 in the Akhilesh Yadav Cabinet, Prajapati, until 2002 was apparently a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holder. His daughter, according to a complaint filed with the state Lokayukta, has been availing monetary benefits under schemes earmarked for BPL families, like Kanya Vidya Dhan scholarship in the state.
Today, Prajapati owns properties, according to the complaint filed with the Lokayukta, worth Rs 942.57 cr. He travels by a BMW. His wife Maharaji, sons Anurag, Anil and daughter Ankita are said to own properties valued at Rs 340.49 cr.
Since his induction as minister in 2013, Prajapati has been in the news for various controversies. As a minister for mining and minerals, he was held responsible for the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. Later, IPS Amitabh Thakur had complained against him for alleged corruption. Both Nagpal and Thakur were suspended by the state government. The cases led to an uproar in the media and in the UP Assembly. Later it was alleged that his family members, including his BPL beneficiary daughter, owned properties worth hundreds of crore which was disproportionate to their declared sources of income.
Prajapati was sacked by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav last month, and this was said to be one of the triggers for his feud with his uncle, Shivpal. When Mulayam Singh Yadav brokered a truce between the two Yadavs, the re-induction of Prajapti was one of the conditions agreed upon.
When he filed his nomination papers during the 2012 Assembly elections, Prajapti had declared his income as Rs 1.83 cr, making him one of the wealthiest candidates. This shot up to Rs 942.57 cr by late 2015, according to the complaint with the Lokayukta.
Complainants Rajnish Kumar Singh and Om Shankar Dwivedi from Faizabad have written to the state Lokayukta that Prajapati’s income rose at a rate unheard of in recent times. “Perhaps no other state legislator has become so rich in such a short span of time. And Prajapati is only a first time legislator. He surely has minted a lot money from his lucrative mining ministry. It should be probed thoroughly before this government completes its term,” said Dwivedi. Singh asked how a minister’s daughter, who herself allegedly owns properties worth crores, could be a beneficiary of a BPL scheme like Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojna.
When contacted, Prajapati refused to talk on phone, but people close to him said that “mantriji” was of the view that if these charges held ground, he would quit politics.
A senior Samajwadi leader from Barabanki, who knows Prajapati since the early 1990s, said Prajapati’s fortunes had begun to change in the early 1990s. “Around 1991, he started working as a property agent and amassed so much wealth by 1993 that he owned a jeep and even fought the Assembly elections that year. Although he lost, he gained prominence among his caste Prajapati (kumhar or potters) voters. Later, he continued to contest elections but lost every time. But his fortunes grew very fast. To gain political benefits, he maintained his BPL status till 2002. Later, he started courting the Most Backward Castes (MBCs) voters for the SP. In 2012, he proved very handy as a majority of MBCs voted for the SP and he himself won against a mighty candidate, Amita Singh, wife of the then Congress MP Sanjay Singh from Amethi. After that he became the blue eyed boy of the senior Yadavs, Mulayam and Shivpal and even organised lavish parties for the SP,” said the SP leader.
According to Kubool Ahmad, a political analyst, the SP government is serious about getting the MBCs the Scheduled Caste quota in jobs and that this is one of SP’s planks for the 2017 UP elections. Hence, Prajapati has been accommodated in the Cabinet again despite the UP CM’s aversion towards him.
MBCs include 17 most backward castes such as Banjara, Kahar, Kashyap, Kewat, Nishad, Bind, Bhar, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Batham, Gaur, Tura, Majhi, Mallah, Kumhar, Dheemar and Machhua.