Uttar Pradesh has given its “wronged women” a sense of “natural justice” in the recently concluded Assembly elections, by awarding them stunning victories against those who were perceived to be their tormentors. Topping the list is Garima Singh of Amethi, who contested from the VIP seat against her estranged husband and erstwhile Maharaja of Amethi, Sanjay Singh’s “second wife”, Ameeta Singh—both women claimed themselves to be the real “Maharani” of what was once a princely state.
Speaking on behalf of his mother Garima Singh, who won the three-way contest in Amethi that also involved incumbent MLA Gayatri Prasad of the Samajwadi Party, Anant Vikram Singh linked the results to Amethi’s prestige. “It was a matter of prestige not just for my mother but also for Amethi. And the people of Amethi have vindicated not just my mother but also themselves,” Anant Vikram told The Sunday Guardian over phone from Amethi.
Sanjay Singh, who served as a Union Minister in former Prime Minister V.P. Singh’s Cabinet, is locked in a bitter power struggle with his estranged wife, Garima, with the latter claiming her and her children’s rights over the royal estates. Sanjay Singh married Ameeta Sinh in the 1990s after “divorcing” his first wife—the divorce was rendered invalid in both the state’s high court and the Supreme Court, subsequently. Sanjay Singh continues to live with Ameeta Sinh, who claims herself to be his legally wedded wife.
“When elections were announced, Maharaj (Sanjay Singh) went around telling the people that only one member from the royal family would contest. But when my mother got the ticket from BJP, he fielded Ameeta on a Congress ticket. He has been in politics for 40 years and he did this despite knowing Ameeta would not win against my mother,” Anant Vikram told this reporter, shedding light on what he called his step-mother’s ploy to keep the first wife subdued.
“His (Sanjay Singh) only intention behind fielding Ameeta was to divide the vote bank that is loyal to the family and in the process, get SP’s Gaytri Prasad win the election. He did that to fulfil Ameeta’s design of keeping my mother away from the lands and estates of the royal family. But Amethi’s people gave a meaningful verdict and made it clear to everybody who is the real Maharani and who is the impostor,” Vikram said jubilantly.
The tussle between the two “Maharanis” became glaring in July 2014, when Garima, now 60, “forcibly” moved into the erstwhile royal family’s Bhupati Bhawan in Amethi along with her son and two daughters, Mahima and Shaivya. In the following September, as Sanjay Singh and Ameeta, flanked by their supporters, marched towards the palace, locals, who were fiercely loyal to Garima, clashed with them. A police constable was killed in a cross-firing in the “battle” that ensued.
Garima and her son now have their eyes fixed on Amethi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s constituency. Anant Vikram said that the Gandhi family has neglected Amethi despite using it as their citadel.
“Amethi is our home but for the Gandhi family it is just a vote bank. They have become so assured of their success in this constituency that they do not bother to work for its betterment. Despite being the most VVIP constituency of the country for decades, you would find Amethi in shambles. It is difficult to imagine it is a semi urban city. Rahul Gandhi in his over 10 years as Amethi MP has no achievements to cite,” recounted Vikram, who is a BJP leader himself. He admitted that their primary focus will be to develop Amethi and wean away more and more Congress voters to the BJP, but stopped short of saying he would contest against Rahul Gandhi in 2019. “That would be a decision taken by the central leadership of the party,” he said circumspectly.
In Ghazipur’s Mohammadabad, people sided with a widow who challenged the brother of her husband’s alleged murderer. Newly elected MLA Alka Rai’s office told this newspaper that people have delivered “justice”. “It was a matter of prestige for the electorate and the general sentiment in Mohammadabad was that they have to ensure Alka Rai’s victory over Sibagatullah Ansari (brother of mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, who is currently in jail). It can be called natural justice. People’s justice is the best justice after all,” Alka Rai’s office issued a response to this reporter on her behalf.
Alka Rai’s husband, who represented Mohammadabad from 2002 till his murder in 2005, was killed allegedly by Mukhtar Ansari’s shooters. Alka Rai won the byelection, but lost to Sibagatullah in 2007 who was then in the Samajwadi Party. But 10 years down the line, Alka Rai rode on a wave of support from all sections of the Hindus and won the seat for the BJP against incumbent Sibagatullah, who contested on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket this time.
Her office added: “People want development. There has been no development in the constituency after 2007, when the Rai family lost. We are aware of the expectations that people have from us and we have a full proof plan to bring about progress in this constituency.”
In Sarojini Nagar Assembly seat, again, Swati Singh’s fight for “samman” or respect for women scripted history for the BJP, which won it for the first time. Swati Singh is the wife of BJP leader Dayashankar Singh, former state vice president of the BJP in UP. After her husband made objectionable comments against Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, she came under sharp attack by the Dalit leader’s supporters who used swear words for her little daughter and mother-in-law.
Swati Singh had told The Sunday Guardian in early February, “What ensued after my husband made that comment was a political fight, which should have been handled at the political level only. After the incident, Mayawati demanded that my husband be expelled from the BJP, which he was, eventually. Even then, BSP leaders dragged my 12-year-old daughter into this ugly fight and made outrageous comments. That was beyond what I could tolerate. I am not justifying what my husband, or anybody for that matter, did in that case. But it was important to set an example that these high-profile leaders can’t verbally abuse women and children and get away with it so easily.”
Far from being bullied, Swati turned the tide in her favour and fought the elections against SP’s Anurag Yadav, cousin of outgoing UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and sitting SP MLA and minister Sharda Pratap Shukla, who contested as independent. Throughout her campaign, Swati Singh pointed at Mayawati’s failure to condemn the personal attack against the women of her family. “I wanted to contest against BSP supremo Mayawati, who talks of honour of women but did nothing when her workers made remarks against my little daughter. As she is not contesting, my party has given me ticket from this seat and I am working hard,” Swati Singh was heard telling the crowd during the election campaign. The tactic paid off, as she won the seat comfortably with 108,506 votes against Anurag Yadav’s 74,327.
Swati Singh’s quote provided by Anshika Ravi.