Every election has its USP moment for a party or a leader to lose or win. When Bill Clinton was debating President George HW Bush in 1992 presidential polls, Bush looked at his watch in between which became an iconic symbolism of his defeat. It may not be the reason but was fitting for his propounding over confidence that was blamed for his loss.
In a climate of projecting yourself as an emerging messiah of developmental politics, Akhilesh Yadav still muddied himself with caste combinations, religious polarisation and other factors that led to his waterloo these elections. The incumbent CM was trying to up his ante as a development oriented leader moving away from a feudal mindset of his father and his warring uncles. Amid this process, governance or law and order fail to take off as a unique selling point when an unceremonious taint was harboured in this matter. Although a saffron surge under the guise of PM Modi took over Lucknow leaving SP in tatters, just like Bush checking his watch, an elusive cabinet minister Gayatri Prajapati smiling with Mulayam Singh in pictures is the symbolic face of a post-election loss for Akhilesh. Especially when the rape accused minister was caught immediately after BJP came to power. A distance made by Akhilesh from his family fight and emerge as a man who wants to change the image of UP seemingly went for a toss and distortion. Come Lucknow, where buffaloes of Azam Khan were found in days, but a cabinet minister in hiding was difficult to trace when finally, he was apprehended owing to change of guard in Lucknow.
The picture above of a smiling Prajapati touching feet of party war lord Mulayam Singh. It assumes importance in scheme of two things. Firstly, he is close to MSY and those warring uncles. Secondly after rape accusations and the alleged elusiveness, ‘boys will be boys’ comment made by MSY can be perfectly applied in here. Prajapati has had an array of up and down events in his remarkable rags to riches journey as a politician. And in the advent of it, he has imbibed that every characteristic which would make him a typical UP ruffian politico. A below poverty line card holder, Prajapati was deployed in Amethi, at the heartlands of Gandhi family. He was elected an MLA and since then there was no looking back. He got into the good books of Shivpal Yadav and his mercuric rise as a politician was compounded with his amalgamation of illegal wealth and his foray into the mining mafia.
But his fiddling with controversies are well known. In 2015, a Lucknow based activist led Lokayukta probe brought him into limelight because of his wealth. He was absolved of all the charges, yet he made news for the allegations of threatening and influencing which made whispers in the media. The main contention on him was running a mining syndicate which may have given him enormous clout along with proximity with the Yadav family. His induction into the cabinet had their blessings and with the family recuperating in a war zone, Prajapati would be the bone of contention for the same.
Gayatri Prajapati was accused of corruption and so was dropped from the cabinet by Akhilesh.
He had to take him back at the behest of the feud and this case right at the middle of elections certainly impacted SP. The rape allegations were serious. It involved a minor girl as well as the fact that he was evading police. Adding fuel to the fire were observations made by the court which failed to provide him relief from arrest. The court said Mr Gayatri Prajapati could opt for a legal remedy when a non-bail able warrant is issued against him. There was more to it than rape accusations and his evasion. The police had also failed to register an FIR and it was done after the court intervened.
Then came the obvious politicisation which spread like a wild fire along the fertile lines of an election season. Governor Naik wrote a letter to the CM asking why the minister was still in the cabinet inspite of the charges. In further embarrassment, Prajapati case was taken up by PM Modi. In his massive rallies in the run up to the elections, the state administration was taunted by PM for protecting the minister. The tripartite cornering from the court, the Governor and the opposition made Akhilesh Yadav a little resigned to his fate over this issue. Even he claimed the truth must come out and Gayatri Prajapati ought to surrender, but somewhere the connections with his uncles were undoubtedly paralyzing Akhilesh Yadav and his quest to come out clean in this matter.
During 2012 UP elections, SP came to power under a youthful campaign of Akhilesh along with BSP law and order problem running in the background. One of the components of the alleged jungle raj then were increasing cases of rape in the state which was highlighted with examples like Banda rape case involving a BSP leader. The same pattern seems to have repeated now with SP being in the dock for the same and the BJP displacing them overwhelmingly in just concluded UP elections.
The curious case of Gayatri Prajapati was at the centre of a tediously concocted web in UP and was synonymous with every part of the same web. Criminalization of politics, feudal mindset, warring factional fight, police connections to the politicians, drunken arrogance of power with enormous wealth together may represent Prajapati and answer questions of his impending disappearance. After the results, his arrest and loss of face for the SP in the elections together signals the end of this very complex web that was cultured in Lucknow. A string of statues before 2012 sort of became an emblem for Mayawati and her electoral loss. In circa 2017, along with saffron surge, the iconic picture of Prajapati with Netaji highlighting family feud and no law and order spelled doom for Akhilesh.