A Rajput businessman from Faizabad, who claimed he knew the Sengars “fairly well”, said: “The stars conspired against Kuldeep. The events are an outcome of 40-year-long bad blood between the Sengars and the victim’s clan, which turned violent. The provocation was as trivial as a fight over the spoils from illegal sand mining or rivalry in a local body election. To us Rajputs, keeping one’s honour is supreme even on the peril of shedding blood.”
Housed in Sitapur jail, prison protocol was thrown to the wind for this privileged inmate. Local TV channels played footage of Sengar’s callers allegedly bribing the guards to reach him. Though sequestered 157 km away from Unnao, Sengar “worked hard” to ensure that the BJP’s candidate from the Lok Sabha constituency, Sakshi Maharaj, won. “Sengar has a network of loyalists in almost every village in Unnao district. He earns by questionable means but he spends money on poor people. He’s accessible and available to them,” a Samajwadi Party (SP) functionary said. On winning the parliamentary election, Sakshi’s first mission was calling on Sengar and publicly proffering thanks to him.
Who is Kuldeep Singh Sengar and why did the BJP give him a long rope before the court intervened and constricted the political leeway? “Yogi Adityanath may be a mahant but he’s as caste-obsessed and pro-Rajput as his predecessors at the Gorakhpur monastery, Avaidyanath and Digvijaynath, were,” said a political source. Yogi’s forebears, as political as he, leveraged their influence in eastern UP to nurture a Rajput mafioso such as Virendra Pratap Shahi to undermine the power of Brahmin gangsters Hari Shankar Tiwari and Shiv Pratap Shukla whose word was law.
Sengar started his politics
in the Congress but abandoned it for the BSP in 2002. He won his first assembly election from Unnao Sadar on a BSP ticket. Before the 2007 election, he defected to the SP, helped by Arvind Singh Gope, a former MLA and MP who is also Sengar’s brother-in-law. He won the 2007 election from Bangermau and the one in 2012 from Bhagwantnagar on the SP’s symbol.
Sengar had a brush with Akhilesh Yadav, SP president, who was the then chief minister. He wanted to field his wife, Sangeeta, for the post of zilla panchayat president in the local elections but Akhilesh had another candidate in mind. Irked at Sengar’s insubordination, Akhilesh used his political and administrative resources to defeat Sangeeta, but she won. “Sengar reinforced his clout. Akhilesh quickly made up with him,” an SP source said. The camaraderie was short-lived because, by 2017, Sengar figured the BJP was the rising star and he should hitch his bandwagon to it. Hridaynarayan Dixit, the Assembly speaker, ensured his passage, principally because he required Sengar’s help to win his election from Bhagwantnagar. Sengar fought again from Bangermau and won.
“Winning is all that matters to the BJP. The leaders were warned that Sengar was an undesirable character but they said look at his victory margin,” an insider said.
Two of Sengar’s peers, Babu Singh Kushwaha and Gayatri Prajapati, were also embroiled in unlawful sand mining and have either served or are serving jail sentences. The law never caught up with Sengar as long as he allegedly mined and transported forbidden sand from the banks of the Ganga in unlicensed trucks. Slapped with the amended POCSO (Protection of Children against Sexual Offences) Act, which prescribes a death sentence for sexual assault on minors, Sengar’s political career may have come to a full stop.