Born Into Politics: How Sacked BJP MLA Sengar Held Onto Unnao
The Sengar family have controlled the politics of their village for over 60 years.
"Kuch nahi bikta Unnao mein Sengar ke janne aur chahne ke bina (Nothing gets sold in Unnao without Sengars being in on the deal)," says Ajeet*. He is a resident of the village of former BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar and the Unnao rape survivor.
After repeated demands, the BJP finally expelled Kuldeep on 1 August. This comes 14 months after charges of rape were levelled against him.
The BJP had said on 30 July 2019 that he was suspended 'a long time ago.' The exact date of Sengar’s suspension has not been revealed. Also, the BJP waited to make this suspension public till after a deadly head-on collision with a truck on 28 July killed two of the rape survivor's aunts and left her and her lawyer battling for their lives in Lucknow's KGMU hospital.
In Sengar’s village, with a population of over 30,000 people, no one wants to upset the man. And no one wants to be noticed by him.
So, what is it about this four-time MLA that keeps everyone from speaking their mind? The Quint tried to find out.
For Over 60 Years, Sengar Family Enjoyed Political Clout
Sengar inherited politics from his maternal grandfather Babu Singh. Singh was the village headman for 37 years before Sengar took up politics. He was only 21 years old when he contested the village elections in 1987. With the backing of his grandfather he won his first election unopposed.
Although there were protests that he was too young for the post, he stayed in office for seven years.
After him his mother Chunni Devi, who also hails from the village, was elected village pradhan twice, once in 2000 and then again in 2005. "Even today, Sengar’s sister-in-law, his brother Atul's wife Archana Singh, is the village head. The post has stayed with the family members," the villagers told us while they looked around ensuring no one saw them speak to this reporter. To add to the list, Sengar’s wife, Sangeeta Singh, is Unnao's district panchayat head.
While Sengar inherited politics from his mother’s side, he inherited business from his father Mulayam Singh. His father was a sirafa, the villagers told The Quint – which means he dealt in gold and silver and worked at a jewellery store in Kanpur. “The Sengar family owns a number of jewellery shops across Kanpur and Unnao even today. They also have a few homes, big homes,” Srikant*, a 40-year-old Thakur from the village, said.
Sengar’s Political Aspirations Grew
“While his grandfather was restricted to the village, Sengar’s aspirations for political power kept multiplying,” Srikanth said.
He participated in politics at the district level from the Youth Congress and rose to become a four-time MLA. Villagers, who did not want to be named, said that Sengar often used pressure, threats and muscle to get what he wanted. He is also a turncoat who has repeatedly jumped from one party to another.
In 2002, he was elected as an MLA from Unnao Sadar on a BSP ticket. In 2007, he joined the Samajwadi Party (SP) and was elected from the Bangarmau Assembly constituency. In 2012, he was given the ticket from Bhagwant Nagar Assembly constituency by SP and won again. In 2017, he joined the BJP and was elected in the same seat under the lotus symbol.
“People in his constituency have to vote for him. If he finds out you have not, he will remember that always. That is why we keep our eyes low,” Srikant* says.
The Sengar Family Shot at Officer Who Tried to Stop Illegal Mining
It has been reported that the Sengars make money out of illegal mining in Uttar Pradesh. The police has tried to investigate the matter. In 2004, there was a face off between the police and the brother of the lawmaker, Atul Sengar. He ended up shooting Deputy SP Ramlal Verma in the stomach.
Under pressure, it is said, Ramlal Verma withdrew his complaint. “Now if the men in uniforms (wardi) can’t do anything to stop this man, what makes you think the Unnao rape survivor and their family could?” Ajeet* asks.
Atul Sengar is the same man who has been accused for tying up the rape survivor's father to a tree and brutally beating him up in broad daylight in April 2018. There is reason to believe that the internal injuries caused in the beating may have led to his death. Five days later he died in police custody, raising concerns about whether he was also, later on, tortured in police lock-up.
Despite the rape survivor’s family being beaten up, the police had then arrested her father on a case of illegal possession of firearms. Atul was not arrested although the wife of the deceased had clearly mentioned his name in the written complaint to the police. The police also conveniently left his name out when they filed the FIR.
Proximity To Other Leaders
Sengar and his two brothers have been booked by the police under different sections in the Unnao rape and truck collision cases. Kuldeep Sengar has been booked for murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and rape, amongst other charges. His brother Atul, who has been in jail since April 2018 like Kuldeep, has been booked under culpable homicide not amounting to murder, voluntarily causing hurt and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace. His younger brother Manoj was named in the CBI's FIR on the car-truck collision on 28 July, and has been booked under sections of murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and other sections.
Despite the ongoing cases, the now expelled BJP MLA has held on to his image as a strong Rajput politician in the region whom no one will think of standing against. He often flaunts his proximity to independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh, who is locally known as Raja Bhaiya, the "don-politician" of Uttar Pradesh. Recently in June 2019, BJP’s Unnao MP Sachchidanand Hari Sakshi alias Sakshi Maharaj met Sengar at the Sitapur district jail to “thank” him after the general election.
“He is a big man. No one else can get all this done while being inside the jail,” the villagers say.
Sengar is known to help locals financially often and at the same time get his way. However, with his continued political clout, no one in the village is going to raise an alarm.
*Names have been changed
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.