Much before he took over as President of the Wrestling Federation of India in 2011, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was known for his arm-twisting tactics.
A key player in the Ayodhya movement, he was a one-man army for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh at that time – the party then had minimal presence on the political centre stage in the state.
Born in Gonda in 1957, Singh’s interest in politics began as a college student in the 1970s.
He entered politics with a vengeance when senior BJP leader L.K. Advani came to Gonda during the Ayodhya movement.
Singh offered to ‘drive’ Advani’s Rath and this catapulted him to instant fame within the BJP.
He won his first election in 1991, defeating Raja Anand Singh from Gonda.
The following year, he was named as an accused in the Babri demolition case which consolidated his “pro-Hindu image”.
He was acquitted along with others in 2020.
Singh has been elected to the Lok Sabha six times from Gonda, Balrampur, and Kaiserganj.
More than his political acumen, he has been known as a mafia leader of the region. At one point of time, Singh was named in more than three dozen criminal cases.
In 1996, he was accused of sheltering associates of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. He was booked under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Act and jailed.
During his stint in prison, Atal Bihari Vajpayee allegedly wrote to him, asking him to take courage and “remember Savarkarji who was sentenced to life imprisonment”.
Later, he was acquitted in the case, mainly due to lack of evidence.
In 1996, when he was in jail, the BJP gave the Lok Sabha ticket to his wife Ketaki Singh and she won with a handsome margin.
The BJP, interestingly, has always given ample political protection to Singh mainly because of the clout he wielded in eastern UP and among Rajputs.
The party leadership knows that it would lose out on seats if they showed the door to Singh.
Singh’s clout has only grown after the turn of the century and so has his money power.
His brazenness is evident form the fact that during the 2022 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, he admitted in an interview to a TV channel that he had committed one murder – something that even the most dreaded criminal does not admit on camera.
This was in connection with the murder of Ravindra Singh, the brother of Samajwadi Party leader Vinod Kumar Singh, a.k.a Pandit Singh, who once held sway over Gonda and Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh.
In the interview, Singh said he shot the man who had killed Ravindra Singh. “I pushed the man who shot Ravindra and shot him dead,” he said.
Singh and Pandit Singh had started their political journeys around the same time.
Their region of political influence was also the same. After Ravindra Singh’s death, their enmity increased. Pandit Singh believed his brother was killed because he was with Singh.
Pandit Singh died of Covid complications in 2021.
Earlier, in 2009, Singh had briefly parted ways with the BJP and joined the SP but he returned home to the BJP before Narendra Modi’s victory in 2014.
As his stature grew within the BJP, his “business” also flourished.
He owns around 50 schools and colleges and has interests in mining besides dabbling in liquor contracts, coal business and also real estate.
Singh is known to gift motorcycles, scooters, and money to students and supporters on his birthday every year.
His appointment as President of the Wrestling Federation of India in 2011, further added to his ‘weight’.
In December 2021, he did not think twice before slapping a wrestler on-stage during an event in Ranchi.
The fact that no action – not even a word of disapproval – was taken in the matter, made him even bolder.
“He believes he is invincible and does not fear even his own party leadership. No one can dare criticise him and even journalists keep a safe distance from him. The police bow before him. The clout he wields can only be seen to be believed,” said one of his former supporters.
Singh recently waded into a controversy when he targeted Baba Ramdev and called him the “king of adulterators”.
He targeted the Yoga guru, knowing fully well about the latter’s proximity to the BJP leadership.
He even slammed the Yogi Adityanath government and accused the bureaucracy of making elected representatives “touch their feet”. He also criticised the state government’s lack of preparedness for floods.
Most political analysts are actually bewildered at the lack of action against Singh by Chief Minister Adityanath who is known to take on the mafia with an alarming regularity.
“One can simply not understand Yogi Adityanath turning a blind eye to Singh’s activities. It has to be pressure from the top that is preventing the Chief Minister from turning his bulldozer towards Singh’s fiefdom,” said a political analyst.
That speaks volumes about the influence that Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has within his own party.