Politics

The CBI May Be a Bridge Too Far for This Canny Engineer

File photo of Yadav Singh

File photo of Yadav Singh

Lucknow: In the fractious world of Uttar Pradesh politics where officials invariably pay for their proximity to one leader when another gets elected, Yadav Singh managed the impossible. The suspended Noida engineer-in-chief flourished under both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Maywati, not to speak of the current Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav, and might well have continued with his charmed career even after the next election but for the Allahabad High Court on Thursday ordering a CBI probe against him.

Yadav Singh, who was charged with possessing disproportionate assets after an income tax raid seven months unearthed a huge amount of unaccounted wealth, was just a diploma holder in civil engineering when he made a humble entry into the Noida bureaucracy as a junior engineer – a non-gazetted job – back in 1980.

Within five years, he was promoted to assistant project engineer, from where he made the next jump as project engineer in 1995. This is when he struck a chord with influential politicians in the Samajwadi Party. When Mulayam Singh Yadav returned to power in UP as Chief Minister in 2002, Yadav Singh was given a double promotion to chief engineer. Thanks to his clout with Mulayam’s cousin, Ram Gopal Yadav, who not only leads the Samajwadi Party in the Rajya Sabha but also holds the key to all major appointments in western UP , including Noida – commonly known as UP’s “goldmine” – Yadav Singh  superseded every senior colleague to get to the coveted position.

The change of guard in Lucknow in 2007 did not make any difference to Yadav Singh. He quickly switched loyalties to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) by building an equation with Mayawati’s younger brother, Anand Kumar, who had, by then emerged as her point man for the lucrative Noida region. So close did he become to the ruling establishment that in 2011, the post of engineer-in-chief was created for him.

As soon as the SP returned to power in March , 2012, Ram Gopal Yadav sought Yadav Singh’s scalp for “betrayal”. Within three months, he was served with a suspension order. He was charged with involvement in a scam of Rs. 954 crores in June 2012 and five months later a probe was entrusted to the Crime Branch of CID here.

Exactly 12 months later, however, the suspended engineer-in-chief managed to re-build his bridges with the people who matter in the ruling SP and got himself reinstated in November 2013. Back in the saddle, Yadav Singh continued to serve. In November 2014, he was given additional charge of Greater Noida as well as the even more lucrative Yamuna Expressway Authority.

However, this “lust for more” cost him dear when he came under the income-tax scanner and faced simultaneous raids on 25 premises connected to him on November 27 , 2014. Under fire from opposition parties and the media, a visibly shaken Akhilesh Yadav government removed Yadav Singh from his position of engineer-in-chief the very next day .

Two weeks later, well-known RTI activist Nutan Thakur moved a PIL before the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, seeking a CBI inquiry into the engineer’s misdeeds and his acquisition of wealth far beyond his legitimate sources of income.

The state government moved heaven and earth to thwart a CBI probe. Top lawyers were engaged by the government to keep Yadav Singh off the CBI hook. A commission of inquiry was also set up under a retired High Court judge known for his proximity to Mulayam. The Akhilesh government also sought to browbeat the petitioner and has hounded her IPS officer husband Amitabh Thakur, currently facing Mulayam’s  wrath for going public with a recording of the former CM threatening him on the telephone.

Nutan Thakur’s crusade against the tainted engineer finally bore fruit when Allahabad HC Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud  handed the case over to the CBI.

Yadav Singh under the CBI scanner , which could open the pandora’s box and bring out in the open his financial nexus with the high and mighty .