New Delhi, Aug 1 : Who was Amar Singh? The answer will differ on who you ask. One set of people will call him the man who was at the heart of UPA’s infamous trust vote and a very powerful power broker. Another set will call him “humorous”, as Rajnath Singh did. The man had access and acceptability across all political ideologies.
Singh died young at 64 on Saturday, battling a critical infection after his second kidney transplant, in Singapore. In a country where 50 years old politicians are considered ‘young’, Singh surely died way too early. However, his tryst with the kidney ailment wasn’t new. Intermittently, he had gone through long spells of treatment in Singapore, with even his long time friend Amitabh Bacchhan spending time with him there, to boost his morale.
Singh was expelled from the Samajwadi Party in 2010. However, he was re-inducted, only to be expelled again in 2017, when Akhilesh Yadav took charge of the party in his own hands. However, even in the most intense moments of animosity between Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav on the one side and Amar Singh on the other, the patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav had a special fondness for Singh, something the businessman turned pelican knew well and as many within SP suspect, he used to his advantage.
During the UPA era, he was one of the most powerful man in the national capital. A power broker who can get things done, was his image. While UPA Chairperson and NAC chief Sonia Gandhi’s residence — 10, Janpath was the most significant address, Amar Singh ensured his official residence, 27, Lodi Estate was no less. On most days of the month, the street leading to his house would be swarmed with OB vans, top political journalists and a slew of cameramen, for one or the other comment he would make that would become the day’s most controversial talking point. Singh knew he created controversy and he used it to his advantage.
His two neighbours for the most part of UPA — BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Congress’ Anand Sharma had to come to terms with regular overwhelming media attention on the man who many in his close circuit call as ‘Thakur Sahab’.
This Rajya Sabha member’s rise has been meteoric and fast. He spoke many languages, including Bengali, with finesse that made him bond with unlikely leaders like Mamata Banerjee. He had deep penetration into Bollywood’s who’s who. Amar Singh had so much clout that he could regularly take pot shots at Digvijaya Singh, then a very powerful leader in Delhi of the ruling Congress party, and yet get away with it.
While Singh was at the thick of the strategy of the treasury benches, he could casually walk down to the opposition side and start an animated conversation with BJP leaders. This ability to mingle with any political leader, made him both regarded and envied. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of it when he tweeted, “He was known for his friendship across many spheres of life”. If Amitabh Bachhan, with whose family he had a late fallout, was his best friend in Bollywood, his closest acquaintance in the corporate world was Anil Ambani.
But it was only the ‘cash for vote scam’ that unravelled his clout during the UPA. Delhi Police had told a city court that it was Singh who introduced Sanjeev Saxena as his secretary to allegedly bribe three BJP members of Parliament a day before the infamous trust vote on July 22, 2008. BJP’s Faggan Singh Kulaste, Ashok Argal and Mahabir Singh Bhagora had caused an absolute chaos in July 2008, when the trio waved bundles of cash in the Lok Sabha. They had alleged back then that they were part of a bribe to save the Congress-led government after Left parties withdrew support questioning the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. Though Singh and the three BJP leaders were let off in 2013, one thing was clear — Amar Singh was more than an MP during UPA and his address was a Lutyens’ powercentre.
As the entire political spectrum mourns the loss of Amar Singh, 27, Lodi Estate, his residence during the UPA era, stands in silence today. Once, the epicenter of Lutyens’ political activities, the bungalow has stood witness to the rise of Amar Singh, an unlikely politician who loves to wear a smile and flaunt his mont blanc pens.