Shrikala Dhananjay Singh is in the political fray in UP’s Hindi heartland | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Shrikala Dhananjay Singh is in the political fray in UP’s Hindi heartland

Apr 26, 2024 02:14 AM IST

Singh's candidacy underlines the BSP's strategy to leverage her husband's political influence, setting the stage for an intense electoral battle

From a classical dancer to an architect; from being the daughter of a big business tycoon in a southern state to the wife of an Uttar Pradesh politician with criminal antecedents; from a Telugu-speaking state to the heart of the Hindi belt, Shrikala Dhananjay Singh (53), earlier known as Shrikala Reddy, has travelled a fairly long and winding road to enter the heartland politics of Uttar Pradesh.

Dhananjay Singh’s wife Shrikala is a BSP candidate from Jaunpur (File) PREMIUM
Dhananjay Singh’s wife Shrikala is a BSP candidate from Jaunpur (File)

The sitting chairperson of the zila panchayat from Jaunpur since 2021, she has now decided to follow in the footsteps of her husband, two-term MLA and former MP from Jaunpur, Dhananjay Singh (50) by contesting the Lok Sabha polls after the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) declared her candidature from Jaunpur on April 16.

She has kickstarted her poll campaign in the absence of Singh, who is serving a seven-year jail term at the Jaunpur prison after being convicted on March 3 by a local court in a 2020 kidnapping and extortion case.

Shrikala, who speaks Hindi with a southern accent, said she never faced a language barrier even while contesting for the post of zila panchayat chairperson three years ago.

“Language is never a barrier when intention and emotions are true,” she told media persons recently. “I had learnt a lot about the problems of Jaunpur and its residents while contesting for the post of zila panchayat chairperson. I just worked for the development of Jaunpur and tried to take along all people, regardless of caste and religion, as my husband has done for the past 24 years,” she added.

Shrikala is the only daughter of Jitendra Reddy and owes her political inclination to her late father, the ex-chairman of the Nalgonda district cooperative society in Telangana and a former independent MLA from the Huzur Nagar assembly seat.

She belongs to the affluent Reddy family, which owns the Chennai-based Nippo Battery. “I did my BCom from Hyderabad after my schooling in Chennai and thereafter went to the US to pursue architecture in interior designing. I joined my family business and started exploring prospects in interior designing”.

Shrikala now faces formidable opponents in the upcoming elections. In Jaunpur, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Kripa Shankar Singh, a former Congress home minister of Maharashtra, while the Samajwadi Party has nominated Babu Singh Kushwaha, a former minister in the BSP government.

Interestingly, both Singh and Kushwaha had played mentorship roles in Singh's political journey. Kripa Shankar Singh, who quit the Congress in 2019 and joined BJP in 2021, is said to have provided patronage to Singh during his initial days while Kushwaha helped him to get an MP ticket from BSP.

Dhananjay and Srikala’s relationship was preceded by a sordid past

Shrikala met Singh through a mutual friend in Delhi. Here, she gradually learnt Hindi on her own without taking formal lessons in the language. Over time, they grew close while attending events together in the capital. Eventually, she married Singh in 2017, who was married twice earlier.

In 2006, Dhananjay Singh married his first wife, Meenu Singh, but she died by suicide at his Gomti Nagar residence after one year of marriage. He married for the second time to Jagriti Singh, a medical practitioner, in 2010, who contested elections from the Malhani assembly seat (earlier known as Rari) in 2012 but lost.

In 2013, the two were arrested in connection with the murder of their 35-year-old domestic help, Rakhi Bhadra. Jagriti was charged with the murder of Bhadra and Singh faced charges of abetment and destruction of evidence. The two divorced the same year.

Also read: Jaunpur battle hots up as Dhananjay’s wife Shrikala throws hat in the ring

How Dhananjay Singh’s political career is now at a standstill

Starting at 16, Singh showed disregard for the law with over three dozen criminal cases registered against him since 1991. However, he has been only convicted in one case.

Singh was once on UP’s most wanted list with a 50,000 reward declared on his head. His notoriety grew to the point where it was claimed by police that they killed Singh in an encounter in Bhadohi while he was robbing a petrol pump in October 1998. The claim turned out to be untrue after he dramatically surrendered before a court nearly three months later.

In 2002, Singh entered politics, contesting and winning as an independent MLA from Jaunpur’s Rari assembly, now Malhani. In 2007, he was again elected as an MLA from the same constituency on the JD(U) ticket; and, in the 2009 elections, Singh was elected as an MP on a BSP ticket.

Initially eyeing the Jaunpur seat under the JD(U) banner, Singh shifted allegiance to BSP. However, his plans were disrupted by the verdict of the court, which sentenced him and his associate Santosh Vikram Singh in the kidnapping and extortion of the Namami Gange project manager, Abhinav Singhal, in 2020.

Despite setbacks, the decision to nominate Shrikala underscores the BSP's strategy to capitalise on Singh's strong influence in Jaunpur. The stage is now set for a close electoral showdown, where family ties, political alliances, and legal cases will play out in the quest for power.

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