Rai Sahab is a ubiquitous presence in Samajwadi Party meetings but even party leaders have no idea who he is or the reason behind his rise to prominence.
New Delhi: Over the past couple of months, nearly every Samajwadi Party (SP) leader has been confounded by the presence of an elderly man in party president Akhilesh Yadav’s camp.
Since April, Rai Sahab, believed to be in his 70s, has been part of nearly every SP meeting, advising party functionaries on what to do, how to behave to even telling them how to counter the BJP and the RSS.
Sources tell ThePrint that Akhilesh Yadav even makes it a point to introduce him at every meeting. “Yeh Rai sahab hain. Hamari madad karne aaye hain. Ye aapko party ke baare mein aur chunavi taiyariyon ke baare mein kuch batayenge. Inko dhyan se suniye (He is Rai Sahab. He has come to help us. He will tell you about our party and election preparations. Listen to him carefully),” is how the SP president reportedly ushers him in.
Once this is done, sources say, Rai Sahab takes to the stage and talks about almost everything. He lists out the words that the SP’s media panellists should avoid, as they may seem anti-Hindu, he emphasises on clothes they should wear and on how different caste leaders should approach their respective caste brethren to court them for the SP.
A mystery within the SP
Apart from his appearances on stage, little is known of Rai Sahab, even within the SP. A senior party leader says that most don’t even know his full name.
“He calls me and talks about party strategy and how to implement it on the ground but I don’t know his full name. I have saved his number as Rai Sahab and talk to him only when he calls,” says the senior SP leader.
There is a belief that Rai Sahab is a political analyst with roots near Mathura in Western UP and Bihar.
“He is an old man in his 70s and had stayed abroad,” says an SP leader. “He always mentions Japan as he has stayed for a large part of his life in that country.”
But all in the party are aware of his closeness to the leadership. “You know our party workers. The moment they know that he is an important person close to Akhilesh Yadav, everyone would land up at his door,” says another SP leader.
The emergence of Rai Sahab
Sources within the party tell ThePrint that Rai Sahab was first introduced to Akhilesh Yadav sometime in January by a Dalit activist in Lucknow. He reportedly presented a blueprint for how the Samajwadi Party should tackle the forthcoming elections, which earned the approval of Akhilesh.
Sources say he was introduced to party functionaries in April this year when Akhilesh had called a three-day meeting of party workers and leaders in Lucknow. He sat in all the meetings, made presentations and guided leaders to prepare for campaigns.
Last month, the SP held its national executive in Lucknow and Rai Sahab was present there too. In the meeting, all the party leaders were asked to give their views, in writing, on an alliance with the BSP.
Sources say that a number of leaders approached Rai Sahab and sought his mobile number. “You can get it from Akhilesh Yadav’s office” was his standard reply, say sources.
As per the leaders, Rai Sahab speaks to anyone he wants in the party but doesn’t allow them to reciprocate, unless he himself wishes so.
“He is not in charge of campaigns of the party and it is still being handled by a team of leaders. But he definitely advises the party president on things to do and his advice carries weight,” says an SP leader. “Till date, he remains a mystery to many of us.”