Virendra Kapoor is a political commentator based in Delhi
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The curious case of Mayawati's brother joining politics

SURPRISING THAT Mayawati should induct her businessman brother Anand Kumar into the family-owned Bahujan Samaj Party. For Mayawati, politics and business have always been indistinguishable. Politics had delivered enormous riches to the extended family of Prabhu Das, a retired MTNL linesman, once his primary-schoolteacher daughter came under the spell of the Dalit ideologue Kanshi Ram. She hasn’t looked back since. The journey from a one-room tenement in a jhuggi-jhopdi cluster in West Delhi to marble-and-granite mansions in some of the most tony estates in urban India has been short and eventful. It saw her become Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh four times, each term adding to the fortunes of Prabhu Das’ progeny.

Anand Kumar was a jobless nobody till his sister achieved power. Rules were short-circuited to employ him as a clerk in UP’s Irrigation Department. But this was not what Mayawati’s kid brother was cut out for. His full- time vocation was soon to become family wealth management. So he left his government job and became a full-fledged businessman. In the meantime, he had managed to put away some of the cash from Behenji’s overflowing coffers into a hotel in Mussoorie, a hill station which after the bifurcation of UP went to Uttarakhand. The acquisition was made in the name of his wife.

Having plunged into business, Kumar floated a number of companies. Hundreds of crores were funnelled into these through a web of postbox entities registered mostly in Kolkata and Mumbai. It was mostly smooth sailing for the siblings till the advent of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in mid-2014. Till then, Mayawati had gotten away portraying her showpiece acquisitions—say, of a top-bracket bungalow on the capital’s pricey Sardar Patel Marg in Chanakyapuri or her huge cache of cash, gems and jewels— as legitimate acquisitions. She claimed that donations from grateful fans for her services to the Dalit cause had provided the funds.

Her brother too hadn’t had much difficulty explaining away a vast array of real-estate assets in Noida, Delhi, including property in Inderpuri, home to middle-class businessmen and retirees, and a few other places. Among his prized assets was a posh hotel in Noida that justifiably earned itself a reputation for the best value-for-money luncheon buffets. It became a favourite among hotshot business executives with offices in the sprawling infotech and manufacturing hub of Noida and Greater Noida.

Everything seemed to be well under control till the ongoing drive against black money led Income Tax sleuths to Kumar’s door. Large investments had been made by shell companies registered at an almost-shoebox- sized space in a Kolkata hovel; reporters investigating these postbox companies found this room locked, with neighbours clueless of its owner’s whereabouts. It seems the Modi bombshell of November 8th had hit Kumar and his sister hard. Apoplectic with rage as they were at the nixing of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, something perhaps had to be done to salvage the cash in their possession. A fraction of the illicit horde was reportedly used in buying yet another Inderpuri property with the seller accepting the offer because it was nearly double the market rate. A good part was deposited in a Karol Bagh branch of a nationalised bank, a fact which soon caught the eye of Income Tax authorities. Notably, Kumar deposited a couple of crores in his own personal account while hundreds of crores were put away in the BSP account.

Which brings us to the question we started out with: Why would she bestow the mantle of political leadership on her brother? And why now? Simple. She reckons, and not without reason, that his being a politician would guarantee him kid-glove treatment by the authorities. The Modi Government has tightened laws against benami propertyand money- laundering. And the noose seems to be tightening around him for laundering over Rs 1,000 crore through dummy companies. Clearly, those whom his sister, as Chief Minister, had given favours had routed the bribes to him. Among them were recipients of subsidised land, liquor distribution contracts and state-owned sugar mills sold at throwaway prices.

Kumar would try and protect his vast business empire as best as he can from the near-certain exactions of the Enforcement Directorate and assorted authorities. But his first priority, naturally, must be to stay out of jail. And with that lofty objective in mind, Mayawati last week anointed him her deputy in her political firm. But there was a curious caveat, which again was a giveaway. He was forbidden to become an MP or an MLA. Also, since the BSP holds over Rs 200 crore in cash donations, making her brother the party’s deputy leader guarantees that this sum remains within the family in case of any unforeseen event.