At a time when even corporators and local politicians have several SUVs and crores to their name, Banshidhar Bauddh is a tad different. Not only does this MLA not own a single car, but he lives in a thatched hut in an obscure village and is not even eligible to pay income tax. And on Saturday, his life took a sudden twist when he was inducted as a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government.
A resident of Tedia village in the Katarniya Ghat forest area of Bahraich district, 58-year-old Bauddh is a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) from Balah constituency from where he won a by-election on a reserved seat in 2014 for the first time.
According to his election affidavit, he does not own any jewellery or even a PAN Card and his cash and bank savings amount to Rs 58,000. At the time of elections he had cash of Rs 27,000 while his wife had just Rs 4,750 along with silver jewellery worth Rs 63,000. And to top this off, he has an agriculture loan of Rs 1.25 lakh to pay off.
Moreover, while most of his peers zip around in SUVs, Bauddh just owns a motorcycle. “Now they are giving me a red beacon car. I will use it to shuttle between Lucknow and my village and to go around my constituency to get development works done there. My area is extremely backward. More than 45 kilometre of the area is a forest and there is not a single college in a 50-km radius,” he said.
Bauddh is literate but has never attended a school or college. So his obvious first priority for his constituency is: “A college. I have already asked the chief minister for it,” he says.
Whenever the Assembly is not in session, Bauddh still lives in the village with his wife, five sons and three daughters-in-law. He married off his two daughters in June this year in a small ceremony in the village that was also attended by CM Akhilesh Yadav.
In the past, he has served as a chowkidar and ran a roadside kiosk to mend bicycle punctures; now he cultivates his 6-acre land. “Going to work in my field at 8 am and returning home at sunset has been my routine. I just harvested paddy, and cane is waiting. I came this morning and I am going back to my village tonight,” he says.
Bahraich is nearly 130 km north east of Lucknow and his village is over 100 km off the district headquaters. “The way we live and where we live, we do not have big dreams. Even in my wildest dream, I didn’t ever imagine that I would become a minister. But, yes, now I know I am a minister and I have big plans for the development of my constituency and its people,” he says.
In the 2014 by-polls, Bauddh had secured 52% votes against 39% of his nearest rival—BJP’s Akshibar Lal. He had joined the Samajwadi Party shortly before the by-polls and this was his first assembly election. Twice before he had contested panchayat elections when he was in the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).