MIDDLE MAN IS KING

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The all pervasive dalal is no more just a kingmaker Amar Singh wears the mantle of power broker or middleman with pride. But others are more circumspect, keeping a low profile yet ensuring deals get done. Nira Radia or the late Ponty Chadha combined great PR skills with superb networking among politicians and businessmen, all facilitated by a constant flow of money and other allurements

PERHAPS the first name that would pop up in anybody’s mind when asked to describe a middleman, could be Amar Singh!

In fact, the man doesn’t flinch from that description. Rather he loves being called a political middleman since he has friends in every political party. His wife hails from Gujarat, so he has established a relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well. He was friendly with the Pramod Mahajan, which did not prevent him from hosting Arun Jaitely and Modi for a late night dinner at his residence in 1999. He was close to CPM secretary general Harkishan Singh Surjeet. Amar Singh was also instrumental in saving the Manmohan Singh government when the Left Front withdrew support on the Civil Nuclear deal with the US.

Amar Singh’s journey could be great study material. Transitioning from small time Congress worker to Kingmaker who could make or mar governments, it’s evident the portly Thakur has travelled a considerable distance. He has seen ups and downs. He was so powerful once that he boasted in 1999, “I can get any job done in the Vajpayee Government which even Lal Krishna Advani or Dr Murli Manohar Joshi can’t.”

His friends included Bill and Hillary Clinton; and in India from former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar and HD Deve Gowda; Union Ministers Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitely; Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, corporate honchos like Dhirubhai Ambani, KK Birla and Subroto Rai Sahara, Congress leader Jitendra Prasada, Madhav Rao Scindia, Ahmed Patel, sportspersons, bankers and even top jurists. Top film actors were at his beck and call and he himself acted in a couple of films. But his passport to success was of course Amitabh Bachchan.

Amar Singh met Bachchan at a time when a series of his films had flopped at the box office, he had tax hassles, his residence Pratiksha in Mumbai was about to be auctioned, and his company Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd (ABCL) was in heavy debt. Amar Singh bailed Amitabh out.

“For non-payment of just Rs 4 crore, they had gone after Amitabh. I felt he didn’t deserve this,” Singh said at the time. The Bachchans reciprocated by inducting Singh into the family fold. Singh also got Jaya Bachchan a Rajya Sabha seat from the Samajwadi Party (SP).

When the Bofors scandal broke, the Bachchans went to Switzerland and Amitabh was implicated. Amar Singh flew to Switzerland to help the family, and on Jaya’s insistence, put in a word for Big B with then prime minister Chandra Shekhar. When Abhishek Bachchan was arrested on charges of assaulting a journalist, it was Singh again who pushed every button to ensure bail for Abhishek.

The Bachchans even travelled and stayed in Singapore where Amar underwent a kidney transplant. No wonder he boasted to me last year: “When the most beautiful woman in the world Aishwarya Rai Bachchan used to make tea for me, the world’s most powerful couple the Clintons, star of the millennium Amitabh used to consider me his elder brother, are my friends, and India’s richest family the Ambanis were my family, what more can one ask for in one life?”

Similarly, when Amar bumped into Jaya Prada at a party, she was the proverbial damsel in distress. She had fallen out with TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, had no films on hand and no income. “I didn’t have enough money to even pay the electricity bill of the government house allotted to me as MP when Amar Singh helped me,” she told this writer. Amar Singh not only paid all her bills but also got her a Lok Sabha ticket from Rampur much to the chagrin of local stalwart, Mohd Azam Khan. She won the election and was indebted to Amar for life.

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