In Uttar Pradesh, Sanjay Seth is a name that crops up often in conversations with not only Samajwadi Party (SP) candidates, but also those of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
SP insiders say when in crisis —and there have been one too many in the midst of the current electoral battle — they now increasingly turn to Seth, rather than taking the issue all the way up to the party president, Akhilesh Yadav.
As the SP has struck an alliance with the BSP for the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, some of the BSP candidates have also sought his help during the election campaign. Cadres of the two parties know it well that Seth was the bridge between Akhilesh and BSP chief Mayawati that helped shape their alliance for the Lok Sabha polls.
Seth, 58, is a well-known realtor of Uttar Pradesh, and had bagged important government contracts during the chief ministerial tenures of Mayawati (2007-12) as well as Akhilesh (2012-17). He made his political debut in 2016 when the SP sent him to the Rajya Sabha. Seth’s earlier attempt to enter UP’s legislative council in 2015 had been rejected by the governor, along with four other nominations. Income Tax raids on Seth and his associates followed.
Party sources say Seth contributed significantly in lifting the Yadavs of the SP and Mayawati out of the morass of their respective decimation at the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2017 Assembly polls. Apart from the BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, Seth was the only person present when Akhilesh visited Mayawati’s residence earlier this year to negotiate the SP-BSP alliance. Last year, Seth, along with Mishra, convinced Mayawati to announce her party’s support for SP candidates for the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-polls. The SP had won the two seats with Akhilesh publicly thanking Mayawati for her support.
A commerce graduate from Lucknow University, Seth has been close to the Yadav clan, particularly Prateek Yadav, Akhilesh's step-brother, who is also in the real estate business. Seth set up ‘SAS Hotels and Properties Limited’ in 1985, which was later renamed Shalimar Corp. It is now one of the leading real estate developers in Uttar Pradesh, and has a footprint in Delhi and Haryana.
Seth, currently the national treasure of the SP, has been the Uttar Pradesh region president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI). In Parliament, Seth has moved a private members’ Bill for the right to adequate housing.
His company has constructed bungalows for not only the Yadav family but also Mayawati. While he has been close to SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, Seth supported the son during the family feud and subsequently helped the family build bridges.
Party insiders say Seth could play a bigger role at the Centre in the coming months if a coalition government were to take shape.
The Shalimar Group, according to its website, has footprints in real estate, property management, civil construction, imports and exports and glass processing. "The luxury property builders in Lucknow have already developed nearly 6 million square feet of residential and commercial property and is set to develop an additional 15 million square feet area spread in major cities of UP and Delhi-NCR in the next couple of years," the website states.
According to its website, the company is currently managed by Khalid Masood, Seth's wife Leena Seth, Kunal Seth and others.