Express News Service
LUCKNOW: The UP government’s crackdown on a network of organised crime syndicates led by dreaded mafia dons (bahubalis) may be winning accolades but the action has somehow failed to break the morale of these strongmen, who have buildup their empires at the intersection of crime and politics. They are now set to show their moves in the 2022 electoral battle in the Hindi heartland.
Some of these bahubalis are sitting MLAs. Others have earned a strong political legacy as members of mainstream political parties. They are adept at running their show even while being inside the jail.
Now, while some may contest from inside the jail, others are in lookout for alliances with mainstream players. In fact, it is a two-way symbiotic channel. These bahubalis increase their winnability by aligning with political bigwigs and in turn, they help them with money and muscle in elections.
From the eastern UP to the far west, these mafia dons have their acknowledgeable presence irrespective of their political leanings. The first name in this context that comes to mind is that of Mukhtar Ansari, the sitting BSP MLA from Mau in eastern UP.
While, BSP chief Mayawati has made it clear that she would not be fielding any of the bahubalis in upcoming assembly polls, Mukhtar enjoys massive clout in the Purvanchal region. With or without BPS, Ansari is believed to be preparing to contest the polls from inside prison.
Incarcerated in Banda jail, Mukhtar may contest from Mau which he has won five times. He may contest from the seat again either as OP Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) candidate, which is in alliance with Samajwadi Party or as an independent candidate.
Significantly, in the ongoing crackdown on mafia dons, the UP government has, so far, demolished the economic empire worth Rs 387 crore of Mukhtar who has over 48 criminal cases lodged against him. “We are ready to contest upcoming elections as this atrocious government has to go in 2022,” said Mukhtar’s son Abbas Ansari after meeting his father in Banda jail on Friday.
Mukhtar’s brother Sigbatullah Ansari had recently joined the SP. He has earlier been with the BSP. A source close to SP said Akhilesh may not give a ticket to Sigbatullah as he is one of Bahubali Ansaris. Mukhtar’s other brother Afzal Ansari is a sitting BSP MP from Ghazipur who had in 2019 defeated Manoj Sinha, the present Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.
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The second most prominent name in the list is that of Atiq Ahmad. With his area of influence in Prayagraj and adjoining districts, it is yet not clear if Atiq will contest the polls himself. As per sources, Atiq’s wife Shaista Parveen may contest his place on an AIMIM ticket. A few days ago, Shaista joined AIMIM in the presence of party chief Asaduddin Owaisi. The sources claim that preparations are on to field Shaista from Prayagraj (south), the seat Atiq Ahmad represented five times as MLA. Atiq was shifted to an Ahmedabad jail on the orders of the Supreme Court in June 2019 and has 96 criminal cases lodged against him.
Another name that crops up is that of don-turned-politician Dhananjay Singh. He is expected to contest from Malhani seat of Jaunpur. He carries a reward of Rs 25,000 on his head. However, he might soon be reaching out to the people of his constituency as speculations are rife that he may contest on Apna Dal (S) or NISHAD ticket. Both the parties are BJP allies. In the panchayat elections this year, Dhananjay’s wife Srikala Reddy became the district panchayat president. The BJP had given this seat to the Apna Dal.
Next in the list is strongman Abhay Singh, an MLA from Ayodhya’s Gosaiganj assembly seat. Sources said Singh was looking forward to trying his luck from this seat in the upcoming elections with SP support.
Jitendra Singh Bablu is the BSP MLA from Ayodhya’s Bikapur assembly. He had recently joined the BJP but his membership was cancelled after a strong protest from BJP MP Rita Bahuguna Joshi. Bablu is accused of burning down Joshi’s house in Lucknow when she was with Congress and Bablu with the BSP. At present, while preparing for the elections from Bikapur seat, he is trying to get a ticket from BJP ally Apna Dal. This way, he will also get the support of the BJP.
Similarly, in the Sultanpur district, siblings Sonu and Monu have respectable clout. While Chandrabhadra Singh alias Sonu has been a BSP MLA from Isauli seat and is presently lodged in jail, his brother Yashbhadra Singh alias Monu is campaigning for him. It is likely that Sonu will contest the elections from inside the jail on a BSP ticket yet again.
Turning to western UP, DP Yadav from Badaun is one name that emerges in context with Bahubalis. Yadav, leading a party Rashtriya Parivartan Dal, is expected to try his fate from the Sahaswan seat in possible alliance with the BJP. His nephew, Jitendra Yadav, is in the BJP while Jitendra’s wife Varsha is the president of the district panchayat. Yadav has already been in SP, BSP, Congress and BJP. He was a minister in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government.