Poll Pourri: Local Dons Carve Out their Dens in Eastern UP
While Mukhtar and Sibgatullah are BSP’s nominees from their traditional seats of Mau and Mohammadabad, Mukhtar’s son Abbas is in the fray for the first time from Ghosi seat on BSP ticket
Ghazipur | Mau: The shadow of jailed Mau MLA Mukhtar Ansari and his two brothers looms large over Ghazipur, Mau, Azamgarh and Ballia districts, which send 28 legislators to the Uttar Pradesh assembly, but for them, this election is being seen as a battle for political survival. While CM and Samajwadi Party’s new national president Akhilesh Yadav has decided to keep a distance from Ansari brothers, Union minister of state for railways and Ghazipur MP Manoj Sinha has attempted to break the old caste formulae with his development work in this region. Besides, BJP has given tickets to several candidates from Most Backward Castes (MBCs) in the areas under the influence of Ansari brothers. The area of influence of the brothers, including Mohammadabad MLA Sibgatullah Ansari and former Lok Sabha member Afzal Ansari, extends to Varanasi and Jaunpur. They are believed to have a strong support base among the weaver community, which is present in large numbers in Varanasi, Mau and Azamgarh in particular. In their native Ghazipur in eastern UP, politics continues to centre around Phatak (gateway to power), a common reference to their residential address in Mohammadabad town along the Ghazipur-Ballia road. It was scarcely surprising then that Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati welcomed their return to the party when Akhilesh Yadav rejected the plan of merger of Quami Ekta Dal (QED) headed by the Ansaris with his party. While Mukhtar and Sibgatullah are BSP’s nominees from their traditional seats of Mau and Mohammadabad, Mukhtar’s son Abbas is in the fray for the first time, from Ghosi seat (Mau district) on BSP ticket. Afzal’s name figures in BSP’s list of star campaigners and he is travelling across eastern UP to mobilise minority voters in BSP’s favour. Mukhtar had first entered the state assembly on BSP ticket in 1996. “We changed three parties within two weeks of January,” said Mukhtar’s cousin Mujahid, who handles election affairs in Mau in Mukhtar’s absence. “First, we merged with SP. Then, we were left with no other option but to revive QED after CM Akhilesh Yadav denied ticket to our leaders. Now, we are with BSP, which is always our natural choice in view of the Ansari family’s old association with the left politics in the area.” Mukhtar, an accused in the murder of former BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai among other cases, has been in jail for more than a decade. Nonetheless, he is seeking fifth consecutive entry to the state assembly from Mau, having won two assembly polls despite being behind bars. “His absence in his constituency never affects us politically,” said Mujahid. “Adalat mein peshi ke dauran hi ek-aadh baar Mau aaye wo (He came to Mau only on a few occasions when he was brought before the courts. Still people love him here,” said Athar Jamal Lari, who handles Ansari brothers’ political affairs in Varanasi and Jaunpur districts, and is camping in Mau. So, what explains the political clout of the Ansari brothers? The answer lies in their connect with the poor people through gram pradhans in these areas. ‘If you need their support to get medical treatment or settle marriage of your daughter or performing other rituals, you can just communicate to the pradhan. His men will be at your doorstep to extend all help. One can visit Phatak seeking such helps also,” said Sabbir, a native of Barachawar in Zahoorabad assembly seat.
He clarified, though, that the teams of the Ansari brothers which are active in these areas first verify the financial position of the help seekers.
In this election, however, Sibgatullah is in a tough fight with BJP’s Alka Rai in Mohammadabad, while Mukhtar’s main challenger is a local face, Altaf Ansari, who is SP’s nominee in Mau. BJP has given the Mau seat to its ally Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, which has fielded an MBC candidate, Mahendra Rajbhar, against Mukhtar. Mohammadabad seat has gone to Congress under the seat sharing arrangement between SP and Congress. “This shows Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Akhilesh Yadav have joined hands in the battle against us. The absence of SP candidate in Mohammadabad and BJP candidate in Mau is clear indication of a joint strategy to make it a direct contest in the two constituencies,” Mujahid alleged. In the absence of SP candidate in Mohammadabad, where Congress has fielded Janak Kushwaha, BJP is eyeing Yadav votes. Ansari brothers have been lashing out at SP in their election campaign. “We show all respect to SP patriarch Mulayam Singh ji. Whatever our political differences with SP, we honour him,” said Om Prakash Upadhayay, who is handling the election campaign of BJP’s nominee Alka Rai, widow of Krishnanand Rai, in Mohammadabad. In Mau, Mukhtar is termed an “outsider” by his political rivals in view of the local connections which the SP nominee Altaf enjoys. What suits the political interest of BSP in Mau is high presence of Dalit and Muslim voters. Mukhtar’s younger son Umar is seeking votes for his jailed father in this seat.
The situation is different in Ghosi, which is close to Mau seat. Mukhtar’s son Abbas is engaged in a triangular fight with SP’s sitting candidate Sudhakar Singh and BJP’s nominee and prominent MBC face of the area, Fagu Chauhan. In 2012, Mukhtar had contested the assemble election from Ghosi as a QED nominee and bagged about 40,000 votes. So, Ghosi is not a new territory for Ansari brothers.
WHO CALLS THE SHOT