Updated: March 10, 2021 1:39:08 pm
THE FAMILY of Mukhtar Ansari, the gangster-turned-MLA-turned-BSP-candidate, finds itself shouldering twin responsibilities after Mukhtar was denied permission to campaign for the elections. Apart from looking to win the seats being contested by Mukhtar, his 25-year-old son and MLA brother, they are also under pressure to try and swing Muslim support in favour of the BSP in about a dozen seats where the family enjoys pockets of influence.
Mukhtar is on familiar territory in Mau, a seat he has won four times and which has elected only Muslims since 1969. For his newcomer son Abbas, on the other hand, it appears an uphill battle in Ghosi, which hasn’t elected a Muslim since 1977. Mukhtar’s eldest brother Sibgatullah is contesting in Mohammadabad — the family’s ancestral home — where he is the two-time sitting MLA and which was represented earlier by another brother, Afzal.
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The son Abbas is pitted against sitting SP MLA Sudhakar Singh and the BJP’s Fagu Chauhan, a three-time former MLA who had won on a BSP or a BJP ticket. Ghosi’s four lakh-odd voters include about 75,000 Muslims and 70,000 Dalits, but the rest make for a complex, often decisive caste calculus — 60,000 voters of the backward Rajbhar caste, 45,000 of the backward Chauhan caste, and over 70,000 of the upper castes and OBCs such as Yadav and Mallah, whose number is smaller.
With the BJP hoping for a consolidation of the Hindu vote, Abbas’s hopes lie in a division of the upper caste and OBC votes between the SP and BJP, BSP sources say. The SP candidate is a Kshatriya and the BJP candidate is of the OBC Lonia caste.
The BJP is seen as gaining considerable additional support from a large section of the Rajbhars as it has allied with the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) led by Om Prakash Rajbhar.
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Abbas hopes he will also get support from groups other than Muslims and Dalits, mainly because of his family’s fight against “saamantvaad (feudalism)” in the region. “We get 15 to 20 per cent of votes of every caste. We have been supporting people here in their fight against feudalism. We help poor people fight their cases against the powerful,” he says.
Mukhtar himself had contested from the seat in 2012 and finished third, behind Singh and Chauhan who was then with the BSP.
“About myself, I won’t say, like other candidates do, that I will win hands down,” says Abbas. But, he adds, “Papa will win his seat with the highest number of votes.”
His absent father dominates his campaign — apart from his pictures on Abbas’s banners and posters, there is also the caller tune on the son’s phone — Mukhtar Zindabad, rendered by an Urdu poet.
“It’s true that a father’s absence will be felt by his son,” says Abbas, who claims to have won gold in national shooting championships for juniors in 2012 and 2013.
“It is the first time that the Election Commission has gone to court to get a candidate’s parole cancelled. It is the first time that BJP, SP and CBI lawyers have united to stop his release,” Abbas says. “As was evident from the PM’s speech, they know the effect of his coming here. But these attempts have angered people, and every person here is now a Mukhtar.”
The prisoner candidate Mukhtar, currently lodged in Lucknow jail, won as a BSP nominee in 1996, as an independent in 2002 and 2007, and as a nominee of his own Quami Ekta Dal 2012. An additional advantage this time is the symbol; it was BSP candidates who were second to him the last two times.
His campaign in Mau is being managed by his younger son Umar, 18, and family loyalists. Mau has over one lakh Muslim voters and as many Dalits. No third community is large enough to match these groups. The SP candidate is Altaf Ansari, who was third in 2012. The BJP, which bagged less than 10,000 votes in 2012, is supporting SBSP candidate Mahendra Rajbhar, whose community has only 40,000 Rajbhar votes. The upper castes account for less than 50,000.
“With his becoming the BSP candidate, the fight here is almost over,” says a BSP leader who was once Mukhtar’s rival.
The brother Sibgatullah’s seat, Mohammadabad, is in Ghazipur district. He won in 2007 and 2012. The second brother, Afzal, won the seat between 1985 and 1996. Afzal lost in 2002 to the BJP’s Krishnanand Rai, later murdered in 2005; Mukhtar is an accused in the murder.
Sibgatullah’s son Mannu Ansari is managing the campaign in the seat, where the BJP’s Alka Rai, Krishnanand Rai’s wife, is his main challenger.
Afzal, who has been campaigning across eastern UP for the BSP, has made it a point to visit each of the three seats being contested by the family.
The entry of Mukhtar and his family in the BSP has dominated the campaign in Mau district. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed a rally in Mau Monday, said jails in UP are “like palaces for Bahubalis who execute heinous crimes and illegal activities from there”. On Tuesday, Mayawati was in Mau and urged BSP supporters to get Mukhtar victory by a record margin. On Wednesday, Akhilesh campaigned against Mukhtar in Mau.
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