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UP elections: Why voters don’t reject criminals?

They are Robinhoods for the poor who turn to them in the face of official apathy. Over the years these dons have become indispensible for political parties in UP.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2017 11:29 IST
Sunita Aron
File photo of Mukhtar Ansari
File photo of Mukhtar Ansari

Kishore Kumar Bind, a poor labourer, is in a fix. He wants to vote for his caste candidate in Ghazipur Sadar, but can’t say ‘No’ to BSP’s Mukhtar Ansari, don-turned-politician whose writ runs large in four eastern UP districts -- Ghazipur, Varanasi, Mau and Azamgarh.

Ansari, prime accused in the murder of BJP leader Krishnanand Rai, is currently behind bars. On Monday, the Delhi high court refused to release him on parole for campaigning.

Bind does not fear Ansari. Instead, he is personally obliged to him. He narrates his case, “A local dabang had taken Rs 12,000 from me promising job. As he failed to get me work, I pleaded with him to return my money I had borrowed from a private money lender. The district administration was also of no help while the local police refused to even register my FIR. I then knocked Ansari’s doors and he got my money back.”

He says though he wants to vote for the candidate of his own caste, a simple appeal by Ansari will change his decision.

It’s not hard to find many more such ‘obliged poor’ in Ansari’s area of influence, irrespective of his criminal background. He has 15 cases against him, including those of murder, land grabbing, rioting, kidnapping, cheating etc.

The nexus between crime, criminals and politics is deep in Uttar Pradesh. The money and muscle power is in demand as all political parties want winnable candidates.

Interestingly, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s firm no to the entry of another mafia turned politician DP Yadav in 2012 assembly polls had won him praise from the people.

Will his stand against merger of Qaumi Ekta Dal, founded by the Ansari brothers - Mukhtar and Afzal, prove to be a game changer in this election as well? Experts are sceptical though support seems to be coming from a few quarters.

In Allahabad, Dr AK Singh, noted orthopedic surgeon and social worker, has become hardcore supporter of Akhilesh ever since he opposed his own father Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to merge Ansari’s QED with the SP and then refused to oblige Atiq Ahmad, another don, with a ticket to win a couple of seats falling in their area.

Dr Singh says, “I have been a BJP supporter but in this election my entire family supported Akhilesh . If we don’t support him on his bold move to oppose criminals in the poll arena, then there is no way we can eliminate criminalization of politics.”

However, his sentiments do not echo in the four districts that come under Ansari’s personal influence. “Jidhar jaayega, wahan Muslims and others ka bhi vote jaayega” (Ansaris will not only win their own three seats but also help Mayawati pick a couple of them more) is the common refrain.

“Whosoever went to his durbar came back comforted,” says Balraj Chauhan in Mau.

It is the system’s failure to address grievances of the poor which, in fact, compels people to knock the doors of these real life ‘Robinhoods’.

Take the case of Akhilesh Singh of Rae Bareli. He gives ‘shagun’ to the poor on two occasions – marriage and mundan - round the year. The Congress tried its level best to defeat this five-time MLA in the Gandhis’ stronghold but failed. Now, after an ailing Singh has retired from active political life, Congress bought peace by giving ticket to his foreign educated daughter Aditi Singh for the ensuing polls.

Though most of the voters in these areas know the criminal background of these Robinhoods, they vote for them primarily because of the protection they provide to them at a time the official system ignores their problem. They are seen as saviors/messiah rather than criminals.

Mafia turned politician Raghuraj Pratap Singh, who earned the sobriquet of ‘Kunda ka goonda’, was famous for holding durbars to settle family disputes over marital and property issues.

It was in 1982 when two incarcerated candidates had for the first time found their way to the Vidhan Sabha. The numbers have only risen in every election.

The Election Commission has called for electoral reforms but there are no takers. The same political parties which brag about cleansing the political system of criminals finally give them tickets; the alibi being “most of the cases are political in nature and there is no conviction”.

Firebrand BSP leader Mayawati’s pet issue is law and order. But she leads other parties in giving tickets to criminals. Of the 311 candidates fielded by BSP till the fifth phase, 109 have shady background, closely followed by BJP with 106. The SP, which had a tag of promoting criminals, has fielded 79 candidates with dubious credentials but if 28 of the Congress are added to the list, the alliance too is not far behind.

Former DGP and chief of UP Election Watch, IC Dewedi tells HT, “To grab power by hook or by crook in the 2017 assembly elections, all political parties have fielded gangsters and criminals in UP. When in power, the leaders of the mainstream political parties talk of clean and crime free politics. When out of power they mobilize the money and the muscle power to ensure victory in election.”