SENTIMENTS CLASH. While the Mumbaikars would not easily forgive Abu Salem, one of the 123 accused in the 1993 serial blasts case, his own family members want him to prove his innocence in the people’s court, much before the court deliver its verdict.
In their judgment, the court verdict is unlikely to come before the 2007 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. A court verdict pronouncing him guilty could dash their dreams of seeing him in his new avatar of a ‘neta’ as convicts can’t contest elections in the country.
However, the family is in for a disappointment. The Bhartiya Samaj Party is not going to make his candidature official tomorrow. While the family members are expecting a public announcement at tomorrow’s ‘BSP’ rally in Sarai Mir, the party’s national president Om Prakash Rajbhar insists that he never made such an offer to Salem. Otherwise also Congress with whom Rajbhar is busy sewing a pact for the forthcoming polls is unlikely to accept Salem’s candidature. Akhilesh Singh, Congress spokesperson in UP said, “ Yes, talks with Bhartiya Samaj Party are on, but there is no question of Salem contesting polls on its ticket”. Senior Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Ashok Gehlot are likely to share dais with Rajbhar.
Contrary to their contention is Dr Takiuddin’s expectations, Salem’s brother in law. “People are expecting a public announcement of Salem’s candidature from Mubarakpur tomorrow by Rajbhar. Salem has no criminal record in Azamgarh.
Whatever criminal cases are there, they are in Maharashtra and Salem insists that he is innocent”. Incidentally, the family members (he has six sisters and four brothers) have kept away from Salem, none of them ever visited him in jail. But today they have high expectations from him.
Dr Taki, who is in touch with political parties, said, “ While the cases go on, we want him to serve the samaj as a member of the UP Vidhan Sabha. “
The family thinks Mubarakpur in Azamgarh is a safe constituency for Salem, where they believe the voters want a change. “ They are unhappy with the performance of the sitting Samajwadi Party MLA”, said Dr Taki on telephone. He said initially ‘BSP’ had offered Mau seat to Salem. But they turned down the offer, as they do not want to contest against another Ansari. Mafia don-turned-MLA Mukhtar Ansari is MLA from Mau. He is presently in Ghazipur jail.
“The other option is his birth place Sarai Mir. But it is a reserved seat. We decided on Mubarakpur for obvious reasons. First, his grandfather hails from that area. Secondly, the caste combination. There are 80,000 Ansaris and 35,000 Rajbhars.”
However, the caste calculations have gone awry with Om Prakash Rajbhar denying any offer of seat to Salem. But relief has come with yet another small political outfit, Apna Dal, offering support to his candidature. Sone Lal Patel, party president of Kurmi-based Apna Dal, on Tuesday announced before the media, “ We are not averse to supporting Abu Salem or Dawood Ibrahim”.
However the party’s graph came down after it supported yet another Dawood’s aide Babloo Srivastava in the last Lok Sabha elections from Sitapur. Though student leaders of adjoining districts, including Sitapur, struck by the glamour of the crime world, made a beeline to Sitapur from where Babloo was contesting, the don even lost his deposits.
Perhaps driven by the hype generated in the media over Salem’s political plans, his lawyer Ashok Sarogi has now decided to reconnoiter the area. He told HTC, “ I will be visiting Azamgarh next week to assess his electoral prospects, besides holding discussions with political parties”. Sarogi, who spoke to Salem before telling the media about the don keenness to contest elections, said, “ Where is the problem? He can also fight as an Independent. But we must know who will run and fund his campaign? He said Salem was keen that a thorough survey should be done before he actually took a plunge.
Sarogi also insisted that Salem met both the preconditions required to contest elections in the country. One that he should not be a convict, second his name should figure in the voter’s list of the area.
To the question why should voters support him, Sarogi said Salem believed that his family had strong roots in the area besides his own popularity. To the question, “What Salem has done for the area?’ both Sarogi and Dr Taki had no answer except that he had last visited Sarai Mir in 1996.