Once you cross the Gomti river and move towards the northeast of the state, you notice indescribable poverty. While people here starve, a new breed of Robin Hoods flourish.
Initially, these men terrorised the people. But loopholes in the People’s Representative Act allowed them to contest elections and become rulers. “As political aspirations grew, they turned saviours. They protect the people; disburse money during marriages, calamities and festivals,” says former DGP IC Dwivedi.
It started in 1982 when two known mafiosi, Hari Shanker Tiwari and Ravindra Shahi, won the assembly polls from behind bars. Tiwari is known to resolve family and property disputes, as does Raja Bhaiyya.
Akhilesh Singh is flying high on the money he doles out in Rae Bareli. Mukhtar Ansari, Ateek Ahmad and his brother Ashraf have strong support bases thanks to their “social service” in Mau, Allahabad and Gorakhpur, respectively. Rafu Saira of Rae Bareli says: “Akhilesh distributes Rs 1,000 each on Id, Diwali and Holi; Rs 3,000 during weddings.”
Ateek runs a kitchen for the poor at his party office. “No one goes empty-handed. He also protects minorities during riots,” says a supporter. Jaunpur voters say they have nothing against Dhananjay Singh as “he neither commits crimes nor takes commission”.
“It is a lethal combination of image and intimidation that works for them,” say the hapless police.