Ahead of every election, jailbirds try to land in the poll arena in Uttar Pradesh. And it is no different this time. Gangsters-turned-politicians lodged in jails or out on bail in the state have started campaigns to secure tickets from political parties to contest the upcoming general elections.Political parties have never been averse to fielding gangsters and the meeting of Akshay Pratap Singh, leader of the newly-launched Jansatta Party, with mafiosi Atiq Ahmed in Bareilly district jail last week, once again underlined the fact that history sheeters are not untouchables in politics.Atiq Ahmed has considerable influence in Prayagraj region which the Jansatta Party wants to leverage.Though Akshay termed the visit as a courtesy call to ‘old friend’ Atiq, people familiar with the developments said he had offered the don to contest Lok Sabha election.Jansatta Party, launched by Independent MLA from Kunda (Pratapgarh) Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, is planning to field candidates in Lok Sabha election.Atiq had won 2004 Lok Sabha election from Phulpur on a Samajwadi Party ticket and contested 2014 Lok Sabha election from Shrawasti Lok Sabha seat as an SP candidate but lost to the BJP.Gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari who is in Banda jail may also contest Lok Sabha election on a BSP ticket. Ahead of the 2017 assembly election, Ansari had merged his party Quami Ekta Dal (QED) with BSP and won from Mau assembly seat. He has 45 criminal cases against him and is an accused in two murder cases.“Party president Mayawati is screening candidates. The ticket for Ansari has not been finalised yet but his brother Afzal Ansari has been given a green signal for Ghazipur Lok Sabha seat,” a BSP leader said.Another muscleman Dhananjay Singh, a former BSP MP who was expelled from the party and lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls which he fought as an independent candidate is reportedly hobnobbing with BSP leaders for a ticket from his home turf Jaunpur. Singh is currently out on bail.Sources said initial talks between Dhananjay and Mayawati remained inconclusive and he was also in touch with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jansatta Party.Another muscleman Rizwan Zaheer may also contest from Shrawasti as a Congress candidate. He had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on a Peace Party ticket.Though a pale shadow of his earlier stature, Hari Shankar Tiwari, former MLA and a much feared mafia don from Gorakhpur is also trying to get a BSP ticket for his son Bhim Shankar alias Kushal Tiwari from Sant Kabir Nagar.Known for his influence in Faizabad-Ambedkar Nagar region, Pawan Pandey a former BSP MP is also in race for a ticket from the party for Sultanpur seat. An accused in Babri mosque demolition case, he had switched from Shiv Sena to BSP before the 2014 Lok Sabha election.History sheeter and extortionist Bal Kumar Patel, brother of dacoit Dadua, is angling for an SP ticket from Banda.Mafia don Umakant Yadav, who has influence in Jaunpur- Azamgarh region and had switched sides from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to BSP last year, may contest from a seat in east UP.Other musclemen like Narendra Bhati, Kadir Rana, Haji Mohammad Yakub, DP Yadav, Kapil Muni Karwariya, Jitendra Singh Babloo, Brij Bhusan Sharan Singh, Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh and Bhagwan Sharma are also in the race for tickets.Political observer AK Mishra said, “To win elections by using muscle and money power, political parties are giving tickets to gangsters and criminals in UP. The Election Commission has called for electoral reform but there are no takers for steps to stop criminals from contesting election.