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Bad boys rush in where statesmen once stood

Phulpur in UP once sent Jawaharlal Nehru to Lok Sabha. This election its hero may just be SP's Atiq Ahmed, a man with 37 criminal cases.
PTI | By Archis Mohan, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 25, 2004 02:54 AM IST

Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh once sent Jawaharlal Nehru to the Lok Sabha. This election, its hero may just be Samajwadi Party's Atiq Ahmed, a man with 37 criminal cases and Rs 2.87-crore worth of declared assets. Ahmed, who gheraoed Mayawati in the infamous 'guest house' incident, dreams of jousting with L.K. Advani and A.B. Vajpayee in the well of the Lok Sabha.

UP's Balrampur had voted for Vajpayee in 1957, this when the PM had just two jeeps for campaigning, of which one broke down on the election day and the future PM found himself stranded in a jungle.

Brij Bhushan Saran Singh, a BJP MP from Gonda is the party's candidate from Balrampur this time. A few months back, Singh threatened to burn down a Connaught Place shop when it refused to honour some discount coupons. Ego maybe, but money has never been a problem for Singh who has 39 criminal cases on his head. His opponent BSP's Rizwan Zaheer has 13 criminal cases. Even SP's Dr Mohammad Umar is involved in a criminal case.

Contesting the polls this time are many other candidates with a criminal past.

ARUN GAWLI: Once billed as the Hindu answer to Dawood Ibrahim, Gawli, 52, was probably better off in jail. Gawli is Akhil Bharatiya Sena's candidate for Mumbai South-Central. A tiger who turned into a cat, Gawli seldom comes out of his fortress in Dagdi Chawl in Byculla.

The man is running scared of Dawood for years now. In each interview, Gawli stresses that he did not kill Dawood's brother-in-law, and it was all a misunderstanding.

'Babloo' Srivastav: Sitapur's walls are plastered with posters of Apna Dal candidate Om Prakash Srivastav, dressed in Color Plus shirts and Chinos. Election material of other candidates is systematically taken off from the walls by the thousands of Lucknow University former students who have converted to support Srivastav.

Son of a former school principal and brother of an army colonel, Babloo, still one of the most dreaded criminals, maintains he was a victim of powerful interests. "There were 38 cases against me. I have been acquitted in 30. I hope to get acquitted in the rest and help people through politics," he says while managing his campaign from inside the Barelley jail.

Akshay PrataP Singh: Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya — the man everyone knows as somebody who would kill his opponents and throw their bodies in his pond for alligators to feed on — is supporting Akshay for the Kunda Lok Sabha Seat. The posters in Kunda tell a different tale — they are of Raja Bhaiyya, not of Akshay. "Last time, he supported BJP and it won. This time it will be SP," says Ramchandra Shukla, a primary school teacher.

Mohammed Shahbuddin: In Siwan, either you support Md Shahbuddin or are lynched, as Chandrashekhar, a former JNU president, discovered. Lodged in jail, Shahbuddin now operates from the Sadar Hospital, inaugurated by him four years ago. Eight rooms of the under-construction hospital building have been emptied. The air-conditioned rooms have been converted into a namaaz room, bedroom, gymnasium and a verandah with sofas for Shahbuddin's daily durbar.  "Look at Siwan, no kidnappings, extortion, snatchings. My muscle power is against criminals," says the man involved in 15 criminal cases.

(With inputs from Mumbai, Lucknow and Patna bureaus)

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