The power saga of east UP

mukhtar ansari

Uttar Pradesh is a land with a quirky connection with crime in all walks of life. The state holds a long and interesting history of criminal turned politicians who keep on swapping sides as per the waves. Not only this criminalization of politics had given oxygen to organized crime but it had also helped the underworld to convert into a fully fledged industry.

But, like every other man and woman, as residents of Uttar Pradesh, the criminals also owe allegiance to a community or caste. But they also love to use their Robin Hood image to procure support from other castes as well.

The long list starts from Brahmins of eastern UP who started feeling more “protected” in the seventies because of the dominance of Harishankar Tiwari a Brahmin and eventually the starter of the entire crime politics saga in UP east. Later on, the Rajputs also started enjoying a similar protection from eastern UP Gangster Brijesh Singh who is a known BJP sponsored element and MLC at present.

There is long list with more names in all around UP, but Mukhtar Ansari is one of them who comes above all this due to his stronghold in almost all casts apart from Muslims . Specifically in and around areas of Mau, Ghazipur and Varanasi he holds a battery of support which is above any political calculation. Similarly, another Muslim heavyweight of Allahabad Atique Ahmed is also one of the close quarter watchmen of crime arena but is not as big as Mukhtar.

Mukhtar who was lodged at Agra jail until last month is known for his political steps. The latest case happened in Rajya Sabha elections where he and the other QED MLA rendered support to Kapil Sibal of congress despite claiming that they will move to SP. Although the insiders claimed that it was a last moment switch over and “netaji” was aware of this in a positive note. But the Ansari family knows how and when to pull the political string.

Mukhtar is now acquitted from several cases including the recent one of MCOCA.

Mukhtar only holds a last pain in his legal battle which is of BJP MLA K.N Rai’s murder which happened on 29th November 2005. In a recent development, Rai’s brother had already stated about Mukhtar’s involvement in the killings.
A family history of secularism-

Mukhtar comes from a family which has given laureates and leaders. His Maternal Grandfather Brigadier Usman is a known face in the legacy of Indian army while his grandfather Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari was one of those few who opposed partition in 1947. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari was a resident of Yusufpur village of Mohamdabad tehsil in Gazipur district. He was a MBBS and MS from London and was a known surgeon of his times.

This was a time when the leadership of a section of Muslims and their Hindu opponents were competing in order to gain popular support for creating separate nations with communal affiliations. But on the other hand there were some leaders from the both communities who consistently tried to establish a nation with a peaceful coexistence of people from different faiths. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari along with Maulana Shibli Nomani, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Abdullah Barelvi and Allah Bakhsh were among those Muslim leaders who rejected the idea of the partition.

All of them countered the views of partition through their writing, activism and by making an understanding with their Hindu counterparts. Although all of their heroic efforts were of no avail and the nation saw partition but Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari was one step ahead in dealing with public and established schools, hospitals and other public support systems in order to sustain his secular image for long. Although he also had enemies both within the Muslim community and the Hindu majority groups as well but kept enjoying the social support and even Mahatma Gandhi asked his opinions a couple of times and stayed at his house during a visit to Gazipur. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, was also elected as president of the Indian National Congress in 1927 and was one of the founders of Jamia Millia Islamia at New Delhi.

Mukhtar Ansari – The man with multiple images

Ansari is one of the many political candidates who have a long criminal record; he narrowly lost out to Murli Manohar Joshi in 2009 Lok sabha elections from Varanasi. But till date the 53-year-old Ansari’s political career hasn’t been affected by his jail terms. And barring his loss in the 2009 general elections in 2012, he became MLA of Mau on a Quami Ekta Dal ticket; this was the fourth consecutive time when he won the seat.

Mukhtar started as a member of Makhanu Singh gang in late eighties but very soon his growing ambitions forced him to start his own gang. He attained a status of notoriety in the nineties when his name appeared in some sensational cases of murders. The antecedents of Ansari’s criminal empire started from a small rivalry at local levels but gained fire when he started competing for municipal contracts and PWD contracts, and he frequently used the bullets to eliminate his competitors. He started operating cartels to corner lucrative government and railway contracts. In past decades Mukhtar Ansari had build a large criminal network in the eastern region of the state and his associates are now involved in a wide range of ventures.

The rise of Ansari was mirrored by the rise of another gangster Brijesh Singh. The Mukhtar-Brijesh rivalry started in the late 1990s when both of them tried to establish their supremacy over the underworld of Varanasi which was and still is commercial hub of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The era was witnessed by a free flow of money mostly in silk, coal and carpet industries and both these gangsters were struggling to outdo each other. But Mukhtar again took the lead after his name figured in the kidnapping of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s treasurer and businessman Nand Kishore Rungta. He was kidnapped in broad day light from Varanasi and VHP’s senior leader Ashok Singhal and Joshi cried foul in that entire case. Rungta went missing for long and UP police initiated a big drive in order to search him and the police action that followed after Rungta’s kidnapping sent Brijesh underground.

Around the same time when Brijesh was busy growing his empire BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai defeated Ansari’s brother Afjaal, in the 1997 elections and this made a new team of Rai and Brijesh who started making dent in Mukhtar’s den. Rai’s animosity with Mukhtar became more evident when he emerged as point’s man of the anti-Mukhtar lobby led by Brijesh Singh. Krishnanand Rai joined Brijesh Singh due to their common war against Ansari. Krishnanand Rai was BJP MLA from Mohammdabad, which was the traditional constituency of Mukhtar Ansari, before he switched to neighbouring Mau, but the turf war between both the groups continued.

Emboldened by rise of Rai in BJP and a covert support of Rajnath Singh, Brijesh also made a daring attempt to eliminate Ansari in 2001 and engineered an attack on Ansari’s convoy on the Mau-Lucknow highway. After hours of cross fire three men from Ansari’s gang were killed and Brijesh Singh was also reportedly critically wounded, but Muktar escaped unhurt.

A day after this gangwar at Usarichatti , Brijesh Singh was presumed dead and he used this rumour to go out of radar. For long years unlike all gangster tales he was alive and maintained a network from Orrisa. Brijesh managed to use his finger in affairs of eastern UP by his brother Chulbul Singh (ex BJP MLC) and his nephew Sushil Singh. But as soon as Brijesh departed from eastern UP, Mukhtar strengthened his hold and went after the BJP MLA who had defeated his brother and was associated with his rival.

Krishnanand Rai was killed on 29 November 2005 along with his seven supporters at Godaur village of Gazipur. Few armed men on motorcycles fired at them with AK-47 assault rifles, reportedly this first time the weapon was used for a high profile murder in this region. Ansari was accused of having given the contract for the murder and was arrested for it. The murder of rai created political ripples in Uttar Pradesh and the then CM Mulayam Singh Yadav did not demanded for CBI enquiry.

Rajnath Singh tried to use the political crisis in BJP and he staged a dharna at Varanasi for two weeks before starting his Nyaya Yatra which was flagged off by Bajpeyee and Adwani in December 2005. Rai’s murder gave the BJP and Rajnath a better opportunity to present him as a Hindu leader and he tried to revive old upper-caste loyalties to his party, which Mulayam Singh has absorbed in the form of people like Raja Bhaiya for Thakurs, Amarmani Tripathi and Hari Shankar Tiwari for Brahmins. Rajnath later on became the National president of BJP but failed to make any difference in UP politics and in 2007 Mayawati was crowned as CM with a clear majority.
Brijesh was finally arrested in January 2008 from Bhubaneswar after evading arrest for almost 20 years. He is now in jail and was elected as MLC from Varanasi and making ways to arrange a ticket for his wife via BJP gateway. His nephew Sushil Singh is also eyeing for a BJP ticket this year although he had been selected as MLA from BSP in past years.

The rivalry between Brijesh and Mukhtar in past two decades had resulted to dozens of murders and killings of shooters and close associates from both sides. Although both of them are lodged in different jails but both of them own huge empires in coal, contracts, railway scrap auctions, telecom and other ventures.

The Robin Hood Bhai–

Mukhtar reportedly never gives much credence to the stories woven around him and keeps maintaining the Robin Hood image by helping the poor and marginalized in many forms. The backward Hindu and Muslim weavers take him as a benefactor and he holds a reputation in other castes as well. Mukhtar is also known for his quirky hobbies such as hunting, shooting and the love for the number 786. He reportedly owned a series of 786 ending numbers when he was out of jail and even all the vehicles of his carcade possessed the same series of numbers. He also managed to get a passport which ended with the same numbers. He had also faced charged under TADA and MCOCA Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act but was later on relieved from both due to unavailability of adequate proofs.
Mukhtar is strongly supported by many communities and he has carefully crafted a Robin Hood image for himself. By helping the ‘poor’ people he had become rich without being involved in any small time robbery or kidnapping. When he was out of jail he travelled in luxury SUV’s and enjoyed a huge following. Ironically no one in and around his constituency feels betrayed if he betrays the government and that is why he is enjoying high stakes in government corporations, railway contracts, the timber markets, coal and sand mining, petrol pumps, sugar factories and many more unexplored things. The voters believe that robbing government funds does not create ruckus among them. Neither any small time gangsters disturb them in and around Gazipur and Mau due to presence of Mukhtar.

In past years when Uttar Pradesh was struggling to get power supply and most of the districts were provided only for eight hours. But when Mukhtar was in Muhamdabad or Mau the areas got 24 hours nonstop electricity.

Mukhtar also gave a scare to MM Joshi of BJP in 2009 Lok sabha elections when he contested against him from Varanasi. He was in jail but managed to lose only by a mere margin of 17000 votes. Similarly, he was expected to contest against Modi in 2014 but in an interesting scenario, his party gave support to Ajay Rai of congress. Ajay’s elder brother Awdhesh was killed in nineties and was suspected that Mukhtar was behind his murder, this support announcement came as a shocker for all and the minority voters went to Arvind Kejriwal.
BJP’s take –

Due to the overdose of criminals in politics the state is now in a position where ideological perceptions and development agendas are of no use. Parties like BJP and SP had been doing the manipulations by encouraging caste identities under false grab of pride. The fight between these two gangs in eastern UP had now taken a new dimension. The Rajputs and the Bhoomihars feel that the Muslim mafia can take over their domain. Similarly Mukhtar believes that Brijesh might get an extra advantage if BJP supports him more in future.

This polarization has threatened the very base of the upper caste leadership in eastern Uttar Pradesh and BJP eyes for this from a long time. As per the current scenario the caste polarization is not helping anyone in government formation, and BJP has this best way is to convert this gang war and caste polarizations into bigger units of religious polarisation. This suits both the Hindutva frontrunners and the torch bearers of secularism in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

If BJP fields average candidates from those seats where Ansari family is contesting then that will be a clear-cut symbol of a political walk over. This step will surely help BJP is polarizing the Hindu Muslim factor in many other seats of poorvanchal and even they will lose a couple of seats to Ansari’s, but they will win some more seats due to caste friction.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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