Just when people thought that the guns had fallen silent in the Chambal region, a dreaded dacoit is flexing his muscles with an eye on the upcoming Assembly bye-election in Manikpur, a BJP seat.
The seat fell vacant after BJP MLA R.K. Singh Patel (who won in 2017), was elected to the Lok Sabha this year.
Babli Kol, 38, the dreaded dacoit who carries an award of Rs 7 lakh on his head, has suddenly become active in the region.
Kol, on the night of August 15, abducted businessman Brij Mohan Pandey from his house in the Baraha Kolan village of Chitrakoot. The kidnappings in this region are known as "pakad" in the local parlance.
Kol and his aide Lavlesh locked up the trader's wife in a room and fled with the trader.
The following morning the trader's brother Bharat Pandey was asked to pay a ransom of ₹50 lakh within 24 hours for his brother's release.
Pandey approached the Manikpur police, but was 'advised' to sort out the matter with Kol if he wanted his brother back alive.
Bharat Pandey said, "Kol asked for ₹50 lakh, but the amount has been reduced to ₹10 lakh now. The police have not made any efforts to trace my brother and we do not have the money that Kol wants."
The kidnapping came to light two days ago when the local media got wind of it.
The police has now registered FIR against Babli Kol and Lavlesh Kol at the Manikpur police station. Reports said that the police have also started combing operations in the area.
Sources, meanwhile, said that Babli Kol was keen to prop up his candidate in the Assembly bye-elections and invade the political space.
Babli Kol was earlier a member of the Balkhadia gang, but after Balkhadia was gunned down, Babli Kol set up his own gang and has been ruling the underworld in the ravines ever since.
Dacoits in the Bundelkhand region have always been politically active. Dadua, who once ruled the ravines, was a Bahujan Samaj Party supporter till he switched sides to Samajwadi Party (SP). His brother Bal Kumar Patel, a former SP MP, and son Veer Singh Patel, a former SP MLA, continue to be active in politics.
Other dacoits like Nirbhay Gujjar and Balkhadia were also said to have political connections and enjoyed patronage from local politicians.
However, in the Mayawati regime from 2007 to 2012, the state government launched a major offensive against the dacoits in Bundelkhand. Dadua, Thokia, Balkhadiya were gunned down in various encounters by the Special Task Force.
The splinter gangs formed after the demise of these dacoits, however, have now started raising their head in the region and also have political aspirations.
Former bandit Janardhan Singh was recently quoted as having said that the police always avoid a direct confrontation with the dacoits. "It is only when they get information from any of the disgruntled gang members that they catch the dacoits," he said in an interview.
A senior police official admitted that Babli Kol was emerging as a major problem for the police. "He is constantly on the move and manages to outsmart the cops. However, we are closing in and hope to eliminate him soon," the official said.