UP Diary: Larger than life in death 

Even after his burial, Mukhtar Ansari's life and death will be electoral issues in constituencies like Mau, Azamgarh and Ambedkar Nagar, besides Ghosi, Lalganj and Ghazipur

Mukhtar Ansari (photo: PTI)
Mukhtar Ansari (photo: PTI)

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

The custodial death of ‘don’ Mukhtar Ansari has cast a shadow that is likely to affect electoral outcomes in several constituencies in Purvanchal or eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Ansari had been in prison for the past 20 years and was still a formidable political force, having won five elections in his lifetime—two of them from behind bars, as an independent candidate.

Hailing from an influential political family in the region, Ansari was also an accused in several murder cases—most or many of them turf wars with other dons—and had expressed his apprehension that he was being slow-poisoned in prison. His pleas were ignored. He succumbed to cardiac arrest soon after being shifted to a hospital.

Ansari’s clout and popularity became evident when thousands of people ignored prohibitory orders to attend his funeral. Even after his burial though, his life and death will be electoral issues in constituencies like Mau, Azamgarh and Ambedkar Nagar, besides Ghosi, Lalganj and Ghazipur.

Sympathy and support for him are not confined to the Muslims; he drew members of Dalit and backward communities and the poor of the region too. Meanwhile, the BJP has been mobilising uppercaste voters, especially Brahmins and Bhumihars, on the issue.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has claimed credit for liberating the state from the evil influence of “mafia dons”. The BJP is expected to field someone from the family of Brijesh Singh, a rival don in the region. The party also wants to make an electoral issue of the fact that Ansari was accused and convicted of killing the brother of a Congress candidate, Ajay Rai from Varanasi, even as his brother Afzal Ansari is the Samajwadi Party candidate from Ghazipur.


A boon or a bane?

Are candidates contesting from constituencies in the first phase of polling luckier than the rest? While parties have released their lists of candidates for the first three phases, suspense over the remaining four phases continues.

Some seem to be happy about this, since the expenditure clock starts ticking immediately after names are announced, taking a toll on finances, quips Khurshid Alam Khan of Jaunpur. Seeking a ticket from Balrampur, Javed Khan concurs; but also argues that candidates do need sufficient time to campaign and interact with voters.


An uneasy calm

People, especially BJP workers, seem to be unusually quiet in western UP, although the nomination process for the first two phases of election is already over. Barring the prime minister’s rally in Meerut on 31 March, there is not even a ripple. It could be due to the rising mercury, but a more plausible explanation is that people were waiting for all candidates to be finalised and identified by their respective castes!

Strategic selection of candidates by the Opposition can change electoral dynamics overnight, points out Saurabh Seth in Jaunpur. Some parties are still weighing options and, depending on feedback, even changing candidates.

In some constituencies, the choice of candidates fielded by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party suggests they would like to avoid hurting each other. Despite this, Muslim voters and the elite seem torn between the SP and the BSP, and may tilt to one or the other depending on the candidates fielded. Till then, it is wait-and-watch season.

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