In what is being viewed as a strategy to woo voters ahead of the 2022 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo and former chief minister Mayawati announced that gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari will not be given a party ticket from the constituency of Mau again.
Mayawati, whose popularity has been declining since 2012, has attempted an image makeover for her party with the announcement that it would not field “bahubalis” or mafia members in the upcoming election that will decide the fate of UP politics for the next five years.
She added that the BSP’s UP chief, Bhim Rajbhar will be the candidate from Mau instead of Ansari. Incidentally, Rajbhar had lost to Ansari, then an Independent, from Mau in 2012. At the time, Ansari had contested as a candidate of the Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED), a political outfit he had floated.
As per reports, there are rumours that Ansari could have been thrown out of the party in order to re-establish its party base and to influence the voters in a critical move to pre-empt attacks by the ruling BJP and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath portraying the BSP as a party of criminals and strongmen.
Ansari is currently lodged in Banda Jail in UP, charged in over 50 criminal cases including murder and kidnapping. Since 2005 he has been in and out of jails across UP and has even contested and won elections from inside the jails. He was brought back to Banda Jail in April 2021 after spending two years in a Punjab prison.
After the fall of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP in 2017 and the entry of Yogi Adityanath, the focus on Ansari and his network intensified. Nearly 100 of his associates have been arrested and jailed. Some of his associates have even been killed in encounters by the UP police.
In 2019, Ansari secured his transfer to a jail in Punjab on account of a pending trial that was being viewed as a measure to escape the strong grip of Yogi’s government. Acting on a Supreme Court order, the UP police took custody of the MLA at Rupnagar Jail to bring him back to Banda.
Mukhtar Ansari’s Advent Into Politics
Ansari’s political life started off with a BSP ticket back in 1996 when he was elected as the MLA from Mau. In the next two assembly polls – 2002 and 2007 – Ansari won the same seat but as an Independent candidate.
His image of a “muscle-man” manifests his strong control over his constituency and his strong connections and influence in eastern UP’s politics. People in his constituency treat him as a messiah, which further polishes his image of “Robin Hood”.
“In his constituency, Mukhtar’s family act like mass leaders. They help the poor a lot. They fight for their rights,” a source close to the family said. “Though they have a mafia image, for the locals, they are their true leaders, available all the time to listen to the common man’s queries in their chaupals. That’s how he developed the ‘Robin Hood’ image,” quoted the Print.
After his talks with the SP failed in 2017, Ansari re-joined the BSP and Mayawati who gave him a clean chit. She had even campaigned for him in Mau. However. in her attempt to re-organise her party base with a positive outlook, Mayawati, who had strong connections with Ansari and his family, has now ditched him by calling him a don and mafia.
What’s Next For Ansari?
Hours after the BSP’s announcement on Friday that they will not renominate Ansari, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led by Asaduddin Owaisi offered him a party ticket from Mau for the 2022 state assembly election.
AIMIM’s Uttar Pradesh unit president Shaukat Ali, reiterating his party’s stand said that according to the Election Commission of India rules, Ansari can contest elections even if he is facing criminal charges. Targeting BSP supremo Mayawati, he said that her party used Ansari’s influence to make inroads among Muslim voters and gave the party tickets to him and his family in the 2017 assembly elections and 2019 Lok Sabha polls even though he was facing criminal charges. H said that now when the BSP’s agenda is served, she is calling Ansari a mafia.
Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party chief Om Prakash Rajbhar, a minister in the Yogi-led government until 2019, who now leads the 10-party ‘Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha’ that includes the AIMIM, Apna Dal, Rashtroday Party, Rashtriya Bhagidari Party, and Janta Kranti Party among others, described Ansari as a “messiah of the poor”.
Describing Mayawati’s stand on Ansari, he said, “What big leaders say is their prerogative. When Mukhtar Ansari joined BSP at one point in time, Mayawati Ji said that he is the messiah of the poor. I am repeating Mayawati’s words. More than half of MPs in Lok Sabha and the state Assembly are criminals. Many people are pointing fingers against him because he is a Muslim.”
“BJP, Congress and BSP should introspect,” said Rajbhar.