It is election season in Bihar and musclemen, gangsters and dons cannot be far behind. This is a state where crime and politics have gone hand-in-hand for the last five decades.

The musclemen, known as bahubalis are out again to hog the limelight, contest the polls or prop up their wives or relatives to circumvent the Election Commission’s new rules that make it mandatory for candidates with criminal backgrounds to publicise their case details thrice in newspapers before voting, and asks the political parties to justify why such a nominee was given the ticket instead of any other person.

Almost every political party is fielding musclemen or their kin to gain an upper hand in the three-phase polls that would be held on October 28, November 3 and 7.

At present the focus is on the first phase in which 71 constituencies are scheduled to go to polls and the deadline for filing nomination ends on Friday.

“The gangsters and people with criminal backgrounds find one way or other to bypass all the rules and regulations of the Election Commission, which has no rule in place to check the family members of dreaded dons or convicted criminals from contesting elections. Many people with criminal antecedents are also in the poll fray in the state,” Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Bihar Election Watch (BEW) Bihar convener Rajiv Kumar told The Telegraph.

He said that none of the political parties whether ruling or Opposition “are practising morality and ethics they have been preaching the year round. Their only interest and focus is on how to win seats. They all are giving tickets to either tainted people or their family members”.

Jailed don Anant Singh, once considered close to chief minister Nitish Kumar, filed his nomination papers from Mokama constituency in Patna district on Wednesday for the Rashtriya Janata Dal. He has been representing the Assembly seat since 2005 — thrice on a Janata Dal United ticket and as an Independent in the 2015 polls.

Facing several charges or murder, kidnapping, extortion and possession of illegal weapons, Anant was ironically arrested after RJD chief Lalu Prasad put pressure on the Nitish government to crack the whip in the kidnapping– cum–murder case of one Putus Yadav in 2015. At that time Nitish’s JDU and RJD were allies.

Also known as “chhote sarkar”, Anant had weighed Nitish with silver coins on a scale. He had won the 2015 elections from jail.

A man of few words, he came in a prisoner’s van to file the nomination and declared: “RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav will be chief minister. Nitish will go to jail.”

Anant’s wife Neelam Singh also filed nomination from the Mokama constituency as an Independent candidate on Wednesday, so that if her husband’s candidature is cancelled due to any reason, she would be in the poll fray.

The RJD has also given tickets to Vibha Devi and Kiran Devi, wives of musclemen Rajballabh Prasad Yadav and Arun Yadav, from Nawada and Sandesh constituencies, respectively.

Rajballabh, a former Nawada MLA, is currently in jail after being convicted for the rape of a minor girl. He has also been accused of illegal mining, extortion and assault, is considered “Mr Moneybags” of the party and is said to call shots from prison.

Arun is an MLA from Sandesh constituency in Bhojpur district, and is on the run after being accused of the rape of a minor girl. He is also considered a strongman in his area.

The RJD has banked on another muscleman Surendra Yadav, an accused in several criminal cases, in Belaganj constituency in Gaya district. Nicknamed “Magadh Samrat” (king of Magadh), he is known to hold sway in Maoist-affected areas, where even the police tread with fear.

The JDU is also not far behind in fielding musclemen and dons.

It has given a ticket to Manorama Devi, currently an MLC, to contest from Atri constituency in Gaya district.

Manorama is the wife of Bindi Yadav, an accused in several cases of murder, attempt to murder, assault and extortion. He is considered a terror, unbridled by the law, in his area.

She has also been to jail for recovery of liquor from her house after Nitish imposed prohibition in the state. It brings into question the government’s sincerity in imposing the liquor ban.

Many musclemen are filing nomination papers as Independent candidates after being denied a ticket by their respective parties. RJD leader Sunil Yadav is one of them. He is engaged in sand business, but has gained notoriety as a person who nobody dares to cross in Paliganj constituency in Patna district.

Sunil Pandey is another person who has several cases of murder, kidnapping and extortion against him.

The four-time MLA was the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) vice-president till recently, but resigned after the party announced that it won’t field candidates against the BJP. He will now contest as an Independent from Tarari constituency in Bhojpur district.

Sunil was alleged to have been involved in the killing of Ranvir Sena chief Barmeshwar Mukhiya in 2012 — a case that is being probed by the CBI. He was also arrested for allegedly hatching a plan to eliminate dreaded Uttar Pradesh don and MLA Mukhtar Ansari.

Notorious gangster and MLC Ritlal Yadav, recently released from jail, is all set to contest from Danapur constituency on the outskirts of Patna.

An accused in several cases of murder, attempt to murder, extortion and land grabbing, he is said to have made a fortune in managing tenders, especially those related to the railways in Bihar.

Ritlal’s sway in his constituency could be understood by the fact that RJD chief Lalu Prasad had visited his house to seek support for his daughter Misa Bharti in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Many more dons — jailed or free — are set to enter the electoral fray either themselves or through their family members in the next two phases.

The political parties are yet to announce their list of candidates, but the chief among them would be the wives of jailed gangsters–cum–politicians like Muhammad Shahabuddin, Anand Mohan, Rama Singh, Ranvir Yadav, Awadhesh Mandal and Amarendra Pandey.

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