The Economic Times: ET Bureau
Man Mohan Rai

In the badlands of Uttar Pradesh, where the volatile mix of politics and crime continues to plague the electoral scene, political parties co-opting mafia dons into their fold and fielding them as candidates is nothing new - in fact, for some of them, the transition has been pretty smooth. For some others it wasn't.

But then, nothing deters political parties from such associations, not even a poor show by so-called dons in the 2009 general elections. For, besides muscle power, there is politics of caste invariably linked to such moves. And in a state - India's most populous one - where crime lords have sprung up from almost all castes - from Brahmins to Muslims to OBCs to Dalits - picking the "right" or "winnable candidate" with a criminal past is never that tough.

Of course, when it comes to rhetoric, political parties of all hues vow to keep criminals away from the electoral fray. But then, that is just rhetoric, after all.

According to National Election Watch, an NGO comprising eminent citizens working towards cleaner politics, till December-end, BJP had fielded 20 candidates with criminal records, Congress 26, Samajwadi Party (SP) 24 and Rashtriya Lok Dal ( RLD) of Ajit Singh one candidate with criminal cases slapped against them.

As per reports, former BJP national president Rajnath Singh's son Pankaj met the jailed mafia don Dhananjay Singh in Jaunpur on Sunday. It has immediately set off speculation that either the mafia don, who is a sitting MP, or a member of his family may be fielded by BJP in the upcoming assembly polls; the state will go to polls to elect 403 members of the state assembly in seven phases starting February 4 and ending on February 28.

BJP circles are rife with rumors that Dhananjay Singh's wife might be fielded as a BJP candidate from Malhani seat in Jaunpur district. Besides being a listed mafia don, Singh's name has also come up in the probe into the NRHM scam - which is connected with the murder of three medical officers in Lucknow.

Interestingly, this trend - of politicians recruiting criminals into their parties - started almost two decades ago. And now, it has taken deep roots.

Many of them have gone on to become ministers in the Rajnath Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and the current Mayawati government. The 2009 general election saw several high-profile dons biting the dust at the hustings. BSP nominees Mukhtar Ansari, brother Afzal Ansari and DP Yadav faced resounding defeats.

Allahabad don Atiq Ahmed, who contested as an Apna Dal nominee, also lost, raising hopes that the days of criminalpolitical nexus are over.


The ruling BSP may not have officially announced its candidates list, but Hari Shankar Tiwari's name has been unofficially confirmed for the Chillupar seat in Gorakhpur. Tiwari is one of the first of the mafia dons to successfully manage to cross over to mainstream politics more than two decades ago.

A legislator for 22 years, he lost the last elections in 2007 contesting as an independent candidate, when BSP swept to power. This time around, he is with BSP - he got elected for the first time on a Congress ticket in the early 1980s, but always chose to remain in the shadows. Tiwari's "successful" entry in politics is said to have inspired others of his ilk to take the plunge. 

For the record, Tiwari severed ties with Congress during Kalyan Singh's reign to support the BJP government along with several other Congress rebels to form the Loktantrik Congress party. He was made a minister in October 1997 in Kalyan Singh's government.

SP, which lost power in 2007, has allotted ticket to mafia don Abhay Singh from Gosaiganj in Faizabad. He has 32 cases pending against him from murder to rioting - he is currently in jail. Mitrasen Yadav, who has recently been convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment by a Faizabad court, would contest from Bikapur as an SP nominee. He recently got bail in the case and is all geared up to contest.

Similarly, former BSP MLA Bhagwan Sharma alias Guddu Pandit, who was arrested in 2008 for abducting and raping a college girl, is being fielded by Samajwadi Party from Dibai in Bulandshahar.

BSP's DP Yadav, who has recently joined SP, is expected to be given a ticket by the party. His son Vikas Yadav shot into notoriety in the Jessica Lal and Nitish Katara murder cases. SP is also supporting the candidature of royal family scion Raghuraj Pratap Singh, also known as "Raja Bhaiyya".

Another SP candidate from Gyanpur, Vijay Mishra, is currently in jail. SP has also fielded close family members of known criminals at some places, including Anup Gupta, son of Om Prakash Gupta from Mahauli in Sitapur, who has a criminal record and is also in jail in connection with the foodgrain scam.

Former SP minister Amarmani Tripathi, who is serving life term for the murder of poetess Madhumita Shukla, has managed to get tickets for his sons.

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