The support announced by jailed underworld don Mukhtar Ansari’s party Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) to Congress candidate Ajay Rai against Narendra Modi in Varanasi appears could end up turning his Bhumihar community against the “local man”. Many in the community said they are “surprised” and are reportedly rethinking their support to Rai.
Besides, there is a general perception that the Ansaris don’t command enough respect among Muslims for their support to divert their vote to a candidate of the family’s choice. In view of the 2.5 Bhumihar and 2.5 lakh to three lakh Muslim voters, the Congress-QED tie-up was aimed at consolidating anti-Modi votes.
Though Rai sought to distance himself from the decision and thanked QED for “the support”, local Congress leaders asserted it was a “political and not personal decision” with the involvement of the top leadership. The local Congress unit had pitched hard for Rai’s candidature against Modi.
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“Rai depends on goodwill he generated and not only because of his community. He will not have much to explain to his community. Also, we must remember it is Ekta Manch which has seven smaller parties of which QED is a part which has announced support for Congress. The candidate (Rai) has nothing to do with it,” said Prof Satish Rai, General Secretary, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee.
Congress city unit president Sita Ram Kesri said: “I have no comments. Our leadership has made it clear this decision was taken considering the bigger fight against communal forces.”
Rai could not be reached for his comment despite repeated efforts.
Nagendra Narayan Rai ‘Warid’, a writer from the Bhumihar community said: “No doubt Rai was a good leader from the community. We are an intellectual caste. We can’t be asked to vote for one or the other party or candidate on the basis of their whims. The matter should have been discussed. A few may still support him, but I doubt people will support him as sincerely as they were doing so far.”
Agya Shankar Singh, another member of the community said: “Let us see what happens in the next few days. But one doesn’t make friends with the murderer of one’s brother.”
Ansari is an accused in the 1991 murder of Awadhesh Rai, elder brother of the Congress candidate. He is also an accused in the murder of the then BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai in 2005. Though not directly related, Krishnanand was said to have provided guidance to Ajay Rai, who was in the BJP till 2009.
“The Bhumihar community was never with Rai; but he had good support. What has happened will be required to be explained to the community,” said a retired degree college professor, close to Rai. He added Rai had already held a couple of meetings through the day.
Poet Saleem Sivalvi said: “First, QED is not strong in Varanasi. Mukhtar should be thankful to Muslims who voted for him in 2009. Par wo bike nahin the (they were not sold out to him).” Further, weavers’ community in Varanasi, the majority of whom are Muslims, belongs to Julaha caste, while Ansaris are Pathans.