Where Batla House hurts,Cong looks to limit damage

Cong nominee asks group of Muslims not make Batla House encounter a political issue.

Written by Sanjay Singh | Kotila,azamgarh | Published: February 10, 2012 12:24 am

Sitting on a bench at a tea stall in Kotila,Congress nominee K K Mishra tries to convince a group of Muslims that the demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter will not end the troubles of the youths accused of terror plots.

Some of them remind him a judicial probe has been promised by AICC leader Digvijay Singh. “You need a good legal brain,and please don’t make this a political issue,” says Mishra. “…But no one has better expertise than I do in criminal matters.”

Mishra is a retired High Court judge,well known in Azamgarh since his days as a criminal lawyer. He promises to do his best to prevent punishment of innocent youths.

Kotila,part of Mishra’s Azamgarh Sadar seat,is 12km from Sanjarpur,home to several youths accused in terror plots and part of Nizamabad constituency. Yet the issue reverberates across the district. Some Muslim voters burnt Rahul Gandhi’s effigy when he visited Azamgarh last month.

Mishra’s candidature reflects a Congress strategy to restrict the possible negative impact of the Batla House encounter to as limited an area as possible around Sanjarpur. As a a local,he is being sold as the balm for raw nerves.

The district with 10 seats has been a redoubt of “anti-Congressism” for more than two decades. Besides Muslims,Yadavs and other OBCs form a large chunk of the population. Political battles here have always been defined as BJP’s Ram versus SP’s Baliram (an MLC) versus BSP’s Sukhdev (Rajbhar,the Assembly Speaker).

The BJP has fielded local MP Ramakant Yadav’s wife Ranjana from Nizamabad,nephew Virendra from Phulpur and his personal choices Shyam Sundar Chauhan from Didarganj and Ram Darshan Yadav from Mubarakpur. Many in Azamgarh believe that Ramakant,apart from “hijacking the BJP”,has also used his contacts to create a situation to suit his wife. The SP has fielded Alambadi,the BSP Kalammuddin and the Ulema Council Tahir Madni,while the Congress candidate is Purnamsi Prajapati.

“The picture that emerges is one of a polarisation of Hindu votes in favour of Ramakant’s wife,” says a source. The BSP initially chose sitting MLA Angad Yadav,then dropped him.

Rajbhar is contesting from Didarganj; “Ramakant Yadav is one good terms with him and has ensured the the BJP ticket for Chauhan,considered weak,” the source says. The SP has fielded Adil Sheikh,the Congress Muhammed Athar and the Ulema Council Bhupendra Singh Munna. Didarganj is close to Saraimeer and Sanjarpur; polarisation of votes can only benefit Rajbhar. But the BSP’s Sushila Rajbhar can split the Rajbhar votes too.

Phulpur’s fray has Ramakant’s nephew; the Congress’s Ajay Naresh Yadav (son of Ram Naresh Yadav) and the SP’s Shyam Bahadur. In Atraulia,the SP’s Baliram Yadav has fielded his son Sangram; to woo the strong Patel votebank,Baliram has apparently influenced his party leadership to field a Patel from adjoining Sagari.

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