In the eastern region of Uttar Pradesh commonly referred to as Poorvanchal, the focus has been largely on two seats — Varanasi, where BJP’s prime ministerial is contesting, and Azamgarh, where SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav is a candidate. But at Ghosi, 50 km from Azamgarh and 120 km from Varanasi, an intriguing batle is being played out with don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s candidature throwing the contest wide open.
Usually, the distance of 675 kilometres from Agra to Mau district is covered in nine hours. However, jailed leader Mukhtar Ansari, moving under police protection, failed to meet the campaign deadline while a crowd of nearly 30,000 waited for him in Ghosi which goes to polls on Monday.
Starting at 6 am from Agra, Mukhtar reached Lucknow late and was sent to Lucknow jail at nearly 8 pm. Mukhtar had been granted parole to campaign in his constituency. His party, the Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED), alleged that state government had deliberately delayed Mukhtar’s movement.
Mukhtar’s supporters had been waiting for him since morning at Mirza Hadipura Chowk Ground on Saturday. “If Mukhtar had toured the constituency, he would have won hands down. Even now the Samajwadi Party is out of the contest because of Mukhtar,” Saqib Ahmed, a local said. The QED had announced that Mukhtar would reach Ghosi on Sunday.
The Ghosi seat includes five assembly segments — Ghosi, Mohammadabad Gohna, Mau and Madhuban (all in Mau district) and Rasda in Ballia district.
Except the BSP, Mukhtar’s candidature has upset the calculations of all parties, including the BJP. For the SP, Mukhtar’s influence on Muslim voters will hamper the prospects of its candidate Rajeev Kumar Rai. Even BJP candidate Harinarayan Rajbhar is apprehensive of Mukhtar as the QED has an alliance with Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, which has a hold among Rajbhars. Mukhtar’s personal clout among upper-caste voters, mainly Thakurs, is also a cause of worry for the BJP.
It is BSP candidate and sitting MP Dara Singh Chauhan is set to gain from the division of votes. Congress candidate Rashtra Kunwar Singh is relying on the development work done by former union minister Kalpnath Rai during his tenure. The AAP has fielded Manoj Kumar Rai and the CPI Atul Kumar Anjan.
Mukhtar’s supporters are upbeat to the extent of predicting a his victory. “We are getting the support of all communities. Both Hindus and Muslims are with us. The state government has played a role in not allowing Mukhtar to reach Ghosi,” said Misbahuddin Ahmed, state president of QED.
Mukhtar’s family — his brothers former MP Afzal and MLA Sibghatullah, and son who has excelled in shooting championship and son Abbas — is campaigning for him. On Saturday, Abbas reassured Mukhtar’s supporters who had reached Mau.
With his meticulous planning, Mukhtar is a worry for every rival candidate in his constituency. At his election office in Mirza Hadipura, minute data about the constituency is available. His office maintains a record of people who had been helped by the Ansaris, including details like installing a hand pump, financial help to needy or even a phone call done on his request. The number of beneficiaries also has a number of non-Muslims. QED workers are often critical of the media claiming that the family’s good work is never highlighted.
Mukhtar is the MLA from Mau, where he polled over 70,000 votes in 2012. He lost from Ghosi, polling nearly 44,000 votes.